Friday, September 25, 2009

A Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy & My Review

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:

A Cowboy Christmas

Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)


As an award-winning author, Mary Connealy lives on a Nebraska farm with her husband and is the mother of four grown daughters. She writes plays and shorts stories, and is the author of two other novels, Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon. Also an avid blogger, Mary is a GED instructor by day and an author by night. For more information on Mary Connealy, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601453
ISBN-13: 978-1602601451


A mining camp in Missouri, November, 1879

“You’ll wear that dress, Songbird.” Claude Leveque grabbed Annette Talbot’s arm, lifted her to her toes, and shoved her backward.

Annie tripped over a chair and cried out as it toppled. The chair scraped her legs and back. Her head hit the wall of the tiny, windowless shack, and stars exploded in her eyes.

Stunned by the pain, she hit the floor, and an animal instinct sent her scrambling away from Claude. But there was nowhere to go in the twelve-by-twelve-foot cabin.

Her head cleared enough to tell her there was no escape, so she fought with will and faith. “Never.” Propping herself up on her elbows, she faced him and shouted her defiance. “I will never go out in public in that dress.”

“You’ll sing what I tell you to sing.” Claude, in his polished suit and tidily trimmed hair, looked every inch civilized—or he had, until tonight. Now he strode toward her, eyes shooting furious fire, his face twisted into soul-deep rot and sin.

“I sing as a mission.” Annie tried to press her back through the unyielding log wall. “I sing hymns. That’s the only thing—”

A huge fist closed over the front of her blouse, and Claude lifted her like a rag doll to eye level, but he didn’t strike.

He would. He’d proved that several times over since he’d come here with his disgusting demands.

She braced herself. She’d die first. Claude might not believe that, but he’d know before long.

“So, you’re willing to die for your beliefs, heh?” Claude’s fist tightened on her blouse, cutting off Annie’s air.

“Yes!” She could barely speak, but he heard. He knew.

“Are you willing to watch someone else die, Songbird? Maybe your precious friend, Elva?” He shook her and her head snapped back. “I can always find another piano player.”

“No!” Annie had to save Elva. Somehow. Of course Elva would be threatened. Annie hadn’t had time to think that far.

Elva would never stand for this. Elva would die for her beliefs, too.

A wicked laugh escaped from Claude’s twisted mouth. “She’s easily replaced. But I’ll never”—he shook her viciously—“find another singer like you.”

How had it come to this? God help me. Protect Elva and me.

“My answer is no! Elva wouldn’t play the piano for me if I wore that.” Her eyes went to the slattern’s dress hanging, vivid red, near the door. “She would refuse to play the piano for those vulgar songs.”

“We’ll see, Songbird.” Claude laughed again.

Annie saw the evil in him, the hunger to hurt. He wasn’t just hurting Annie to get his way. He was enjoying it. Her vision dimmed and blurred as she clawed at his strangling fist.

“I’ll go have a talk with your frail old friend and then we’ll see.” He shoved Annie backward, slamming her against the wall.

She hit so hard her knees buckled. What little air she still had was knocked away.

Claude charged out, shutting the door behind him.

Annie heard the sound of a padlock snicking shut as she slumped sideways.

She became aware of her surroundings with no idea how much time had passed. In the falling darkness, she could barely make out blood dripping down the front of her dress. Tears diluted the blood and she wept.

“Do something, idiot! You can’t just sit here crying.”

Annie proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was indeed an idiot by burying her face in her hands and sobbing her heart out. The tears burned. She swiped at them and flinched from the pain in her blackened eye.

Shuddering, she lifted her battered face from her hands and looked at the dress. It seemed to glow in the dim light, as if the very fires of the devil gave it light. Indecent, vivid red silk with black fringe. No bodice worth mentioning, the front hem cut up nearly to the knees. The garment was horrible and disgusting, and Annie’s shudders deepened. She shouted at the walls of the tiny, solidly locked cabin, “I won’t do it!”

Claude had known before he’d asked that Annie would never wear that sinful dress and sing those bawdy songs. Touching gingerly her throbbing, swollen cheek, Annie pulled her hand away and saw blood. Her lip was split, her nose bleeding. She knew Claude’s fists had been more for his own cruel pleasure than any attempt at coercion.

“Beat me to death if you want,” she yelled at the door. “I will never again perform onstage for you!” She felt strong, righteous. Ready to die for her faith.

Then she thought of Elva. Annie’s elderly accompanist was maybe, right now, being punished because Annie hadn’t fallen in line.

Claude’s cruel threats rang in her ears even with him gone.

For all her utter commitment to refusing the Leveques and singing only her beloved hymns, how could Annie watch Elva be hurt? Could Annie stand on principle while Elva was beaten?

The welts on Annie’s arm, in the perfect shape of Claude Leveque’s viselike hand, along with Annie’s swollen eye and bleeding lip, proved the hateful man knew how to inflict pain. He’d proved he had no compunction in hurting a helpless woman.

Noise outside her prison brought Annie to her feet. He was coming back! Annie was sick to think what the couple would do to the elderly woman who had spent her older years worshipping God with music.

