Friday, April 30, 2010

How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?

HOW DO YOU TUCK IN A SUPERHERO?
by Rachel Balducci

MY THOUGHTS:
Do not read this book in a public place unless you want everyone looking at you -- I guarantee you will laugh out loud until you snort! Rachel Balducci tells of life in a household full of boys -- five boys! And I thought our two were a houseful! With wit, honesty, and the patience only a mother could have, she shares her life full of entertaining stories in short snippets. This is an easy to read book that helps you appreciate the creativity of boys and especially the wisdom of their mothers who are willing let them be themselves. I just noticed on Rachel's blog that she just gave birth to a baby girl, so I'm looking forward to a new book about raising a princess in a palace of boys!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

HILARIOUS DISPATCHES FROM A HOME FILLED WITH BOYS:

In a household with five young boys, you never know what to expect—except that it’s always an adventure!

Author Rachel Balducci is no longer surprised when she has to say things in her house like: "I am not a wrestling mat." "Stay off the roof." "You can try to invent a
jet-pack, but I will not buy the fuel for it." Or, "Wear something nice—like a t-shirt with no stains on it."

As the mother of five boys, Balducci has her hands full, which makes for some hilarious stories. She shares more than 50 of those tales--from finding her boys climbing through windows, making traps for catching bad guys or rooting through the refrigerator, ever hungry--in her delightful new book How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys.


Readers will laugh out loud at the antics she experiences on a daily basis, as she pulls back the curtain on what a life filled to the brim with boys is like for one woman. From the curious scenes she catches her boys in, to the entertaining conversations she overhears, to the unimaginable rules she's been forced to make, this laugh-out-loud celebration joyfully explores the sweet and wild side of boyhood.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Balducci is a writer and the mother of five lively boys and a brand new baby girl. Her website, www.testosterhome.net, has been nominated for several awards. Rachel is a former staff writer for the Augusta Chronicle and has been published in numerous magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Faith and Family, and The Word Among Us. She and her family live in Augusta, Georgia.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.


“Available April 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Thank you, Baker Publishing, for providing a book for this review.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blood Ransom

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Blood Ransom
Zondervan (April 1, 2010)


by
Lisa Harris

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author Lisa Harris has been writing both fiction and nonfiction since 2000 and has more than fifteen novels and novellas in print. She currently lives with her family in Mozambique, Africa, where they work as missionaries.

From Lisa:

Have you ever noticed how God often uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things? In writing Blood Ransom, I wanted my heroes and heroines to be ordinary people, faced with extraordinary circumstances. Chad and Natalie’s lives were changed not only through the challenges they faced, but also through their reliance on God. And when they set off on their journey to the capital to save Joseph’s family, they never imagined that God would call them to a task that was beyond the scope of their own power.

But while this story is fictional, the issue of a modern day slave trade is very real. It is estimated that there are currently more than 27 million slaves on the world today from Africa, to Eastern Europe … to the United States of America. The fact is, we don’t have to travel around the world to see people hurting and exploited. They’re real people we pass every day, living in our neighborhoods, and attending our churches and schools. They’re empty and broken, searching for freedom and hope in an often hopeless world.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Natalie Sinclair is working to eradicate the diseases decimating whole villages in the Republic of Dhambizao when she meets Dr. Chad Talcott, a surgeon on sabbatical from a lucrative medical practice now volunteering at a small clinic.

Meanwhile, things are unraveling in Dhambizao. Joseph Komboli returns to his village to discover rebel soldiers abducting his family and friends. Those that were too old or weak to work lay motionless in the African soil. When Chad and Natalie decide to help Joseph expose this modern-day slave trade---and a high-ranking political figure involved in it---disaster nips at their heels.

Where is God in the chaos? Will Chad, Natalie, and Joseph win their race against time?

Romance and adventure drive Blood Ransom, by Lisa Harris, a powerful thriller about the modern-day slave trade and those who dare to challenge it.

If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter of Blood Ransom, go HERE.

MY THOUGHTS:
This is a fast-paced book with short chapters that leave you anxious to find out what happens next. I was intrigued by the story line and horrified by the realities of the real day ramifications of life in the politically hostile African nations. I enjoyed the complex lives of the characters portrayed, but I found just a bit too much 'coincidence' and convenience in the story. It's hard to provide examples without giving away parts of the story, but the key players were followed too closely without adequate justification at times and there were too many links between seeming strangers to make the book seamless. Nonetheless it is a worthwhile read!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Three Weddings and A Bar Mitzvah

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 auhttp://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=34332450&postID=7567515795128800552#thor is:


and the book:


Three Weddings & a Bar Mitvah

David C. Cook (2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Melody Carlson has published more than one hundred books for adults, children, and teens, with many on best-seller lists. Several books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards, including the Gold Medallion and the RITA Award. She and her husband live in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and have two grown sons.

Visit the author's website.

Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah, by Melody Carlson from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 1589191080
ISBN-13: 9781589191082

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Megan Abernathy


“Okay, then, how does the second Saturday in June look?” Anna asked her housemates.


