Friday, June 24, 2011

Interview with Heather and Lydia Munn, authors of "How Huge the Night"

"How Huge the Night" has been the best book I've read so far this year. Then again, I imagine you have already come to that conclusion after yesterday's post. Today, it is with great pleasure to be able host a short interview with both Heather and Lydia. I hope you enjoy meeting them as much as I enjoyed hosting them!

What influence has living in France had on the writing of this book?


Heather: I grew up in France, from two years old to about seventeen. Up to ninth grade I went to French public school. The town I lived in was only about an hour’s drive from Le Chambon-sur-Lignon where the true story happened. So when I wrote about Julien living in a small French town, going to school there, and so on, it was almost like writing about my own childhood—except I had to keep asking my dad what it was like forty or fifty years earlier! But it’s more than just the school part—the love for the land that I hope comes through in the book is very much rooted in my childhood—that specific landscape, those hills with genĂȘt bushes on them and pastures and stone farmhouses and little woods—and also the people, the French country people and their culture that’s very rooted in the land, that’s a side of France that Americans don’t get to see a lot, and I love it.

Lydia: When you live in a country for almost thirty years, you grow to love it and its people. I’m glad to be able to write something very positive about France, to counter the mostly negative opinions that I find when I visit the US. Living close to the area where the events happened also made it relatively easy to get a good sense of the context of the story. For instance, I used the actual home of friends of ours who lived in Le Chambon as the model for the Losiers’ home in Tanieux.

How much research was involved in writing about historical events? How did you know how much historical detail to provide?

Heather: This might be a really good question for Mom; she did almost all the research and my impression is that it was an enormous amount. She made a timeline that went week by week and included major events of the book, events of the war, the passing of repressive or anti-semitic laws by the Vichy government, everything relevant. I would call her up whenever I had a doubt about anything, or even to ask her “This happened on this date, but how soon would they know about it?” I did do some research of my own when I needed some particular detail about the war, especially when trying to get a feel for what it was like to be there at that time, how people were thinking—what people’s feelings were about the surrender, how people felt about Marshal Petain and the Vichy government right after it was set up, and whether and how much that changed when they started collaborating with the Nazis. I have always had a sort of fascination for World War II and its stories and what you can learn from them about good and evil.

Lydia: I have always felt that wartime is a fascinating period to study, though difficult at times, because war is so ugly. War brings out the worst in many people. But it brings out the best in others. And that best shines all the brighter for the very dark context in which you find it. My own interest in this period of French history came about because I wanted to tell the Le Chambon story. I read all the primary sources I could find, visited the town and talked with a few people who lived through the events. I also read all that I could about World War II as seen from the French viewpoint. Knowing the details of the Vichy government, the laws put in place, and so on, enabled us to put some of them into the book. We tried to put in details that Julien would have known about and, sometimes, worried over.
 
"How Huge the Night" is written for 14- to 17-year-olds, but your readership can certainly go beyond that. How did you get into the mind of a teenager to write this authentically, and yet manage to pen a book that would be of interest to all ages?


Lydia: Even though the main character is a fifteen-year-old, this book was, from the beginning, more than just his story. It’s the story of a family and of a town. The choices that these larger circles were making have an influence on Julien’s choices. There are earlier versions of the book in which some of the scenes were written from Mama’s viewpoint. These ended up being cut in the final version. But behind the story the reader senses Mama’s dread of war which stems from her experiences in World War I. And Papa’s sense of history and of what the invasion really means, as well as Pastor Alex’s clear sightedness—these all form a very real part of the story. I believe this larger picture is what appeals to older readers.

Heather: When I was writing my initial version (after Mom’s initial version) I wasn’t even necessarily writing it for teenagers. But of course the book was chiefly about a teenager, and I wanted him to be a real teenager. I think a real teenager confronted by hard realities is interesting to any age. I still remember very vividly being a teenager and I remember it as a time when everything was felt so deeply, everything had huge significance. You know, when a young child starts learning about the world around him, he sees everything with totally fresh eyes and so he really sees it; and the teenager or young adult is at the end of that journey, at the part where he learns for the first time the really hard realities of life. Pain, and war, and necessity, and death, and the fact that there is no guarantee in life that there will always be someone standing between you and the fear. Watching someone learn those things for the first time, really see their significance, is an awesome thing, in the old sense of the word. That’ll never be boring, and I think an adult to whom it is boring might’ve gone too far into adulthood.

What do you hope readers take away from reading "How Huge the Night"?

Heather: A lot of things. Maybe I shouldn’t say all of them in case I make it too obvious! I think one thing is the huge significance of our daily choices, and how heroism isn’t generally glorious or even clear-cut. The choices that people really made during World War II, the early years, the part I’m writing about, were mostly made in the dark. The usual stuff you see in books and movies—“Am I going to risk my life to save these people from certain death?”—that’s after 1943. In the early years nobody knew about the death camps, not in France anyhow, and under the Vichy government, especially, nobody knew what was going to happen to the Jews if they got arrested, or to themselves if they protected them—they just knew something might happen, and it might be something bad. So it was easy for a lot of people to think, “Oh, but they wouldn’t kill them or anything, right?” because they had enough to worry about already. There was a food shortage, life was hard. The people who did the right thing, a lot of it was just the daily choosing to keep their eyes open, seek out the truth, really take a look at the people in front of them and ask themselves how God was calling them to respond. Julien ends up doing some very good things, but they’re very hidden, not a lot of people are ever going to know about them. And the people who do the real, profound good in the world, that’s how they do it. In a confusing, terrible, messy situation they keep listening to God; and when they hear, they obey; and what they do changes things. But mostly, no one ever knows.
 
Heather Munn was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in southern France where her parents were missionaries like their parents before them. She has a BA in literature from Wheaton College and now lives in a Christian intentional community in rural Illinois, where she and her husband, Paul, host free spiritual retreats for the poor, especially those transitioning out of homelessness or addiction. When not writing or hosting, she works on the communal farm.
 
Lydia Munn, daughter of missionary parents, grew up in Brazil. She received a BA in literature from Wheaton College, and an MA in Bible from Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions. With her husband, Jim, she has worked in church planting and Bible teaching since 1983, notably in St. Etienne, near the small town in the central mountains of France which forms the background of How Huge the Night. The Munns now live in Grenoble, France.




This interview was provided by Kregel Publications.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"How Huge the Night" by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn

How Huge the Night: A Novel
Authors: Heather Munn and Lydia Munn
Publisher: Kregel Publications
ISBN: 978-0-8254-3310-8
Paperback
304 pages
Trim Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Publication
Date: April 2011

Synopsis (from Kregel Pub.)

Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens.

Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father’s dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough—and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon—the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust—How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.





My Thoughts

As a home school mom, I found that using living history was one of the best methods of teaching the children history. Taking historical fiction that was well researched and based on those facts and presenting to a curious mind, made things stick. My children are now in college, but they still remember many historical facts based on things we have read when they were young.

"How Huge the Night" fits well in this category of living history. It is beautifully written and is filled with facts and events that come alive through the eyes of children. To hear how France was taken over by Germany from an adult's point of view is usually what one hears about, but the Munn's take it to another level by seeing it as the children did.

To say this book is amazing, is an understatement. It tore at my heart, and I found myself in tears more than once. From a parent's point of view, it broke my heart knowing that the children dealt with the horrors they did, but putting names and faces to those horrors makes this book unforgettable. This book is profound and should be in the hands of EVERY teen. This story brings to light not only the horrors of war, but the pain of being different and not accepted and how people can change things and make a difference.

I could continue on and on how fantastic this book is, but won't for fear of writing a spoiler or two. My advice? Quit reading this review and run to the bookstore and get a copy of this book! You won't be same after reading it.

Make sure to stop back tomorrow for an interview with Heather and Lydia Munn!!

A HUGE thank you to Kregel Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book. In return, they have asked me to post my honest opinion and thoughts about it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Breath of Angel" by Karyn Henley - FIRST Wild Card Tour

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:


Breath of Angel

WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Karyn Henley has written over 100 titles, along with being an accomplished songwriter nominated for a Dove Award. She also received a regional Emmy Award as Music Composer for a television special and lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, a jazz drummer.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Breath of Angel (WaterBrook Press, June 21, 2011), award winning author Karyn Henley brings to life the tale of Melaia, a young priestess who witnesses the murder of a stranger in the temple courtyard. A place where age-old legends recited in song suddenly come to life, in this story of two immortal brothers quest for restoration.

With Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories… Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm.

Young readers are sure to be intrigued and dig deeper into this make-believe story that explores the payment for redemption.



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730123
ISBN-13: 978-0307730121

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The prick of the thorn drew blood, but Melaia smiled. The last ramble rose of the season was well worth a pierced thumb. She carefully drew the blossom from the vine that clung to the side of the temple. As she breathed its rich, sweet scent, she sensed someone watching and looked up, expecting to see one of the novice priestesses. She saw only dry leaves skittering across the flagstones of the walled courtyard, along with a black feather, no doubt from a bird scavenging seeds in the woodpile.

Then a haggard young man stepped through the gate, and Melaia drew back. The chill autumn breeze riffled the edge of his dirt-stained cloak, revealing the corner of a journey pack and the hilt of a dagger. Melaia gave him a tentative nod.

“I’ve come—” His voice was dirt dry. He wiped his fist across his mouth.

“I’ll fetch water.” Melaia tucked the rose into her waist sash and headed for the stone urn by the arched doorway. “Travelers are always welcome at our temple. We’ve pallets if you wish to stay the night.” She would have to check with the high priestess, but Hanni rarely turned away weary travelers.

“My thanks,” the man croaked.

Melaia flipped back her loose honey brown braid and dipped a pottery cup into the cool water. “I’m chantress here, always eager to hear new tales from travelers.”

The young man looked too weary to tell tales. Or too ill. His dark-ringed eyes darted from one afternoon shadow to another, and he cocked his head as if he heard something beyond the walls.

“We’re healers here as well,” she offered.

For a moment his wild eyes focused on her. Then he glanced above her head, and his hand went to his dagger.

But he never drew it.

A hawk, larger than any she’d ever seen, shot like an arrow past Melaia and sank its talons into the stranger’s chest. The man’s raw screams pierced the air as the hawk’s beak knifed at his throat.

Melaia stood stunned and speechless. But as the hawk flapped its great wings and lifted the man a handbreadth off the flagstones, her senses surged back.

She snatched a branch from the woodpile and swung it at the hawk. The raptor screeched and dropped the stranger. “Fight!” she yelled at him. “Fight back!”

But it was the hawk that fought, its wings beating at her stick as its claws snagged the man again. At last Melaia struck a solid blow to the hawk’s head, and it skidded sideways. She chased after it, but the raptor took to the air, quickly rose, and soared away over the domed roof of the temple.

Melaia flung aside the stick and fell to her knees by the bloodied man. Then she covered her mouth and swallowed a bitter taste. “Most High, have mercy,” she croaked. Seeing wounds so deep and blood flowing freely, she wasn’t surprised that the stranger’s mistlike spirit had emerged from his body.

As a death-prophet, she could see the shadowy echo writhing around his form as he struggled to live.

“Mellie? Is it safe?” Dark-eyed Iona stood in the temple doorway, holding back the other two novices. At fourteen, she was the motherly one, although Melaia was two years older. Curly-haired Peron, still baby plump at six, peered around Iona, clutching her skirts, while twelve-year-old Nuri broke away from them and ran across the yard, her usual dimpled smile gone.

“Is he dead?” Nuri asked.

“Not yet,” Melaia told her. “Take Peron and fetch a basket of plumwort. And water.”

Nuri stared at the man’s wounds. “We saw the hawk.”

“Go!” said Melaia. “I need plumwort to stanch the bleeding.”

As Nuri dashed away, Melaia wondered why the high priestess hadn’t appeared.

“Where’s Hanni?” she called to Iona.

“Summoned to a birthing. The weaver’s wife.” Iona nervously twisted the end of her black braid.

“Then come help me carry the man inside.”

Melaia hesitated. She was often called to the bedside of the dying to confirm the moment of death, but never had she been required to reach through a spirit to touch someone. Of course, other people did it all the time, she told herself. They just couldn’t see the struggling, mistlike layer. She took a deep breath, grasped the man’s bloodied cloak, and pressed it to the gashes in his chest. His spirit pooled around her wrists, vibrating like a throat quivering with speech.

“Can you hear me?” Melaia asked, keeping pressure on his wound. The stranger’s spirit thrummed frantically, as if he were trying to say something.

“Where’s the plumwort?” Melaia yelled.

Nuri ran across the yard, sloshing a jar of water. Peron trotted behind her with the basket of plumwort. Iona knelt at the man’s feet, her mouth moving silently in prayer.

Melaia reached for the plumwort, but the man’s spirit slid off his body, thinned into a stream, and seeped through a crack in the flagstones. A sudden, grim silence fell over the yard. Melaia shook her head at Nuri and Peron and closed the man’s green-flecked eyes.

Peron stuck out her lower lip. “I was too slow.”

“No, I was.” Nuri’s shoulders drooped.

“No one’s at fault,” said Melaia, but she couldn’t help thinking that the man might still be alive if she had only laid into the hawk sooner. “Let’s get him inside.” She lifted his upper body. For his bulk he was surprisingly light.

Iona lifted his legs. “Starved twig-thin,” she said. “Poor man.”

They carried the stranger to the sanctuary altar, the bier for those who

could afford no better. Melaia took a deep breath, wishing Hanni were there.

“Iona, find me a winding-sheet,” she said. “Peron, go with Nuri. Fetch more

water and scrub the courtyard.”

“But it’s bloody,” said Nuri. Peron wrinkled her nose.

“Would you rather clean the man’s body?” asked Melaia. Nuri and Peron

scrambled out the door. Iona followed.

Melaia gently eased the man’s cloak from his chest and winced, wondering where Hanni would begin. She exhaled slowly. “Start with the easiest,” she murmured.

She untangled his pack from one forearm. As she slipped it free, she noticed the end of a small scroll clenched in his fist. “First the pack,” she told herself, glancing around. Her gaze fell on a shelf of incense bowls. She stashed the pack there, then turned back to the altar-bier and froze.

The stranger’s cloak had fallen back and, with it, a long, white, bloodstained wing.

Melaia’s knees almost buckled. “An angel?” she whispered. It couldn’t be. Angels were found only in legends. Chanters’ stories. Bedtime tales.

Iona’s voice echoed down the corridor. “Do we need more water?”

Melaia jerked the cloak back around the man.

Iona strode in with a bundle of white linen. “Do we need more water?”

“We need Hanni,” said Melaia.

“You look as if you’ve seen the man’s ghost.” Iona looked around. “Has he

returned?”

“Just go get Hanni.”

Distant drums signaled the closing of Navia’s city gates and the change of watch on the walls. On the altar-bier in the temple, the winged man lay serene and clean, covered in white linen up to his chin. Melaia didn’t often sit with the dead, but as she lit the oil lamps behind the bier, she decided that tonight she would request a vigil. She hoped the high priestess would join her, for she had a night’s worth of questions to ask.

But so far, the high priestess hadn’t returned. She had sent Iona back to say

that the birthing was a difficult one and she must stay with it, although she was upset at the news of a death in the side yard. Hanni intended to stop by the overlord’s villa and bring his advisor, Benasin, back to the temple with her.

As Melaia held the flaming twist of rushweed to the last wick, she eyed the three girls munching their supper on a reed mat across the room. With Hanni gone they had asked to stay with Melaia instead of eating in the hearthroom down the hall. She was glad for their company. She felt as shaky as they did, although she hadn’t told them about the stranger’s wings. She wanted Hanni’s opinion first.

Melaia tossed the spent rushweed into the brazier in the center of the room and stirred the coals into flame. For a moment she watched the smoke curl up and drift like a dying spirit out through the roof hole above. Except dying spirits always drifted down, not up.

“I’m saving my scraps for the chee-dees,” Peron said, scooping her crumbs into a tiny hill.

“Fetch your crumb jar from the storeroom, then,” said Melaia. “When you’ve finished cleaning up, I’ll tell a story.”

Peron stared warily at the dark corridor that lay beyond the bier.

“I’ll go with you.” Nuri slipped one of the lamps from its niche. With an uneasy smile she guided Peron to the corridor, giving wide berth to the bier.

Iona stoppered the olive oil. “Peron is telling tales again. This time it’s about two falcons scaring away her songbird friends.”

“She must have been inspired by the hawk in the yard today.” Melaia stacked the empty wooden bowls and glanced at the stranger who should have eaten a meal with them tonight.