Sick with fear that they’d force Annie to watch Elva being battered, Annie clenched her fists and prayed. God would never agree that Annie should wear that tart’s dress, sing vile, suggestive songs, and flash her legs for drunken men.

But Elva!

Please, Lord, guide me though this dark valley.

A key rattled in the doorway.

Annie braced herself. If she could get past Claude, she would run, find Elva, and get away. Go somewhere, somehow. Throw herself on the mercy of the men in this logging camp—the very ones Claude said would pay to see that dreadful harlot’s gown.

The wooden door of the secluded, one-room shack swung hard and crashed against the wall. Elva fell onto her knees, clutching her chest. “You have to run!” Elva, eyes wild with terror, lifted her head. Annie saw Elva’s face was battered; a cut on her cheek bled freely.

Expecting Claude and Blanche to be right behind the gray-haired woman, Annie rushed forward and dropped to Elva’s side. “Elva, what did they do to you?”

“I heard. . .I heard Claude making plans, awful plans for you. He caught me eavesdropping. He thought he’d knocked me cold, but I lay still and waited until he left. He’d hung the key on a nail, and I stole it and slipped away to set you free.” Elva staggered to her feet, every breath echoed with pain. She stretched out a shaking hand, and Annie saw Elva’s black velvet reticule. The one the sweet pianist, who made Annie’s voice sound as pretty as a meadowlark, carried always. “There’s money. All I’ve saved.” Elva coughed, cutting off her words. She breathed as if it hurt. “T–Take it and go. There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town. Enough.” Coughing broke her voice again and Elva’s knees wobbled. She clung tight to Annie. “Enough for one train ticket.”

Annie realized what Elva was saying. “No, I won’t leave you.”

“It’s my heart.” Elva sagged sideways, clutching her chest. Annie couldn’t hold her dead weight, slight though Elva was. They both lowered to the floor. “When Claude landed his first blow, I felt my heart give out. Oh, Annie, the things he threatened for you. The evil, ugly words from a serpent’s mouth. My precious girl. Run. You must run.”

“I won’t leave you. They’ll kill you, Elva.”

“No. My heart. I’ve felt it coming for months and tonight’s the end. They can’t harm me anymore.”

“Elva, don’t talk like that.” Tears wanted to fall, but Annie had no time for such weakness. “You’re all I have!”

“Your father. Go home.”

“He doesn’t want me. You know that.”

Elva’s hand closed over the already bruised place on Annie’s wrist. Elva clearly saw what Annie had already suffered at Claude’s hands. “Go. There’s no time. What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

Annie gasped. Those words could mean only one thing. She glanced at the indecent dress. A harlot’s dress.

“God is calling me home, my beautiful girl. He’s taking me b–because He knows you’d never leave me. God in heaven is rescuing us both. I’ll go home and so will you. I believe that.”

Annie looked into Elva’s eyes, and even now they clouded over.

“Go. Please. It’s my fault you’re in this place. I thought we’d bring the Lord to these people with your beautiful singing. I convinced you to stay when the Leveques took over. If you stay I will have died for nothing, Sw–Sweet Annie.”

Elva’s grip tightened until Annie nearly cried out in pain. Then as quickly as the spasm had come, it was gone.

And so was Elva. She sank, lifeless, to the floor.

Annie saw the very moment Elva’s spirit left her body—a heartbreaking, beautiful moment, because now Elva was beyond pain.

But Annie wasn’t.

“If you stay I will have died for nothing.”

A loud snap of a twig jerked Annie’s head around. She gazed into the nearby woods surrounding the sequestered shack she’d been locked in. The Leveques were coming.

“What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

As if God Himself sent lightning to jolt her, Annie clutched Elva’s reticule, leaped to her feet, and ran.

“There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town.”

Annie gained the cover of the woods and, without looking back, began moving with painstaking silence.

She heard Claude’s shout of rage when he discovered the cabin door ajar.

Poor Elva. No one to bury her. No one to make her funeral a testimony to her life of faith.

Annie hated herself for running away. It was cowardly. There had to be some way to stay and pay proper respect, see to a decent Christian burial. Every decent part of herself said, “Go back. Face this.”

She kept moving. Elva had insisted on it. Common sense confirmed it. God whispered it in her heart to move, hurry, be silent.

Silence was her only weapon and Annie used it. She’d learned silence in the mountains growing up, slipping up on a deer or an elk. Slipping away from a bear or a cougar.

As much as Annie had loved her mountain home, she’d never learned to hunt. Pa fed the family. But she loved the woods and was skilled in their use.

Heading for the trail to town, she was careful to get close enough to not lose her way but stay off to the side.

Not long after she’d started out, she saw Claude storming down the trail toward town. He’d catch the wagon Elva spoke of long before she did. And, she hoped, insist on searching it. Once Claude assured himself that Annie wasn’t there, she’d have her chance.

Annie felt the bite of the cool night air. She heard an owl hoot in the darkness. The rustle of the leaves covered tiny sounds she might make as she eased along. She knew the trail. She knew the night. She knew the woods.