Megan frowned down at her date book spread open on the dining room table. She and Anna had been trying to nail a date for Lelani and Gil's wedding. Megan had already been the spoiler of the first weekend of June, but she'd already promised her mom that she'd go to a family reunion in Washington. Now it seemed she was about to mess things up again. “I'm sorry,” she said, “but I promised Marcus I'd go to his sister's wedding. It's been scheduled for almost a year now, and it's the second Saturday too. But maybe I can get out of it.”


Lelani just shook her head as she quietly rocked Emma in her arms, pacing back and forth between the living room and dining room. The baby was teething and fussy and overdue for her afternoon nap. Megan wasn't sure if Lelani's frustrated expression was a result of wedding planning or her baby's mood.


“Is it possible you could do both weddings in one day?” Anna asked Megan.


“That might work.” Megan picked up her datebook and followed Lelani into the living room, where she continued to rock Emma.


“Or we could look at the third weekend in June,” Anna called from the dining room.


“Shhh.” Megan held a forefinger over her lips to signal Anna that Emma was finally about to nod off. Megan waited and watched as Emma's eyes fluttered closed and Lelani gently eased the limp baby down into the playpen set up in a corner of the living room. Lelani pushed a dark lock of hair away from Emma's forehead, tucked a fuzzy pink blanket over her, then finally stood up straight and sighed.


“Looks like she's down for the count,” Megan whispered.


Lelani nodded. “Now, where were we with dates?”


“If you still want to go with the second Saturday,” Megan spoke quietly, “Anna just suggested that it might be possible for me to attend two weddings in one day.”


“That's a lot to ask of you,” Lelani said as they returned to the dining room, where Anna and Kendall were waiting expectantly with the calendar in the middle of the table and opened to June.


Megan shrugged as she pulled out a chair. “It's your wedding, Lelani. You should have it the way you want it. I just want to help.”


Anna pointed to the second Saturday. “Okay, this is the date in question. Is it doable or not?”


Lelani sat down and sighed. “I'm willing to schedule my wedding so that it's not a conflict with the other one. I mean, if it can even be done. Mostly I just wanted to wait until I finished spring term.”


“What time is Marcus's sister's wedding?” asked Anna.


“I'm not positive, but I think he said it was in the evening.” She reached for her phone.


“And you want a sunset wedding,” Kendall reminded Lelani.


“That's true.” Anna nodded.


“But I also want Megan to be there,” Lelani pointed out.


“That would be helpful, since she's your maid of honor,” said Anna.


Megan tried not to bristle at the tone of Anna's voice. She knew that Anna had been put a little out of sorts by Lelani's choice--especially considering that Anna was the sister of the groom--but to be fair, Megan was a lot closer to Lelani than Anna was. And at least they were all going to be in the wedding.


“Let me ask Marcus about the time,” Megan said as she pressed his speed-dial number and waited. “Hey, Marcus,” she said when he finally answered. “We're having a scheduling problem here. Do you know what time Hannah's wedding is going to be?”


“In the evening, I think,” Marcus said. “Do you need the exact time?”


“No, that's good enough.” Megan gave Lelani a disappointed look. “I'll talk to you later, okay?”


“You're not thinking of bailing on me, are you?” He sounded genuinely worried.


“No, but we're trying to pin down a time and date for Lelani.”


“It's just that I really want my family to meet you, Megan. I mean all of my family. And I want you to meet them too.”


“I know, and I plan to go with you.”


“Thanks. So, I'll see you around six thirty tonight?”


“That's right.” Megan told him good-bye, then turned to Lelani with a sigh. “I'm sorry,” she told her. “That wedding's at night too. Maybe I should blow off my family reunion so that you--”


“No.” Anna pointed to the calendar. “I just realized that the first Saturday in June is also my mother's birthday.”


“So?” Kendall shrugged. “What's wrong with that?”


Megan laughed. “Think about it, Kendall, how would you like to share your wedding anniversary with your mother-in-law's birthday?”


Kendall grinned. “Oh, yeah. Maybe not.”


“How about a Sunday wedding?” suggested Megan.


“Sunday?” Lelani's brow creased slightly as she weighed this.


“Sunday might make it easier to book the location,” Kendall said. “I mean, since most weddings are usually on Saturdays, and June is a pretty busy wedding month.”


“That's true,” agreed Megan.


“And you gotta admit that this is short notice for planning a wedding,” added Kendall. “Some people say you should start planning your wedding a whole year ahead of time.”


“Marcus's sister has been planning her wedding for more than a year,” Megan admitted. “Marcus says that Hannah is going to be a candidate for the Bridezillas show if she doesn't lighten up.”


They all laughed.


“Well, there's no way Gil and I are going to spend a year planning a wedding.” Lelani shook her head. “That's fine for some people, but we're more interested in our marriage than we are in our wedding.”


“I hear you.” Kendall laughed and patted her slightly rounded belly. She was in her fifth month of the pregnancy. They all knew that she and her Maui man, Killiki, were corresponding regularly, but despite Kendall's high hopes there'd been no proposal.


“I really don't see why it should take a year to plan a wedding,” Megan admitted. “I think that's just the wedding industry's way of lining their pockets.”


“So how much planning time do you have now anyway?” Kendall asked Lelani. “Like three months?”


“Not even.” Lelani flipped the calendar pages back. “It's barely two now.”