“Peron said the falcons were darker than closed eyes,” said Iona. “I can picture that.” Melaia lifted her harp from its peg.

“And they had people hands.” Iona rolled her eyes.

“That I can’t picture,” said Melaia. “Too ghoulish.”

Iona laughed. “With such an imagination Peron will surely become a chantress.”

A shriek came from the corridor. Peron darted into the room, hugging her crumb jar, with Nuri on her heels. Both girls were open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

Behind them limped a sharp-nosed, beardless man wearing a cloak fashioned

completely of feathers—brown, black, and an iridescent blue that glinted in the lamplight. The skin around one of his round gold eyes was blackened, and a scratch jagged across his brow.

Melaia went cold, head to toe. How had the man entered? Had she left the side door unbolted?

Nuri and Peron ran to Iona, and all three huddled by the wall. Melaia stifled her impulse to join them. Hanni had left her in charge, so in charge she would be. She had fought off a murdering hawk. She had prepared a bloody winged man for burial. She would stand up to this intruder.

She strode to the brazier, her hands clammy as she clung to her harp. “This is the temple of the Most High,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t hear the quaver in her voice.

“So it is,” he hissed, limping to the bier. “I believe I noticed that.” “What’s your business here?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’re not the high priestess.”

“She’s the chantress,” blurted Peron.

“Ah. Singer of songs, soother of sorrows,” he crooned.

“If you’re here for our treasury box, take it and be on your way,” said Melaia.

“I have unfinished business with the high priestess,” he said.

“You can find her at the overlord’s villa,” said Melaia.

“No doubt.” With a gloved hand he slid back the sheet that covered the corpse. He smiled at the gashes, then studied Melaia. “Chantress, play your harp for me.”

Melaia gaped at him. “You have no right—”

“Or let me play it,” he said. “The little girl can bring it. The one who feeds the birds.”

Peron’s eyes grew round as the supper bowls, and she shrank behind Iona’s skirts.

Melaia hugged the harp tighter to her chest and glared at the man defiantly, even as she fought back a fear that curdled in the pit of her stomach. How long had this swaggerer been spying on them?

His unblinking gold eyes stared back at her. “I do not take disobedience lightly.” His voice was ice. “Send the girl with the harp or play it yourself.”

Melaia swallowed dryly. She felt her courage fall as limp as the poor stranger in the yard. Keeping her eyes on the intruder, she sank to a bench by the brazier and positioned the harp in her lap.

“Let us hear the tale of the Wisdom Tree,” he said. “You know it, don’t you, Chantress?”

Melaia scowled at him and motioned for the girls to join her. As she fingered

the melody, they silently gathered around, and she breathed easier. Together they were safer, with the brazier as a barrier between them and the bully.

She turned her attention back to the harp, and over the music she spoke the tale.

In a time long ago, there lived a tribal chieftain whose firstborn son was

a wealthy trader, his second-born a lone hunter. Each year at harvest festival, his sons vied to present him with the best gift. The Firstborn always gave perfumes, musicians, slave dancers, the treasures of his trade. The Second-born presented partridges, deerskins, lion-claw necklaces, the spoils of the hunt. But the Second-born thought his gifts paltry compared to those of the Firstborn. So he set out to seek the greatest gift of all.

Far and wide he journeyed, to no avail. At last, weary and discouraged, he lay to rest in the shade of a tree as tall and wide as the tower of a citadel. The Wisdom Tree it was, bearing fruit that granted the eater knowledge and cleverness.

Peron popped her thumb out of her mouth and chanted, “Within this tree stood the stairway to heaven made wholly of light.”

“Exactly,” said Melaia, glad that for the moment the tale was distracting Peron from the intruder, whose gold eyes held a hungry glitter. Melaia continued:

An angel named Dreia, guardian of the Tree, saw the Second son lying there and asked the cause of his despair. When he told his tale, she pitied him and gave him the juice of one fruit. “This will grant you knowledge and cleverness to find the right gift for your father,” she said.

As he sipped the juice, the man’s eyes brightened. “I know the perfect gift,” he said. “A fruit from this Tree.”

Dreia hadn’t intended to give the man a whole fruit. Its seeds were precious, carried by angels into the heavens to plant wisdom trees in worlds among the stars. Yet the man was handsome, his entreaties eloquent.

At last Dreia said, “You may take one fruit if you vow to bring me the first creature that greets you when you arrive home. This I shall send over the stairway as payment. Moreover, you shall return the three

seeds of this fruit, for they are strictly forbidden to mortals. Should you fail to repay your debt, the Tree itself shall exact payment in breath and blood.”

The Second-born agreed to the bargain, for the one who always greeted his homecoming was his old hunting dog. Taking his dog and the seeds back to Dreia would be good reason to see the beautiful angel again. So he carried the fruit home.

While he was still afar off, he saw, bounding across the field to greet him, his young niece. “Uncle!” she cried. “Terrible news. Your old hunting dog has died.”

The Second-born fell to his knees and wept, not for his dog, but for his niece, the only daughter of the Firstborn, now to be payment for his debt.

Melaia paused as the intruder slipped off his gloves. His fingernails were long, curved, and sharp. Talons. Her pulse pounded at her throat. His blackened eye, his scratched brow, his feathered cloak, his limp.

She had met him before. As a hawk.

“Is there no ending to the tale?” He smirked at her recognition of him and stroked the corpse. “I favor endings.”

Melaia felt foggy, as if she were in a dream. She tried to gather her thoughts.

“The Second-born knew only one way to escape his debt,” Iona prompted.

“Yes.” Melaia cleared her throat and forced out the words.

The Second-born knew he had to destroy the Wisdom Tree.

Dreia saw an army approaching, the Second son in the lead, betrayal in his heart. She gathered what angels she could. Some plucked the remaining fruit and hastened over the stairway to celestial worlds.

Others stayed behind to defend the Tree. But these were not warring angels. The best they could do was save some of the wood as the Tree fell and was plundered by men who wanted pieces for themselves.

“That was the end of the stairway,” Nuri said.

“And the end of angels in our world,” added Iona.

“But the brothers planted the seeds of the Wisdom Tree,” offered Peron,

“didn’t they?”

“They did.” Melaia set the harp aside. “The brothers learned that cultivating wisdom takes patience.”

The girls chimed in, “Wisdom, over time, is earned.”

The hawkman hissed. “A pitiful ending and woefully false.” He pointed a taloned finger at Melaia. “Remember this, Chantress. The Second-born abducted his niece and headed for Dreia. But fortune was with the Firstborn, for

I discovered the treachery in time to rescue my daughter. To ensure that the Tree never collected on the debt, I destroyed it. My daughter and I ate the seeds, round and shiny, red as blood. We became immortal!”

“You’re trying to haunt us with our own tale.” Melaia took up a poker and stabbed the coals in the brazier, determined not to show her fear. “There were three seeds.”

“So there were,” said the hawkman. “The third I crammed down my brother’s throat. Now he owes his debt for all eternity. And it is my pleasure to make sure he never repays.” He grinned at the dead man. “Son of Dreia, this night you are destroyed.”

He snatched up the corpse, and its wings unfolded. The girls shrieked and ran to Melaia.

The hawkman dropped the body back to the bier as if it had burned him.

Then he cursed and shoved it to the floor. He scanned the room. “The man

had a pack. Where is it?”

“Maybe he lost it in the side yard.” Melaia felt her face grow warm at the half lie.

But the man didn’t press his search. Instead, he stiffened and stared at the front door, his head cocked, listening. Melaia heard only wind, but the hawkman slowly retreated, tense as a cat backing away from danger. He glanced from the door to the window to the roof hole, where smoke drifted into the night. Then he hurtled toward the brazier, and his body contorted.

All of Melaia’s instincts screamed at her to run, but she stayed her feet, clenched her jaw, and gripped the poker with both hands. As the hawk leaped into the flames, she swung with all her might.

She struck only air as he rose in the smoke and vanished.



My Thoughts

A young adult fantasy with a medieval feel, "Breath of Angel", was a fantastic read! Henley constructed a story that contains everything that makes a fantasy work: priestesses, priests, nobility, hawk-people, angels, shape shifters, and spirits. She also developed a story that will please not only young adults, but everyone that loves a good fantasy.