All of it was filled with treachery.

My Review:
I enjoyed this. It was really good, and kept me wanting to find out what happened in the end. I felt sorry for Annie when she was praying for more crosses to bear, but I also wanted to slap her up the back of her head and tell her that she didn't need anymore! I was happy with how it ended though :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

In the Arms of Immortals by Ginger Garrett & My Review

I am so sorry that this is so late!!! My review is at the bottom :)

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)


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


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.

My Review:
I really enjoyed this book, just like I really enjoyed "In the Shadow of Lions".
These books give a different insight into historical events, that keep you engrossed and wanting to know more. They are written in a style that is fairly easy to read. The different perspectives of characters can sometimes make it a little difficult to follow, but I walk away feeling like I know the whole story rather than one person's view of it.
I would suggest them to older teens and above :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Taste of Fame by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson & My Review

A Taste of Fame:
The latest book in The Potluck Catering Club series

Buy from Amazon (and have a look inside) or Koorong.

A Taste of Fame is the latest book in The Potluck Catering Club series and serves up more of what readers have come to love from these feisty characters and the hilarious antics they find themselves in—which takes them this time to the Big Apple for their first taste of fame:

The Potluck Catering Club that these six friends started is already a growing business when a budding filmmaker decides to cast them for a class project. For fun, they agree. That is, until they realize that he has entered his documentary in a new reality show “Great Party Showdown”—and they actually get picked for the show, taking the ladies of Summit View, Colorado, to the Big Apple for the unexpected adventure of their lives. Between navigating New York City, dealing with other cutthroat contestants, and trying to maintain their close friendship in the high-stress world of reality TV, the Potluck women must keep their eyes on the prize—a cool million dollars—and work together if they’re going to make it back to Colorado in one piece.

A Taste of Fame serves up the perfect blend of humor, misadventure, and mouth-watering recipes. Fans new and old will love this exciting trip into the wild world of competitive cooking!

Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson are award-winning authors, successful speakers, radio personalities, and avid readers of fiction. They are the popular authors of The Potluck Club, The Potluck Club—Trouble’s Brewing, The Potluck Club—Takes the Cake, and The Secret’s in the Sauce. They’ve also led numerous Bible studies and women’s retreats and still find time to be wives and mothers. Linda lives in Colorado and Eva lives in Florida.

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.

For more information, visit

My Review:
My only problem with this is that it seemed a little overdramatic in places. Other than that, it was very enjoyable. The different themes that they used for each of their cooking challenges were lots of fun to read about and made me wish that I could've been there and seen it. I think that this would be a good series to read through :)

The Potluck Club Cookbook by Linda Evans Shepherd & Eva Marie Everson and My Review

Potluck Parties: The Popular Pastime Goes Posh

Dinner parties take a cue from the past,
with revival in potlucks during hard financial times.Buy from Amazon (and get a look inside) or Koorong.

As wallets tighten, friends and family have to get more creative about the way they socialize, seeking to make get-togethers more budget-friendly without sacrificing the fun. That challenge is what has brought about the revival of potlucks to the social scene.

“Eating in is the new eating out,” says Eva Marie Everson, a potluck enthusiast and co-author of The Potluck Club Cookbook. For instance, Everson and her husband used to meet up with another couple each month over dinner at a different restaurant. “But with the recent economy, we started eating in and dining à la potluck. We get to sit on a screened-in patio and watch the sun set over the lake behind the house. We all agree we should have been doing this all along!”

Potlucks are easy even on strained budgets because no one person carries the full cost of a table-full of food; instead, guests each bring their own favorite dish and together cater the event. This allows guests
to sample new dishes and share favorite recipes from their closest friends.

These potlucks that are popping up in even the classiest of circles barely resemble the potlucks of yesterday. Now, they might carry intriguing themes that the dishes are based around. For instance, a book club’s potluck might feature foods mentioned in the pages of their latest read. Or a birthday celebration for a longtime friend might be a wine-and-cheese potluck showcasing favorite edibles that get better with age. For a close girlfriend who is always known for accenting with yellow, a potluck in her honor might include a savory, golden-hued smorgasbord.

Whatever your affair may look like, Eva Marie Everson and Linda Evans Shepherd are the experts when it comes to hosting and attending these shared meals. Veterans of countless potlucks over the years, the duo has gathered their favorite potluck-ready recipes—from salads to slow-cooker delights—plus their experienced insights about pulling off a potluck into one source: The Potluck Club Cookbook. Shepherd and Evans are also the authors of the popular fiction series The Potluck Club and The Potluck Catering Club—so their penchant for potlucks is obvious.

My Review:

I think the idea of potlucks is a great idea! I also really love the idea of themed potlucks. I would love to do a themed potluck with my friends, and I think I'll start planning it soon :)

There are so many delicious meals in here, and they make me hungry when I read them.

There's sections on snacks, cakes, crock-pot meals, breads, lite meals, desserts, breakfasts, meat meals, casseroles, salads, soups and stews, and vegetable dishes. The format of the book is easy to read, and it's a good size for a recipe book (in my opinion).