“Which is why we need to nail this date today,” Megan said. “Even though it's a small wedding--”


“And that remains to be seen,” Anna reminded her. “My mother's list keeps growing and growing and growing.”


“I still think it might be easier to just elope,” Lelani reminded them. “I told Gil that I wouldn't have a problem with that at all.”


“Yes, that would be brilliant.” Anna firmly shook her head. “You can just imagine how absolutely thrilled Mom would be about that little idea.”


Lelani smiled. “I actually thought she'd be relieved.”


“That might've been true a few months ago. But Mom's changing.” Anna poked Lelani in the arm. “In fact, I'm starting to feel jealous. I think she likes you better than me now.”


Lelani giggled. “In your dreams, Anna. Your mother just puts up with me so she can have access to Emma.”


They all laughed about that. Everyone knew that Mrs. Mendez was crazy about her soon-to-be granddaughter. Already she'd bought Emma all kinds of clothes and toys and seemed totally intent on spoiling the child rotten.


“Speaking of Emma”--Kendall shook her finger--“Mrs. Mendez is certain that she's supposed to have her on Monday. But I thought it was my day.”


“I'm not sure,” Lelani admitted. “But I'll call and find out.”


“And while you've got Granny on the line,” continued Kendall, “tell her that I do know how to change diapers properly. One more diaper lecture and I might just tape a Pamper over that big mouth of hers. Sheesh!”


They all laughed again. Since coming home from Maui, Kendall had been complaining about how Mrs. Mendez always seemed to find fault with Kendall's childcare abilities. In fact, Mrs. Mendez had spent the first week “teaching” Kendall the “proper” way to do almost everything.


To be fair, Megan didn't blame the older woman. Megan had been a little worried about Kendall too. But to everyone's surprise, Kendall turned out to be rather maternal. Whether it had to do with her own pregnancy or a hidden talent, Megan couldn't decide, but Kendall's skill had been a huge relief.


“Now, back to the wedding date,” said Lelani.


“Yes,” agreed Megan. “What about earlier on Saturday?”


“Oh, no,” Anna said. “I just remembered that I promised Edmond I'd go to his brother's bar mitzvah on that same day--I think it's in the morning.”


Lelani groaned.


“Edmond's brother?” Megan frowned. “I thought he was an only child. And since when is he Jewish?”


“Remember, his mom remarried,” Anna told her. “And Philip Goldstein, her new husband, is Jewish, and he has a son named Ben whose bar mitzvah is that Saturday.” She sighed. “I'm sorry, Lelani.”


“So Saturday morning is kaput,” Megan said.


“And Lelani wanted a sunset wedding anyway,” Anna repeated.


“So why can't you have a sunset wedding on Sunday?” Kendall suggested.


“That's an idea.” Megan turned back to Lelani. “What do you think?”


Lelani nodded. “I think that could work.”


“And here's another idea!” Anna exclaimed. “If the wedding was on Sunday night, you could probably have the reception in the restaurant afterward. I'm guessing it would be late by the time the wedding was over, and Sunday's not exactly a busy night.”


Lelani looked hopeful. “Do you think your parents would mind?”


“Mind? Are you kidding? That's what my mother lives for.”


“But we still don't have a place picked for the wedding,” Megan said.


“I have several outdoor locations in mind. I'll start checking on them tomorrow.”


“We'll have to pray that it doesn't rain.” Megan penned 'Lelani and Gil's Wedding' in her date book, then closed it.


“Should there be a backup plan?” asked Anna. “I'm sure my parents could have the wedding at their house.”


“Or here,” suggested Kendall. “You can use this house if you want.”


Anna frowned. “It's kind of small, don't you think?”


“I think it's sweet of Kendall to offer.” Lelani smiled at Kendall.


“I can imagine a bride coming down those stairs,” Kendall nodded toward the staircase. “I mean, if it was a small wedding.”


“I'll keep it in mind,” Lelani told her. “And your parents' house too.”


“It might be tricky getting a church reserved on a Sunday night,” Megan looked at the clock. “And speaking of that, I better get ready. Marcus is picking me up for the evening service in about fifteen minutes.” She turned back to Lelani. “Don't worry. I've got my to-do list and I'll start checking on some of this stuff tomorrow. My mom will want to help with the flowers.”


“And my aunt wants to make the cake,” Anna reminded them.


“Sounds like you're in good hands,” Kendall sad a bit wistfully. “I wonder how it would go if I was planning my wedding.”


“You'd be in good hands too,” Lelani assured her.


“Now, let's start going over that guest list,” Anna said as Megan stood up. “The sooner we get it finished, the less chance my mother will have of adding to it.” Megan was relieved that Anna had offered to handle the invitations. She could have them printed at the publishing company for a fraction of the price that a regular printer would charge, and hopefully she'd get them sent out in the next couple of weeks.


As Megan changed from her weekend sweats into something presentable, she wondered what would happen with Lelani's parents when it was time for the big event. Although her dad had promised to come and was already committed to paying Lelani's tuition to finish med school, Lelani's mom was still giving Lelani the cold shoulder. Make that the ice shoulder. For a woman who lived in the tropics, Mrs. Porter was about as chilly as they come. Still, Lelani had friends to lean on. Maybe that was better than family at times.