Full of suspense that will keep you wanting to read more, and a cast of characters that are amazing, "Breath of Angel" was certainly one book I didn't want to put down. If it hadn't been for the need of sleep, I'm certain I would have read it through in one sitting. I had to know what was going to happen next.

"Breath of Angel" is the first book of The Angeleon Circle series. I cannot wait for the next one to come out - tomorrow would not be soon enough! This novel has made it to my favorites list and I'm looking forward to reading more of Henley's books. She has written over more than 100 titles, so I'm sure I can find something to keep me busy until then.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Indelible" by Kristen Heitzmann - FIRST Wild Card Tour

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:


Indelible

WaterBrook Press (May 3, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kristen Heitzmann’s gift of crafting stories has ranked her as the award-winning and best-selling author of two historical series and twelve contemporary, psychological and romantic suspense novels including Indivisible. As an artist and musician, Kristen lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and a continuous stream of extended family, various pets, and wildlife.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Award-wining and best-selling author Kristen Heitzmann brings another suspense story to life in Indelible (WaterBrook, May 3, 2011).

Follow Trevor MacDaniel, a high country outfitter, as he rescues a toddler from the jaws of a mountain lion. Discover how he can’t foresee the far-reaching consequences of his action, how it will entwine his life with gifted sculptor, Natalie Reeve—and attract a grim admirer.

Find out how Trevor’s need to guard and protect is born of tragedy, prompting his decision to become a search and rescue volunteer. And how Natalie’s gift of sculpting comes from an unusual disability that seeks release through her creative hands.

See how in each other they learn strength and courage as they face an incomprehensible foe…a twisted soul, who is drawn by the heroic story of the child’s rescue. One who sees Trevor as archangel and adversary, and threatens their peaceful mountain community—testing Trevor’s limits by targeting their most helpless and innocent.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073103
ISBN-13: 978-1400073108

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A veined bolt of lightning sliced the ozone-scented sky as Trevor plunged down the craggy slope, dodging evergreen spires like slalom poles. Rocks and gravel spewed from his boots and caromed off the vertical pitch.

“Trevor.” Whit skidded behind him. “We’re not prepared for this.”

No. But he hurled himself after the tawny streak. He was not losing that kid.

“He’s suffocated,” Whit shouted. “His neck’s broken.”

Trevor leaped past a man—probably the dad—gripping his snapped shinbone. Whit could help there. Digging his heels into the shifting pine needles, Trevor gave chase, outmatched and unwavering. His heart pumped hard as he neared the base of the gulch, jumping from a lichen-crusted stone to a fallen trunk. The cougar jumped the creek, lost its grip, and dropped the toddler. Yes.

He splashed into the icy flow, dispersing scattered leaves like startled goldfish. After driving his hand into the water, he gripped a stone and raised it. Not heavy, not nearly heavy enough.

Lowering its head over the helpless prey, the mountain lion snarled a spine-chilling warning. There was no contest, but the cat, an immature male, might not realize its advantage, might not know its fear of man was mere illusion. Thunder crackled. Trevor tasted blood where he’d bitten his tongue.

Advancing, he engaged the cat’s eyes, taunting it to charge or run. The cat backed up, hissing. A yearling cub, able to snatch a tot from the trail, but unprepared for this fearless challenge. Too much adrenaline for fear. Too much blood on the ground.

With a shout, he heaved the rock. As the cat streaked up the mountainside, he charged across the creek to the victim. He’d steeled himself for carnage, but even so, the nearly severed arm, the battered, bloody feet… His nose filled with the musky lion scent, the rusty smell of blood. He reached out. No pulse.

He dropped to his knees as Whit joined him from behind, on guard. He returned the boy’s arm to the socket, and holding it there with one trembling hand, Trevor began CPR with his other. On a victim so small, it took hardly any force, his fingers alone performing the compressions. The lion had failed to trap the victim’s face in its mouth. By grabbing the back of the head, neck, and shoulder, it had actually protected those vulnerable parts. But blood streamed over the toddler’s face from a deep cut high on the scalp, and he still wasn’t breathing.

Trevor bent to puff air into the tiny lungs, compressed again with his fingers, and puffed as lightly as he would to put out a match. Come on. He puffed and compressed while Whit watched for the cat’s return. Predators fought for their kills—even startled ones.

A whine escaped the child’s mouth. He jerked his legs, emitting a highpitched moan. Trevor shucked his jacket and tugged his T-shirt off over his head. He tied the sleeves around the toddler’s arm and shoulder, pulled the rest around, and swaddled the damaged feet—shoes and socks long gone. Thunder reverberated. The first hard drops smacked his skin. Tenderly, he pulled the child into his chest and draped the jacket over as a different rumble chopped the air. They had started up the mountain to find two elderly hikers who’d been separated from their party. Whit must have radioed the helicopter. He looked up. This baby might live because two old guys had gotten lost.

In the melee at the trailhead, Natalie clutched her sister-in-law’s hands, the horror of the ordeal still rocking them. As Aaron and little Cody were airlifted from the mountain, she breathed, “They’re going to be all right.”

“You don’t know that.” Face splotched and pale, Paige swung her head. Though her hair hung in wet blond strands, her makeup was weatherproof, her cologne still detectable. Even dazed, her brother’s wife looked and smelled expensive.

“The lion’s grip protected Cody’s head and neck,” one of the paramedics had told them. “It could have been so much worse.”

Paige started to sob. “His poor arm. What if he loses his arm?”

“Don’t go there.” What good was there in thinking it?

“How will he do the stuff boys do? I thought he’d be like Aaron, the best kid on the team.”

“He’ll be the best kid no matter what.”

“In the Special Olympics?”

Natalie recoiled at the droplets of spit that punctuated the bitter words.

“He’s alive, Paige. What were the odds those men from search and rescue would be right there with a helicopter already on standby?”

“We shouldn’t have needed it.” Paige clenched her teeth. “Aaron’s supposed to be recovering. He would have been if you weren’t such a freak.”

“What?” She’d endured Paige’s unsubtle resentment, but “ freak” ?

“Let me go.” Paige jerked away, careening toward the SUV.

Natalie heard the engine roar, the gravel flung by the spinning tires, but all she saw was the hate in Paige’s eyes, the pain twisting her brother’s face as he held his fractured leg, little Cody in the lion’s maw, the man leaping after…

She needed to clear the images, but it wouldn’t happen here. Around her, press vans and emergency vehicles drained from the lot, leaving the scent of exhaust and tire scars in the rusty mud. Paige had stranded her.

“Freak.” Heart aching, she took a shaky step toward the road. It hadn’t been that long a drive from the studio. A few miles. Maybe five. She hadn’t really watched—because Aaron was watching for her. Off the roster for a pulled oblique, he had seen an opportunity to finalize her venture and help her move, help her settle in, and see if she could do it. She’d been so thankful. How could any of them have known it would come to this? Trevor’s spent muscles shook with dumped adrenaline. He breathed the moist air in through his nose, willing his nerves to relax. Having gotten all they were going to get from him, most of the media had left the trailhead, following the story to the hospital. Unfortunately, Jaz remained.

She said, “You live for this, don’t you?” Pulling her fiery red hair into a messy ponytail didn’t disguise her incendiary nature or the smoldering coals reserved for him. He accepted the towel Whit handed him and wiped the rain from his head and neck, hoping she wouldn’t see the shakes. The late-summer storm had lowered the temperature enough she might think he was shivering.

“Whose idea was it to chase?”

“It’s not like you think about it. You just act.” Typing into her BlackBerry, she said, “Acted without thinking.”

“Come on, Jaz.” She couldn’t still be on his case.

“Interesting your being in place for the dramatic rescue of a pro athlete’s kid. Not enough limelight lately?”

“We were on another search.” She cocked her eyebrow. “You had no idea the victim’s dad plays center field for the Rockies?”

“Yeah, I got his autograph on the way down.” He squinted at the nearly empty parking lot. “Aren’t you following the story?”

“What do you think this is?”

“You got the same as everyone. That’s all I have to say.”

“You told us what happened. I want the guts. How did it feel? What were you thinking?” She planted a hand on her hip. “Buy me a drink?” He’d rather go claw to claw with another mountain lion. But considering the ways she could distort this, he relented. “The Summit?”

“I’d love to.” She pocketed her BlackBerry and headed for her car. Whit raised his brows at her retreat. “Still feeling reckless?”