“Your prince is here,” Kendall called into Megan's room.


“Thanks.” Megan was looking for her other loafer and thinking it was time to organize her closet again. “Tell him I'm coming.”


When Megan came out, Marcus was in the dining room, chatting with her housemates like one of the family. He was teasing Anna for having her hair in curlers, then joking with Kendall about whether her Maui man had called her today.


“Not yet,” Kendall told him with a little frown. “But don't forget the time-zone thing. It's earlier there.”


“Speaking of time zones,” Lelani said to Marcus. “Did I hear you're actually thinking about going to Africa?”


Marcus grinned and nodded. “Yeah, Greg Mercer, this guy at our church, is trying to put together a mission trip to Zambia. I might go too.”


“Wow, that's a long ways away.” Kendall turned to Megan. “How do you feel about that?”


Megan shrugged as she pulled on her denim jacket. “I think it's cool.”


“Are you coming with us to church tonight, Kendall?” Marcus asked. “Greg is going to show a video about Zambia.”


“Sorry to miss that,” Kendall told him. “But Killiki is supposed to call.”


“Ready to roll?” Megan nodded up to the clock.


He grinned at her. “Yep.” But before they went out, he turned around. “That is, unless anyone else wants to come tonight.”


Lelani and Anna thanked him but said they had plans. Even so, Megan was glad he'd asked. It was nice when Kendall came with them occasionally. And Lelani had come once too. Really, it seemed that God was at work at 86 Bloomberg Place. Things had changed a lot since last fall.


“So are you nervous?” Marcus asked as he drove toward the city.


“Nervous?” Megan frowned. “About church?”


“No. The big interview.”


Megan slapped her forehead. “Wow, I temporarily forgot. We were so obsessed with Lelani's wedding today, trying to make lists, plan everything, and settle the date … I put the interview totally out of my mind.”


“Hopefully, it won't be out of your mind by Monday.”


“No, of course not.”


“So … are you nervous?”


Megan considered this. It would be her first interview for a teaching job. And it was a little unsettling. “The truth is, I don't think I have a chance at the job,” she admitted. “And, yes, I'm nervous. Thanks for reminding me.”


“Sorry. Why don't you think you'll get the job?”


“Because I don't have any actual teaching experience.” She wanted to add duh, but thought it sounded a little juvenile.


“Everyone has to start somewhere.”


“But starting in middle school, just a couple of months before the school year ends? Don't you think they'll want someone who knows what they're doing?”


“Unless they want someone who's enthusiastic and energetic and smart and creative and who likes kids and had lots of great new ideas and--”


“Wow, any chance you could do the interview in my place?”


“Cross-dress and pretend I'm you?”


She laughed. “Funny.”


“Just have confidence, Megan. Believe in yourself and make them believe too. You'd be great as a middle-school teacher.”


“What makes you so sure?”


“Because I remember middle school.”


“And?”


“And most of my teachers were old and dull and boring.”


“That's sad.”


“And I would've loved having someone like you for a teacher.”


“Really?”


He chuckled. “Yeah. If I was thirteen, I'd probably sit right in the front row and think about how hot you were, and then I'd start fantasizing about--”


“Marcus Barrett, you're pathetic.” Just the same, she laughed.


“What can I say? I'm just a normal, warm-blooded, American kid.”


“Give me a break!” She punched him in the arm.


“Is that your phone?” he asked as he was parking outside of the church.


“Oh, yeah, a good reminder to turn it off.” She pulled it out to see it was Kendall. Megan hoped nothing was wrong. “Hey, Kendall,” she said as Marcus set the parking brake. “What's up?”


“Guess what?” shrieked Kendall.


“I have no idea what, but it sounds like good news.” She stepped out of the car.


“Killiki just called.”


“That's nice.”


“And he asked me to marry him!”


Megan raised her eyebrows and looked at Marcus as he came around to meet her. “And you said yes?”


“Of course! Do you think I'm crazy?”


“No. Not at all. Congratulations, Kendall. I mean, I guess that's what you say.”


“So now we have two weddings to plan.”


Megan blinked. She walked with Marcus toward the church entry. “Oh, yeah, I guess we do.”


“And I'm getting married in June too!”


“That's great, Kendall. I'm really, really happy for you. And Killiki seems like a great guy.”


“He is! Anyway, we just looked at the calendar again. And we finally figured that I should just get married the same day as Lelani, only I'll get married in the morning. That way we'll all be able to go to both weddings.”


“Wow, the same day?”


“Otherwise, you'll be at your reunion or Marcus's sister's wedding. Or Anna will be at the bar mitzvah. Or Lelani and Gil will be on their honeymoon.”


“Oh, that's right.”


“And I want all of you there!”


“Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”


“It'll be busy, but fun.”


“Definitely.” Then Megan thanked Kendall for telling her, and they said good-bye. Megan closed her phone and just shook her head. “Wow.”


“Kendall's getting married?” asked Marcus as he held the church door open for her.


“Yes. Can you believe it?”


“Good for her.”


“And her wedding will be the same weekend as your sister's and the same day as Lelani's.”


Marcus held up three fingers and wore a perplexed expression. “Three weddings in one weekend? That's crazy.”


“Yep.” Megan nodded. “Three weddings and a bar mitzvah.”


“Huh?” Marcus looked confused, but they were in the sanctuary, and Megan knew she'd have to explain later.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah by Melody Carlson. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In the Arms of Immortals

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:


In the Arms of Immortals: A Novel of Darkness and Light (Chronicles Of The Scribe)

David C. Cook (2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



An expert in ancient women’s history, critically acclaimed author Ginger Garrett (Dark Hour, Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, and most recently In the Shadow of Lions) creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women. In addition to her writing, Garrett is a frequent radio and television guest. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 0781448883
ISBN-13: 9780781448888

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


In the Arms of Immortals

Chapter One


Thirty thousand dollars bought her the right to avoid being scalded alive.


Mariskka Curtis did not miss the shoddy built-in shower that had been in her old apartment. Now she owned a penthouse, and one of her first decisions as a new millionaire was to have a high-end luxury shower installed.


“For thirty grand, it should make my breakfast, too,” Mariskka said to no one.


At least the bathroom was warm, making goose bumps and bad leg shaves a thing of the past. The maid had lit the fireplace in the master bath an hour ago and brought a fresh careen of coffee up. The milk still needed to be frothed, but Mariskka didn't mind that.


She pumped the handle six times and the milk bubbled up. She poured coffee into her monogrammed cup, then the foamy milk over the coffee. Mariskka inhaled, surprised that coffee could still bring her so much pleasure.


Rolling her neck to get the morning kinks out, she swung open the shower door and sat inside. The shower began as a slow warm mist around her feet, giving her a few minutes to finish her coffee before the gentle raindrops started from the overhead faucet and the dawn lights bounced pink off the shower glass.


Later this morning she was scheduled for an appearance on yet another talk show to dazzle America with her rags to riches tale. She hated the hollow feeling in her stomach that came from lying. She had stolen her best-selling manuscript from a patient's room. The patient, Bridget, had been a famous editor, and left it behind when she died. Mariskka stole it on impulse, thinking it might be valuable if sold on eBay. Only later, when packing the editor's belongings, had Mariskka seen the business cards thrown in the bottom of her bags. One was for an agent. Mariskka had contacted the agent, passing the manuscript off as her own. It couldn't hurt anyone, she had thought. Mariskka had also stolen Bridget's watch, but only because she intended to return it to the family. Only later did she realize Bridget had no family.


When the agent sold that manuscript in a seven-figure deal, it was as if God answered her prayers. Mariskka made a pile of easy money. She bought things she never dreamed of owning. She even donated some of it, paying hospice bills that threatened to bankrupt families and sent worn out care givers on vacations. Good things had happened to plenty of people because of her decision to steal.


As the mist rose she finished her coffee and waited for the overhead shower to turn on. Hard rock blared suddenly through the shower speakers, and she dropped her coffee cup in surprise. It shattered at her feet. Instinctively she yanked her feet out of the scalding puddle. Losing her balance in the wet mist, she hit her head on the imported tile and blacked out.


The smoke stung Mariskka's eyes.


She blinked, trying to clear her mind, groping in the darkness for the shower door. The shower had stopped, and the music was dead. She wondered if the building had lost electricity.


She crawled over something sharp and jagged. The lights must have shattered above. It was too dark to see anything; she wished she had windows in her bath as she pushed back the shower door.


Something was coming.


She felt the vibrations through her legs, shaking her to her stomach. Straining to hear above her thundering heart, she heard a heavy scraping against her hardwood floors, the sound of a sharp tool being dragged over the floors, catching every second or so, bumping over a seam. Heavy footfalls shook the floor, and metal screeched together with each step. She thought of the armored boots she had seen on medieval knights in museums.


Something slammed against the door, making the wood split.


It hit again.


“There is no Blood here,” someone said.


“God help me,” she whispered.


When she said the word God, the thing outside the door shrieked like an animal. A sword pierced through the door, creating a jagged seam as the intruder jerked it back and forth in the split wood. Light streamed in from her bedroom windows, but she could see nothing except a sword sawing its way through the door.


They should be testing the microphones for the television hosts right now, she thought. Amber-Marie Gates, her publicist, was going to be furious when Mariskka didn't arrive on time. Or when she didn't arrive at all.… Mariskka's mind was gone, traveling down more familiar tracks, unable to process her death.


Then the door burst apart, and she was showered with wood fragments. A figure too large to pass through the doorframe stood, stood, twisting its head in different directions, staring at her. The glowing blue dawn outlined its frame. Morning sunrays shot up from behind its head and between its flexed arms, illuminating dust particles spinning down and turning the shifting light into a kaleidoscope.


Metal wings reflected the light at their sharp ice-pick tips; below these, the shoulders of a man were layered with scales. Each finger was tipped with dozens of iron claws, all pointing backwards. Once it grabbed her, she wouldn't get free without tearing herself to shreds. It was built for death.


“There is no Blood here,” he said.


“What?” she screamed.


“You have no Christ.”


A tail with an iron tip, long and scalpel sharp, raised behind him as he pointed his sword at her. He turned his shoulder to come through the door. As he thrust his wings against the frame, cracks ran up the walls above the door.