“Sometimes it’s better to take her head on.”

“Like the cat?” Whit braced his hips.

“The cat was young, inexperienced.”

“You didn’t know that.”

“There was a chance the child wasn’t dead.”

“What if it hadn’t run?”

“If it attacked, you’d have been free to grab the kid.”

“Nice for you, getting mauled.”

“If it got ugly, I’d have shot it.”

“Shot?”

He showed him the Magnum holstered against the small of his back.

Whit stared at him, stone-faced. “You had your gun and you used a rock?”

“I was pretty sure it would run.”

“Pretty sure,” Whit said. “So, what? It wouldn’t be fair to use your weapon?”

It had been the cat against him on some primal level the gun hadn’t entered into. He said, “I could have hit the boy, or the cat could have dropped him down the gulch. When it did let go, I realized its inexperience and knew we had a chance to scare it off. Department of Wildlife can decide its fate. I was after the child.”

“Okay, fine.” With a hard exhale, Whit rubbed his face. “This was bad.”

Trevor nodded. Until today, the worst he’d seen over four years of rescues was a hiker welded to a tree by lightning and an ice climber’s impalement on a jagged rock spear. There’d been no death today, but Whit looked sick. “You’re a new dad. Seeing that little guy had to hit you right in the gut.” Whit canted his head.

“I’m just saying.” Trevor stuffed his shaking hands into his jacket pockets. The storm passed, though the air still smelled of wet earth and rain. He drove Whit back, then went home to shower before meeting Jazmyn Dufoe at the Summit. Maybe he’d just start drinking now. Arms aching, Natalie drove her hands into the clay. On the huge, square Corian table, two busts looked back at her: Aaron in pain, and Paige, her fairy-tale life rent by a primal terror that sprang without warning. She had pushed and drawn and formed the images locked in her mind, even though her hands burned with the strain.

No word had come from the Children’s Hospital in Denver, where the police chief said they’d taken Cody, or from the hospital that had Aaron. Waiting to hear anything at all made a hollow in her stomach. She heaved a new block of clay to the table, wedged and added it to the mound already softened. Just as she started to climb the stepstool, her phone rang. She plunged her hands into the water bucket and swabbed
them with a towel, silently begging for good news. “Aaron?”

Not her brother, but a nurse calling. “Mr. Reeve asked me to let you know he came through surgery just fine. He’s stable, and the prognosis is optimistic. He doesn’t want you to worry.”

Natalie pressed her palm to her chest with relief. “Did he say anything about Cody? Is there any news?”

“No, he didn’t say. I’m sure he’ll let you know as soon as he hears something.”

“Of course. Thank you so much for calling.”

Natalie climbed back onto the stool, weary but unable to stop. Normally, the face was enough, but this required more. She molded clay over stiff wire-mesh, drawing it up, up, proportionately taller than an average man, shoulders that bore the weight of other people’s fear, one arm wielding a stone, the other enfolding the little one. The rescuer hadn’t held both at once, but she combined the actions to release both images.

She had stared hard at his face for only a moment before he plunged over the ridge, yet retained every line and plane of it. Determination and fortitude in the cut of his mouth, selfless courage in the eyes. There’d been fear for Cody. And himself ? Not of the situation, but something…

It came through her hands in the twist of his brow. A heroic face, aware of the danger, capable of failing, unwilling to hold back. Using fingers and tools, she moved the powerful images trapped by her eidetic memory through her hands to the clay, creating an exterior storage that freed her mind, and immortalizing him—whoever he was. The Summit bar was packed and buzzing, the rescue already playing on televisions visible from every corner. With the whole crowd toasting and congratulating him, Jaz played nice—until he accepted her ride home and infuriated her all over again by not inviting her in.

He’d believed that dating women whose self-esteem reached egotistical meant parting ways wouldn’t faze them. Jaz destroyed that theory. She was not only embittered but vindictive. After turning on the jets, Trevor sank into his spa, letting the water beat his lower- and mid-lumbar muscles.

He pressed the remote to open the horizontal blinds and to look out through the loft windows.

Wincing, he reached in and rubbed the side of his knee. That plunge down the slope had cost him, but, given the outcome, he didn’t consider it a judgment error. That honor went to putting himself once more at the top of Jaz’s hate list. He maneuvered his knee into the pressure of a jet. When he got out, he’d ice it. If he got out.

He closed his eyes and pictured the battered toddler. The crowd’s attention had kept the thoughts at bay, easy to talk about the cat, how mountain lions rarely attacked people, how he and Whit had scared it off, how DOW would euthanize if they caught it, how his only priority had been to get the child. He had segued into the business he and Whit had opened the previous spring, rock and ice climbing, land and water excursions, cross-country ski and snowshoe when the season turned.

That was his business, but rescuing was in his blood, had been since his dad made him the man of the house by not coming home one night or any thereafter. At first, the nightmares had been bad—all the things that could go wrong: fire, snakes, tarantulas, tornadoes. They had populated his dreams until he woke drenched in sweat, cursing his father for trusting him to do what a grown man couldn’t.

The phone rang. He sloshed his arm up, dried his hand on the towel lying beside it, and answered. “Hey, Whit.”

“You doing okay?”

“Knee hurts. You?”

“Oh sure. You know—”

“Hold on. There’s someone at the door.”

“Yeah. Me and Sara.”

Trevor said, “Cute. Where’s your key?”

“Forgot it.”

Gingerly, he climbed over the side, then wrapped a towel around his hips, and let them in.

“You mind?” Whit frowned at the towel, although Sara hadn’t batted an eye.

She came in and made herself at home. Whit carried their twomonth- old asleep in his car seat to a resting place. Trevor threw on Under Armour shorts and a clean T-shirt, then rejoined them. “So what’s up?”

“Nice try, Trevor.” Sara fixed him with a look. “I especially like the practiced nonchalance.”

He grinned. “Hey, I’ve got it down.”

“With Jaz, maybe. No claw marks?”

“Too public.”

Whit rubbed his wife’s shoulder. “We knew you’d worry this thing, so Sara brought the remedy.”

She drew the Monopoly box out of her oversize bag with a grin that said she intended to win and would, wearing them down with her wheeling and dealing. “I’ll take that silly railroad off your hands. It’s no good to you when I have the other three.”

He rubbed his hands, looking into her bold blue eyes. “Bring it.”

The mindless activity and their chatter lightened his mood as Sara had intended. She knew him as well as Whit, maybe better. Each time he caught the concern, he reassured her with a smile. He’d be fine.

Whit played his get-out-of-jail card and freed his cannon. “Hear what’s going in next door to us?”

“No.”

“An art gallery.”

“Yeah?” Trevor adjusted the ice pack on his knee.

“Place called Nature Waits.”

“Waits for what?”

Whit shrugged. “Have to ask the lady sculptor.”

“Won’t exactly draw for our kind of customer.”

“At least it won’t compete.” Sara rolled the dice and moved her pewter shoe. “Another outfitter could have gone in. I’ll buy Park Place.”

Both men mouthed, “I’ll buy Park Place.”

She shot them a smile.

Two hours later, she had bankrupted them with her thoughtful loans and exorbitant use of hotels on prime properties. He closed the door behind them, and it hit. He raised the toilet seat and threw up, then pressed his back to the wall and rested his head, breathing deeply. The shaking returned, and this time he couldn’t blame adrenaline. He had literally puffed the life back into that tiny body. If that child had died in his arms…

Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seemed
Alone th’ antagonist of Heaven, nor less
Than Hell’s dread Emperor, with pomp supreme,
And god-like imitated state.

Child snatched from lion’s jaws. Two-year-old spared in deadly attack. Rescuer Trevor MacDaniel, champion of innocents, protector of life. Cameras rolling, flashes flashing, earnest newscasters recounted the tale. “On this mountain, a miracle. What could have been a tragedy became a triumph through the courage of this man who challenged a mountain lion to save a toddler attacked while hiking with his father, center-fielder…”

He consumed the story in drunken drafts. Eyes swimming, he gazed upon the noble face, the commanding figure on the TV screen. In that chest beat valiance. In those hands lay salvation. His heart made a slow drum in his ears. A spark ignited, purpose quickening.

Years he’d waited. He spread his own marred hands, instruments of instruction, of destruction. With slow deliberation, he closed them into fists. What use was darkness if not to try the light?



My Thoughts

Kristen has done it again! She has written a totally engrossing book that will capture and haunt the reader long after the book is finished. "Indelible" weaves a short and mysterious point of view of the antagonist along with the lives and story of the main characters: Natalie and Trevor, making this an unusual and effective way to understand both sides.

This story involves children, loss, abandonment, fame and the problems that come with it, faith, and forgiveness. Although it is a work of Christian fiction, please read before considering giving this book to your teen. It is targeted more towards the adult audience or the mature teen.

This book should definitely be on your list of summer reads. If you enjoyed Kristen's "Indivisible" or just enjoy the suspense/thriller genre, you are going to love this book!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Judas Gospel by Bill Myers - FIRST Wild Card Tour

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:


The Judas Gospel

Howard Books; Original edition (June 14, 2011)

***Special thanks to Libby Reed, Publicity Assistant, Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Myers holds a degree in Theater Arts from the University of Washington and an honorary doctorate from the Theological Institute of Nimes, France, where he taught. As an author/screenwriter/director his work has won over 50 national and international awards, including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award. His books have sold more than 8 million copies and three of his novels are being made into movies, including The Wager, starring Randy Travis.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Judas, the disciple responsible for betraying Jesus, has a conversation with God and proposes to him that if God had used his powers to market Jesus that Judas would have, Jesus would have been more successful in saving the world, with more people following him. Judas has heard rumors that God is preparing another prophet and talks God into letting Judas return to earth to prove his point using this new prophet, a woman who possesses supernatural abilities and who is stalked by a serial killer through her horrifying dreams of his victims. Judas takes her pure ministry and turns it into a marketing circus, and he comes to realize that in mixing commerce with God, bigger isn’t better and that God is interested in reaching individuals, not masses.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (June 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143915354X
ISBN-13: 978-1439153543

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PROLOGUE
________

CHANCES ARE you hate me. Believer or nonbeliever, if you've heard the story, you despise me. And believer or nonbeliever, that makes you a hypocrite. All of you. Believers, because you refuse to embrace the very forgiveness He pleaded for others, even those who tortured Him to death. And nonbelievers, because you pretend to hate the traitor of someone you hate.

"But I don't hate Him," you say.

Really? Pretending you don't hate someone who says all your attempts at being good are worthless? Pretending you don't hate someone who claims to be the only way to God? Pretending you don't hate someone who wants to rule your life? Who are you kidding? You're not fooling anyone, least of all Him.

But hate Him or worship Him, one thing you can say, He's no hypocrite. He stuck to the truth all the way through His execution. And He still holds to it today. (Old habits die hard.) Truth is His currency… and His Achilles' heel. That's why I knew He'd allow me into His presence. If my question was asked in truth, He'd respond in truth.

Now I'm sure there are some who will debate how I had access to Him—those of you who love to argue about gnats while swallowing camels. And why not? After all, debating about dancing angels and pinheads is far easier than breaking a sweat by actually obeying. Or, as the Accuser recently confided in me, "Spending time arguing theology is the perfect way to ensure a burning world continues to burn."

In any case, my eternal state is not up for discussion. Though I will say I have displayed more remorse and repentance over my sin than most of you ever have over your own. And as to whether I'm actually in hell, I guess that depends upon your definition of the place.

But I digress.

When I came before Him, I was forced to my knees. Not by any cosmic bullying, but by the sheer weight of His glory. Yet when He spoke, His voice was kind and full of compassion.

"Hello, my friend. It's been a long time."

My eyes immediately dropped to the ground and my chest swelled with emotion. So much time had passed and He still had that power over me. Angry at His hold, I took a ragged breath and then another before blurting out like a petulant child, "You… never gave me a chance!"

I was answered by silence. He waited until I found the courage, or foolishness, to raise my head. When I did, the love in His eyes burned through me and I had to look back down. Still, He continued to wait.

I took another breath. Finally, angrily swiping at my eyes, I tried again. "If we… if we would have handled Your mission my way"—I swallowed and continued—"the world would not be in the mess it's in today."

"Your way?"

I nodded, refusing to look up. "You could have ruled the world."

"I am ruling the world."

I shook my head. "Not souls. But nations, governments. Every earthly power imaginable could have been Yours."

"Kingdoms come and go. Souls are eternal."

"Tell that to the tortured and murdered who scream Your name as an oath every day." I waited for His wrath to flare up, to consume me. But I felt nothing. I heard no rebuke. Only more silence. He knew I wasn't finished. I took another breath and continued, "If You would have used Your powers my way, everyone would have followed You."

I heard Him chuckle softly. "And you would have made Me a star."

"The likes of which the world had never seen."

"I did all right."

"You could have done better."

He waited again, making sure I had nothing more to say. This time I had the good sense to remain silent.

Finally He spoke. "What do you propose, My friend?"

I hesitated.

"Please. Go ahead."

Still staring at the ground, I answered: "Rumor has it You're preparing another prophet—though her background is questionable."

"Moses was a murderer. David an adulterer." I felt His eyes searching me. "I've always had a soft spot for the broken."

I nodded and took another swipe at my tears.

"What would you like?"

Another breath and I answered: "Let me return to Earth. Let me show You what could have been if You had followed my leading." I hesitated, then looked up, trying to smile. "Hasn't that always been Your favorite method of teaching? Letting us have our way until we wind up proving Yours?"

His eyes sparkled at my little joke. I tried to hold His gaze but could not.

After another pause He finally spoke: "When would you like to begin?"

And that's how it started—how He gave me the opportunity to prove to Him, to you, and to all of creation, what could have been accomplished if He'd proclaimed His truth my way.

I'll say no more. Neither here nor at the end. Instead, I'll practice what He, himself, employs. I'll let the story unfold, allowing truth to speak for itself.





CHAPTER ONE
________

THE FIRST thing Rachel smells is smoke. That's how it always begins. Not the smoke of wood, but the acrid, chemical smell of burning drapes, melting carpet, smoldering sofa. The air is suffocating. Hot waves press against her face and mouth, making it difficult to breathe. Her mother stands before her in a white flowing gown. Flames engulf the woman's legs, leaping up and rising toward her waist where she holds little Rebecca. The two of them stare at Rachel, their eyes pleading for help, their faces filled with fear, confusion, and accusation as Rachel stands holding a lit candle in a small glass holder.

Mother and sister waver and dissolve, disappearing into the smoke. Suddenly Rachel is standing in the doorway of an upscale bathroom. The same bathroom she stood inside last night. And the night before. The marble tile is cool to her bare feet. There is no smoke now, only fog. So thick she sees nothing. But she can hear. There is the sound of splashing water. Someone in a tub. The room is filled with the sweet scent of rose bath oil.

A nearby dog yaps, its bark shrill and relentless.

A woman shouts from the tub, "Who's there?" Her voice is strong and authoritative, masking the fear she must feel.

Rachel tries to answer, but no sound comes from her throat.

"Who are you? How did you get in?" She hears the woman rising, water dripping from her body.

The dog continues to bark.

"Get out of here!" the woman yells. Water splashes. She swears. The sound of a struggle begins. Someone falls, knees thudding into the tub. There is the squeak of flesh against porcelain. Coughing, gagging. A scream that is quickly submerged underwater, muffled and bubbling.

Rachel hears herself gasping and grunting. She feels her own hands around the woman's throat.

The dog barks crazily.

The last of the burbling screams fades. The struggle ends. There is only the gentle sound of water sloshing back and forth, back and forth.

And the yelping dog.

Rachel rises and turns, fearful of what she knows she will see through the fog. As in the previous dreams, a bathroom mirror floats before her. But this evening there is something different. This evening there are letters scrawled across it in black cherry lipstick. Her scrawling:

Tell Them

In the mirror she sees a tiny red glow dancing across her hand, the hand that holds the burning candle. It's there every night, like a firefly. But instead of her own frightened face staring back at her, she sees the face of someone else: bald, white, and pale. A swastika tattooed on the side of the neck. Man, woman, she can't tell. But it is leering. And it is climbing out of the mirror toward her.

She screams and throws the candle at the reflection. The mirror shatters, breaking into a dozen pieces, a dozen images of the face sneering up at her. Until they change. Until they morph into different faces. Froglike. Reptilian. Each climbing out of its broken shard—snarling, reaching for her feet, clutching at her ankles until, mustering all of her strength, she wakes with a stifled scream.