He lifted his sword, aiming for her neck. She wondered if her lips would still be moving after death, the way Anne Boleyn's had.


He spun back around, his sword in motion.


A shower of sparks was burning her.


She remembered lights like this.


She was a child at Disney, watching the Magical Parade of Lights. A green, scaled dragon floated past her as she sat on the sidewalk, full of lemonade and ice cream. When the dragon swung its head in her direction, with its blind paper eyes and red paper streamers coming from its mouth to look like fire, Mariskka vomited right between her shoes. No one noticed, not the least her mom, who had taken the wide white pills so she could get through the day, one of their last together. Mariskka wanted her to take the pills so she wouldn't be in pain, so she wouldn't groan in the night, but the pills made her dull and distant. Either way, Mariskka lost her mother a little more each day.


She stood, grabbing her mother's hand, pulling at her to run. Her mother laughed, tipsy from the combination of opiates and Disney princesses, swinging her around in a dance, not understanding the panic in her daughter's eyes. Mariskka struggled to get free, to see where the dragon went, but it was gone. She would lie awake for years after that, wondering where it was now. The eyes had only been paper, but she knew. It had seen her. It had seen something inside her.


Mariskka was still remembering herself as a little girl when she noticed her impending death had been delayed. Another creature was here, holding a sword, blocking the iron-winged monster from killing her. He had gold-and-straw colored dreadlocks that ran down his back and the body of a linebacker. Judging from how close his head was to her ceiling, Mariskka guessed he was about eight feet tall.


The man picked up the dark iron angel by the neck and slammed it against the wall. Plaster rained down.


“She is ours,” the iron-angel said. “We can take her.”


“Not yet,” the new creature said.


A dark stain spread underneath the iron-angel on the tile floor. The stain shimmered as teeth began to appear, ringing the edges.


The new creature yelled over his shoulders. “Cover your eyes!”


Mariskka stared at the stain, which was devouring the iron-angel as it moved up it his legs.


The new one screamed again, “Mariskka! Now!”


Mariskka obeyed.


She heard the sound of an animal screaming in pain, and then all was quiet.


She looked up to see the new creature staring down at her. His nose was inches from her face, and his dreadlocks fell forward, tickling her cheeks. If he were human, she thought, he would be beautiful. But he could not be real, not with his strange eyes that were like big, gold saucers and canine teeth that peeked out from his lips. His breath smelled of meat, too. She collapsed, losing all control over limb and thought.


His arms slipped behind her knees and under her neck, lifting her without effort. He carried her to the bed and laid her down, drawing the curtains and stepping back into the shadows. He sat in a chair, resting one arm on the armrest, watching her. A thick, numbing sensation started in her toes and poured slowly into her body. She felt it filling her, working its way through her abdomen, then her arms. When it got to her eyes, they closed and she slept.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. In the Arms of Immortals by Ginger Garrett. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Transformation

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 Transformation

David C. Cook (2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




An award-winning interior designer, Terri Kraus comes to the Project Restoration series naturally, having survived the remodel, renovation, and restoration of three separate personal residences, along with those of her clients. The author/coauthor (with husband, Jim) of eleven other novels, including The Renovation and The Renewal, Terri lives in Wheaton, Illinois, with her husband and son, Elliot.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 0781448670
ISBN-13: 9780781448673

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Transformation

CHAPTER ONE


Shadyside

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Early Spring, Present Day


Oliver checked his watch. He squinted and positioned his wrist nearer to the glow of the truck’s speedometer.


5:45 a.m. Too early.


Oliver knew it was much too early to be wandering around in a strange neighborhood, but heavy Pittsburgh traffic—even the threat of heavy traffic—gave him the willies. Leaving his home later in the morning meant heavy traffic, probably normal for everyone, but not normal for Oliver. Navigating his pickup through dense packs of automobiles was far removed from Oliver’s comfort zone.


Too early.


He might risk the drive into Pittsburgh from Jeannette for a funeral or a wedding, or maybe a Steelers’ football game (if someone gave him free tickets), but not much else. Why risk life, limb, and sanity?


So today, Oliver had attempted to beat the traffic and the stress. He had gotten up at 4:30, not that much earlier than his normal get-up time, had picked up a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at the store a mile from his house, and had driven in the shimmery dark down Route 30. Traffic was light as he entered the flickering fluorescent-lit Squirrel Hill tunnel. Then, following his GPS, which he’d begun to rely on but did not always trust, he’d crept along a baffling series of residential streets until he arrived at his destination. The voice from the GPS unit seemed more chipper than he remembered in announcing his successful journey.


“Destination ahead. You have reached your destination.”


He pulled to the curb, scanning for street signs.


Cities have all sorts of laws about where you can and can’t park and when, he remembered. And I’m not about to get a ticket just giving someone a free estimate.


He looked about again, turning sideways in the seat.


I can’t just sit in the truck. That might look like I’m—what do they call it?—casing the place. I am, sort of—but not in that way.


He got out of the truck, jogged down the block, back to the front of his truck, then halfway up the block.


“No signs,” he said softly. “That’s odd. Should be some sort of parking sign.”


Oliver really disliked getting traffic tickets. He had received one speeding ticket in the last decade, but his parking violations occurred more frequently. Contractors sometimes had to double-park or park on sidewalks. He hated seeing a fluttering yellow slip, lying in wait with a bad day written all over it, snuggled under his windshield wiper.