Nineteen-year-old Rachel Delacroix lay in bed, heart pounding, T-shirt soaked and clinging. At first she thought it was from the water of the tub… until she realized it was her own cold sweat.

"Rachel?" Her father appeared in the doorway, his bald black head glistening in the streetlight from the hall window. The same window that held the broken air conditioner they could not afford to replace. "Are you all right?"

"Mmm?" she mumbled, pretending to be asleep.

"Was it—did you have another dream?"

She gave no answer.

"You're not taking your medicine, are you."

She remained silent, hoping he'd think she'd gone back to sleep.

"Rachel?"

More silence. She could hear him standing there nearly half a minute before he turned and wearily shuffled back down the hall to his room. Tomorrow was church and he needed to get his rest. Still, she knew full well he'd not be able to go back to sleep.

Hopefully, neither would she.

She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling, then turned to the art posters on the surrounding walls—the Monets, the Van Goghs, the Renoirs. How often they gave her comfort. Even joy. But not tonight. Tonight, as in the past two nights she'd had the dream, they would give her nothing at all.

________

IT WAS BARELY past nine in the morning and the attic was like an oven. The Santa Anas had been blowing for several days, and Sean Putnam doubted the house had dropped below eighty degrees all night. That's why he was up here now—to save whatever was left of his paintings. To bring the canvases downstairs where it was cooler and the paint wouldn't dry out and crack. Over the past months he'd already thrown away dozens, mostly self-portraits; clear signs of what he now considered to have been his self-absorbed youth.

"Dad!"

He turned toward the stairs and shouted. As was the case with many Down syndrome children, the multiple ear infections had left his son hard of hearing. "I'll be there in a second."

"Well, hurry! We don't want to be late."

"I'll be right there."

"Well, hurry."

He quietly mused. Tomorrow would be Elliot's first day in middle school. A scary time for both of them. Yet it was all part of the plan he and Beverly had agreed upon. A plan conceived as the cancer began eating away and taking her. They wanted to make sure Elliot was prepared as much as possible to face the real world. Integrating him into the public school system seemed the best choice. They'd talked about it often during her final days. And it was the last conversation they had before she slipped into unconsciousness.

Now, barely a year later, he was making good on those plans.

"Dad."

"I'll be right there."

Elliot was nervous. He had been all week. That's why Sean had agreed to this trial run. That's why, though it was nine-fifteen on a Sunday morning, the two of them would pile into the old Ford Taurus and drive over to Lincoln Middle School. A rehearsal for tomorrow's big day. An attempt to help Elliot relax by eliminating any surprises.

Too bad Sean couldn't do the same for himself. Because he wasn't just anxious about his son. Tomorrow was a big day for him as well. He'd finally graduated from the Los Angeles Police Academy, and tomorrow would be his first day on patrol in a black-and-white. That was the other reason he was up here in the attic. "To put away childish things." He wasn't sure where he'd first heard that phrase, probably from his old man. But it made it no less true. The days of being a long-haired art student had come and gone. Now it was time to be a man. To make the necessary sacrifices and take care of what was left of his family.

He quickly flipped through the remaining canvases until one slowed him to a stop. Not because of any artistic skill, but because of the subjects—six-week-old Elliot lying naked on his mother's tummy, his little fist clenched, nursing at her breast. It still moved him in ways he could not explain. Somehow, some way, he'd been able to capture the truth of that moment… mother and child lost in the act of life, their faces filled with contentment, glowing with an indefinable peace.

"Dad…"

He reached down and scooped up the canvas. "I'm on my way." He tucked the painting under his arm and headed back downstairs, where he would find someplace safe to keep it.


© 2011 Bill Myers



My Thoughts:

I really, really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't get "into" it - which was very surprising to me since I really liked Myers book "The God Hater".

The storyline was interesting, but I had a hard time connecting with the characters. They were flat and unrealistic to me, and as time went on, I found myself not caring if I finished the book or not. Characters make or break the book for me, and with no real connection, it became a chapter at a time instead of devouring the book like I did with with "The God Hater".

I did like the storyline. A healer with dreams with her aggressive "agent" mixed in with murder and suspense... It really could have been a great read.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"The Canary List" by Sigmund Brouwer - FIRST WildCard Tour

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:


The Canary List

WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sigmund Brouwer is the bestselling author of Broken Angel and nineteen other novels, with close to three million books in print. His work has appeared in Time, The Tennessean, on Good Morning America and other media. Sigmund is married to recording artist Cindy Morgan and has two young daughters.


Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Best-selling author Sigmund Brouwer of Broken Angel, releases another suspense thriller in The Canary List (WaterBrook Press, June 21, 2011).

Jaimie is just a twelve year-old girl, bumped around between foster homes and relegated to school classes for challenged kids, those lagging in their test scores or with behavioral issues. But her real problem is that she can sense something the other kids can’t—something dark. Something compelling her to run for her life.

And all Crockett Grey wants is to mark the anniversary of his daughter’s death alone.

But when his student Jaimie comes to him terrified, her need for protection collides with his grief, initiating a tangled web of bizarre events that sends them both spiraling toward destruction.

Crockett’s one hope of getting his life back is to uncover the mysterious secrets of Jaimie’s past and her strange gift. It isn’t long before his discoveries lead him to a darker conspiracy, secrets guarded by the highest seat of power in the world—the Vatican.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446468
ISBN-13: 978-0307446466

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

She knew that they hurt the boy, because he told her, always, the mornings after he was returned.

She was the only one the boy trusted. She was five and he was four. Each time he was returned to the house, it seemed he had grown smaller.

Black walls and candles, he said. Hoods and robes, like the scary people in Scooby Doo cartoons. Except it wasn’t a cartoon. He couldn’t describe what the people in hoods and robes did to him because he would start shaking and sobbing as he made the attempt.

He told her it must be something they ate that made them so mean to him. Hales.

She didn’t know what hales were and neither did he. But he told her about two pieces of wood crossed, and how they trampled it and kept repeating about the hales they had ate in, but he never knew what they ate the hales in, because they never finished explaining. They just said ‘hales ate in’ and left it at that.

On the last night she saw the boy, she was in his bedroom at the foster home. They heard the car drive up and looked out the window and saw it was
them again. She had his toy bow and arrow set, and she vowed to the boy that she wouldn’t let them take him again.

She was ready when the man in the mask came into the bedroom. She aimed the arrow at the eyes of the tall man, and the rubber suction cup of the
toy arrow hit him squarely in his left eye. He cursed and lifted the mask and rubbed his eye before he realized that she was the one who had fired the arrow,
not the boy. He dropped the mask into place and, with a snort of rage, stepped forward and swept her away with a blow across her face.

“I am The Prince,” he said, as she struggled to her knees. He moved to stand over her. “Bow to me.”

His face. She had seen it before. He was someone she saw at church on Sundays. In a robe at the front, handing out bread to people as they bowed
down in front of him.

She did not want to bow.

Instead she rose in defiance and spit on his leg. He lashed out again, hitting her across the cheek. She tried to scream, but the pain was too great.

Another man in another mask stepped into the bedroom and pulled him away. Then they took the boy.

She never saw the boy again. He went to live at another house, the people at the house said.

But the man with the mask came back. He wore the mask while he hurt her again. In horrible ways. He promised if she told anyone, he could come
back and kill her and then kill the people of the house.

So she didn’t tell anyone. She tried to believe it was a dream. A very bad dream.

But some nights she would wake up and shiver and cry and wonder where the boy was. And she would wonder, too, what hales were and what they ate the hales in and how it was that hales could make people so horrible.

Chapter 1

Evil hunted her.

It had driven her toward the beach, where, protected by the dark of night, Jaimie Piper crept toward the front window of a small bungalow a few
blocks off the ocean in Santa Monica.

She knew it was wrong, sneaking up on her schoolteacher like this, but she couldn’t help herself. She was afraid—really afraid—and she wanted his help.

First she had to make sure he was alone. If he was with someone else, she wouldn’t bother him.

The sound of night bugs was louder than the traffic on the main boulevard that intersected this quiet street. It was June, and the air was warm and
had the tangy smell of ocean. The grass was cool and wet. She felt the dew soaking through her canvas high-top Converse sneakers. Jaimie wasn’t one to
worry about fashion. She just liked the way the sneakers felt and looked. Okay, maybe she liked them too because none of the other kids her age wore them.