“It must be okay to park here then,” he said out loud.


He walked slowly back towards his truck, tapped at the passenger side window, and nearly pressed his face to the glass.


“Come on, Robert. Let’s get started on the estimate.”


Robert lifted his head and shook himself awake, blinking. He had slept the entire trip. Not that the trip was that long, but he most often napped during any ride longer than ten minutes. He scrambled to his feet and stretched slowly and carefully.


Robert was Oliver’s dog. Most often Oliver and a fair number of his friends and coworkers would say “Robert the Dog” when speaking about Robert the Dog, as opposed to just “Robert,” because there were several other Roberts inhabiting Oliver’s circle of friends. No one wanted to confuse man and dog—least of all, Oliver. Oliver actually liked the sound of that three-word name and began to use “Robert the Dog” almost exclusively, except when they were alone, like this morning.


Robert the Dog clambered down from the seat to the floor of the truck and jumped out to the curb, sniffing the air, the grass, the truck, and finally, Oliver’s shoe. He might have been a pure-bred schnauzer but was the size of at least one and a half miniature schnauzers combined, though not as large as the giant variety, and his hair was mostly black. His head was almost the right schnauzer shape—not perfect to the breed, but close—so Oliver assumed a very small amount of some sort of nonschnauzer lineage had found its way into the good dog Robert.


Ever since Oliver had rescued Robert from the pound as a puppy, the two had gone everywhere and done everything together, including evaluating a new project . . . a possible new project. In construction, Oliver found, nothing was certain until the contract was signed—and even then, things could happen.


Oliver did not have to worry about Robert the Dog taking off, running into traffic, or barking at the wrong time. Robert had never done any of those things and, more than likely, would not start demonstrating inappropriate behaviors this early on a still sunless Monday in Shadyside, just on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.


Oliver looked at the address again. He had listened to the phone message carefully three times to get the return phone number, the exact name of the potential client, and the address of the potential job correct. Now he stood on South Aiken Street and looked east.


“But this is a church,” he said to Robert the Dog.


Robert simply stared at the building, sniffing the cool morning air, as if he were not really interested


“I mean . . . it’s a real church. I knew it was going to be a church, but not this kind of church.”


When Samantha Cohen had left her message five days ago, she had said her new acquisition, her latest renovation project, was a church building. She planned on transforming it, doing “wonderful things” with it. Oliver had imagined a small frame building, a church-like building that might be easily changed into a gallery or antique shop—but not a heavy, old historic church-to-the-very-rafters sort of building.


This is a real church—and will always look like a real church.


“Can you meet me Monday morning?” Miss Cohen had said, her voice deep and raspy, in a memorable, alluring, black-and-white Lauren-Bacall-movie sort of way. “I really need to talk this project through. Alice and Frank Adams, my friends in Butler, just raved about your work. Said you were brilliant with their displays and cabinets and all types of furnishings. I need brilliant. I’m willing to pay for brilliant. So Monday. Early. If you can make it. Leave me a return message. I’ll get it, even if I don’t call you back. I’m a little OC when it comes to checking messages.”


Oliver had left a return message: “Early Monday. Sevenish? I might be there before seven just to look around the outside, if that’s okay with you. I get up early.”


What he was now staring at in the early light, and what Robert was sniffing, was an historically significant church. No one could lay eyes on this building, even in the dark on a foggy night, and see anything other than a rock-solid church. This was a church with a capital C. It had massive stone arches; huge stained-glass windows that traversed the sides of the church; a rotunda that certainly must hold the altar. There was a covered entranceway (the port cochere, Oliver knew it was called) done in huge stone blocks and a high tower with a cross and carillon.


Just standing there, thinking about remodeling the old structure into something other than a place of worship, gave Oliver a case of spiritual heebie-jeebies. “This is a church,” he repeated again.


He stood, wrapped in that early morning silence that occurs even in big cities, like the soft, fragile, and short-in-duration crease in the day between the dark and its dark noises and the early morning let’s-get-the-commute-going sort of noises. Oliver wondered if he should just get back in his truck, pretend that he had never made the mistake of answering the phone message from Samantha Cohen, and move on to the next job.


I’ll be tearing apart a church. God’s house, where people have worshipped for what must be over a century.


He wanted to sigh, but did not.


My mother will die if she finds out.


Oliver wondered, for just one split of a split second, if he could keep this job secret. Not that he liked keeping secrets from his mother, but sometimes parents could not be trusted to handle sensitive news.


Or I could walk away and wait for the next job. That actually might be easier . . . safer . . . less stressful.


Except he did not have a next job. He could wait, wait for the next big nonchurch job, but there was no guarantee another one would come quickly, and in these sorts of wobbly economic times, Oliver knew he could not be picky.


And he was here; he’d already endured the traffic. He would stay. He’d do the estimate.


There’s something about this place. . . .


Now his words were softer, perhaps because of the silence. “A church . . . but, well, she did say it used to be a church.”


The holes in the stone fa├žade were still visible where a sign had once hung.


“It’s just a building now.” He looked down at Robert the Dog. “Right, Robert? It’s not a church anymore. Right?”