Jaimie was twelve. Slender and tall, she had long, fine hair that she tended to wear in a ponytail with a ball cap. If she let it hang loose, it softened her appearance to the point where others viewed her as girlie, something she hated.

The alternative was to cut it herself, because her foster parents didn’t like wasting money by sending her to a beauty salon, but cutting it herself would just remind her that she was nothing but a foster kid, so she just let it grow. And wore Converse sneakers that looked anything but girlie.

Not only was it wrong to be sneaking up on her teacher’s house, but it was wrong even to know where he lived. Jaimie knew that. But his wallet had been open on his desk once, with his driver’s license showing behind a clear plastic window, and she’d read it upside down while she was talking to him and had memorized his address.

Although this was the first time she’d stopped, she had ridden her bike past his house plenty of times, wondering what it would be like if she lived in
the little house near the beach.

It wasn’t the house that drew her. It was dreaming about what it would be like to have a family, and it seemed the perfect house for a family with a mom and a dad and a couple of girls.

A real family. A house that they had lived in for years and years, with a yard and a couple of dogs. Beagles. She loved beagles.

Her mom would be a little pudgy but someone who laughed all the time. Jaimie didn’t like the moms she saw who were cool and hip and trying to outdo their daughters in skinniness and tight-fitting jeans.

Her dad would not have perfect hair and drive a BMW. Jaimie didn’t have friends, because Jaimie wasn’t a friend kind of person, but she knew girls at
school with dads like that, and those girls didn’t seem happy. If Jaimie had a dad, he’d be the kind of guy who went to barbers, not stylists, and had hair that
was always a couple of weeks past needing a barber, who wore jeans and didn’t tuck in his shirt and always dropped everything to listen to whatever story his
girl wanted to tell him.

A dad like Mr. G, her teacher. He drove an old Jeep, the kind with canvas top and roll bars. Sometimes she’d see a surfboard strapped to the top of it, canvas top gone. Mr. G had that kind of surfer-dude look, with the long hair and a long nose bent a little. Not perfect kind of handsome, but a face you still
looked at twice. Some of the girls in her class had a crush on him.

Not Jaimie.

She just wished she could have a dad like him and a house like the house he lived in. Sometimes when she was really lonely, she would ride her bike in the neighborhood, pretending it was her home and that when she got there, she’d be able to wheel up the sidewalk and drop her bike on the grass and leave
it there, because if it really was her family, no one would get upset about little things like that.

It wasn’t that she just had a good feeling about him. It was that Jaimie knew Mr. G could be trusted. Jaimie had a sense about people, a sense that sometimes haunted her.

Like earlier tonight, when she’d met a guy who had come to her house to talk to her foster parents. She’d watched his eyes as he checked the layout of the
house, standing in the kitchen, saying that he was from Social Services. She had taken her bracelet off to hand wash some dishes, and without it on her
wrist, she’d felt the Evil that radiated from him. Evil that hunted her.

So while the man with Evil was talking to her foster parents, she’d grabbed her bracelet and snuck out of the house and jumped on her bike. Dusk was just turning black when she began the twenty-minute ride from the large old house toward the ocean, where she often snuck at night anyway to walk the beach.

But the feeling of Evil was still so real she couldn’t shake it. She wanted—no, needed—to talk to someone about it. Wanted—no, needed—to feel safe. Somehow.

The one person who had promised to help wasn’t answering her phone. That only left Mr. G. The only other person in the world she could trust.
She made it to the side of the window at his house. She inched her head up to peek through the glass.

She saw a single candle.

And Mr. G on the couch. Holding a big book open in his lap.

She watched, knowing she shouldn’t watch.

It looked like he was talking to the book.

And then he glanced up, and for that split second, it seemed like he was staring right into her eyes.

My Thoughts

Take a young girl, a caring teacher, throw in some conspiracy, the Catholic Church, politics, and demon possession, shake them all up, and you've got "The Canary List" in a nutshell. This suspenseful read, kept me quite interested in both the characters and storyline. Jaimie and Mr. G are both characters you can't help but get involved with. They are likeable and both in situations you want to help them with, but wonder how. The twists and red herrings will keep you guessing and the surprise ending, although somewhat weak, should leave the reader satisfied, and wanting to read another book by Brouwer.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anne Easter Smith Guest Post - "Queen By Right" Virtual Book Tour



It has been a pleasure being able to participate in the "Queen By Right" tour. Anne Easter Smith is an amazing author who I'm honored to host today.  Thank you, Anne, for this fascinating post!.


Medieval ideas of love and marriage: A Guest Post by Anne Easter Smith

Cecily Neville and Richard, duke of York, are said to have had one of history’s few real love matches in an arranged marriage. This probably came about because they were together at Cecily’s father’s castle of Raby from an early age. Richard was orphaned when he was only four, and after being put in the care of Sir Robert Waterton for several years, his wardship was eventually purchased by Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland. And so Richard would have met and been under the same roof as Cecily when he was twelve and she was eight. It was not long afterward that Ralph wisely betrothed his youngest daughter to the young duke. Richard Plantagenet had a strong claim to the throne (but that’s another story!), so when he married Cecily she became the highest ranking of all the Neville clan.

When Ralph died in 1426, he willed the wardship to his wife, Joan, who was then placed in the king’s household with Cecily and Richard until Richard took his place at court, probably when he was 17. In Queen By Right I have the couple married before November 1429 when we know Richard received a Papal indulgence to have a portable altar and a confessor “for the duke of York and his duchess” (so we know they were married by then).

You might ask why it was unusual for theirs to be a love match? As lovers of historical fiction, I’m sure you know that most marriages from the gentry up to the royals were those of political and economical expedience. Many contracts were arranged between families when their offspring were only a few years old. But these young people might live at opposite ends of the country from each other and never meet until the legal age for marriage arrived: 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Sometimes--in the case of King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou--one or other had someone stand proxy for them and you might be married before you even saw your husband! Imagine dreaming about your knight in shining armor or your Guinevere and being forced to live the rest of your days with Eygor from Frankenstein or Cruella Deville. Yes, a familiar love grew between couples in many cases, but it was hardly what we know today as conjugal bliss! Romantic love was most definitely missing for these very often mismatched pairs; can you blame them for looking for it elsewhere?

And so early in the medieval period, the troubadours began to sing about love and romance, which quickly spread to literature and pretty soon, anyone born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth was caught up in what we would probably call affairs today. We now refer to this idealized version of romance as “courtly love.” We would laugh at it now as it was highly exaggerated and artificial; we would also deem it highly dangerous as it’s most exciting aspect was secrecy. When a knight or lord fancied a lady, he was supposed to let her know by sending her secret gifts, singing her songs or penning poems. The lady on the other hand was supposed to  only afford her pining lover a mere nod of approval and hint at affection. The relationship was more of a mistress dominating her servant, and the men apparently went for it.

Did they go all the way? You betcha! In fact medieval intellectuals believed that romantic love had to be adulterous because everyone knew that marriage was just for begetting children, thus real love was precious and lovers should be allowed to carry on in secret. Andrew the Chaplain, a medieval clergyman, wrote: “Love rarely survives when it becomes common knowledge.” And Heloise (the lover of Abelard) is said to have stated: “The love freely given matters. The name of ‘wife’ may seem more sacred or more worthy, but sweetest to me will always be the words ‘lover, concubine or whore.’”  Quite controversial for even our time, wouldn’t you say!

Back to Cecily and Richard. Compared with many of their rank in the 15th century, there is no evidence of Richard ever having a mistress--or a bastard that has surfaced in this age of genealogy fascination--and Cecily faithfully followed her husband around the country or to France or to Ireland or wherever his career took him dragging her children with her. When Richard returned from 10-months exile in Ireland and the king had tried to stop his progress from the North Wales coast to London, the first person he sent for was Cecily, who raced up to meet him at Worcester, to where he’d pushed his way down, gathering men as he went. It was one of the few times she went to him without her children. I am sure it wasn’t to talk about the weather or how little George and Richard were, I think they were hungry to wrap their arms about each other.

For more information please visit Anne Easter Smith’s WEBSITE and FACEBOOK PAGE.

“Thank you Theresa, for hosting me here at Just One More Paragraph”.  – Anne Easter Smith




Make sure to stop by the Queen By Right Virtual Book Tour Page to hear what others had to say about Queen By Right and to read more guest posts by Anne Easter Smith.

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