Robert looked up, as if considering Oliver’s options, sniffed again, and then sneezed in a very uncanine-like manner.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Transformation by Terri Kraus. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wildflowers of Terezin

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Wildflowers of Terezin
Abingdon Press (April 2010)
by


Robert Elmer




ABOUT THE BOOK



When nurse Hanne Abrahamsen impulsively shields Steffen Petersen from a nosy Gestapo agent, she’s convinced the Lutheran pastor is involved in the Danish Underground. Nothing could be further from the truth.



But truth is hard to come by in the fall of 1943, when Copenhagen is placed under Martial Law and Denmark’s Jews—including Hanne—suddenly face deportation to the Nazi prison camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia. Days darken and danger mounts. Steffen’s faith deepens as he takes greater risks to protect Hanne. But are either of them willing to pay the ultimate price for their love?



To read the first chapter of Wildflowers of Terezin, go HERE.

MY THOUGHTS:

I have been reading a lot of WWII fiction lately, and this one took me by surprise. Robert Elmer has found a fresh perspective on a fascinating time in history that has been addressed from almost every angle.

Steffen Petersen, a Lutheran pastor, unwittingly becomes inextricably involved by falling for a Jewish nurse, hiding her family in his church and helping them escape from the Germans. When an attempt to smuggle the nurse out of the country occurs, he finds ways to ensure that she is safe by joining a Red Cross inspection team reviewing the camp at Terezin, where she is interred.

Elmer has created a provocative book that causes the reader to do some introspection. How far are we willing to go, breaking the rules of our church and our government, in order to follow the calling of our God? Can love cloud our judgment resulting in irrational actions that might cause others to be harmed? How do we know if we should trust God to protect loved ones in difficult situations or to intervene and save them?

This is another book I would highly recommend for those who are interested in historical fiction, the WWII era, or though- provoking books.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Robert Elmer is a former pastor, reporter and as copywriter who now writes from he home he shares with his wife Ronda in northern Idaho. He is the author of over fifty books, including eight contemporary novels for the adult Christian audience and several series for younger readers. Combined, his books have sold more than half a million copies worldwide. Like his popular "Young Underground" youth series, Wildflowers of Terezin was inspired by stories Robert heard from his Denmark-born parents and family. When he's not sailing or enjoying the outdoors, Robert often travels the country speaking to school and writers groups.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

16 Brides

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Sixteen Brides


Bethany House (April 2010)


by


Stephanie Grace Whitson






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A native of southern Illinois, Stephanie Grace Whitson has lived in Nebraska since 1975. She began what she calls "playing with imaginary friends" (writing fiction) when, as a result of teaching her four home schooled children Nebraska history.



She was personally encouraged and challenged by the lives of pioneer women in the West. Since her first book, Walks the Fire, was published in 1995, Stephanie's fiction titles have appeared on the ECPA bestseller list numerous times and been finalists for the Christy Award, the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year.



Her first nonfiction work, How to Help a Grieving Friend, was released in 2005. In addition to serving in her local church and keeping up with two married children, two college students, and a high school senior, Stephanie enjoys motorcycle trips with her family and church friends.



Her passionate interests in pioneer women's history, antique quilts, and French, Italian, and Hawaiian language and culture provide endless story-telling possibilities.



ABOUT THE BOOK



In 1872, sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community."



Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledgling community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival! Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them.



These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Sixteen Brides, go HERE.

MY THOUGHTS:
I really enjoyed this book. To be honest, I thought it might be just another historical romance -- rather predictable. Boy was I wrong! It turns out this book is about women who are looking for anything but romance. They are seeking a new opportunity to make a life for themselves and the five who form the basis of the book initially want anything BUT a man!

Stephanie Grace Whitson has done an amazing job of integrating five very different women and their pasts into one cohesive story. She deals effectively with perceptions of women at the time, even the perceptions women have of themselves, and she demonstrates how faith and determination can cause people to reach deep inside to allow them to do things they thought were impossible.

I was especially intrigued by the information at the end of the book stating that there actually were women who were allowed to stake claims themselves for land, several successfully! I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to more from the author.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

As Young As We Feel

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


As Young As We Feel


David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2010)


by


Melody Carlson






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards. And her "Diary of a Teenage Girl" series has received great reviews and a large box of fan mail.



She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.







ABOUT THE BOOK



Is there room in one little hometown for four very different Lindas to reinvent their lives … together?



Once upon a time in a little town on the Oregon coast lived four Lindas—all in the same first-grade classroom. So they decided to go by their middle names. And form a club. And be friends forever. But that was forty-seven years and four very different lives ago. Now a class reunion has brought them all together in their old hometown—at a crossroads in their lives.



Janie is a high-powered lawyer with a load of grief. Abby is a lonely housewife in a beautiful oceanfront empty nest. Marley is trying to recapture the artistic free spirit she lost in an unhappy marriage. And the beautiful Caroline is scrambling to cope with her mother’s dementia and a Hollywood career that never really happened. Together, they’re about to explore the invigorating reality that even the most eventful life has second acts … and friendship doesn’t come with a statue of limitations.



If you would like to read the first chapter of As Young As We Feel, go HERE.



Watch the Video: