Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"God, Girls, and Getting Connected" Book 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:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to
Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

I am always looking for devotionals that will nab the attention of my preteen and teen daughters. My 15 year old has her own phone and likes texting and checking facebook on it and so forth so I thought this one might connect with her. I love the way it is set up. None of them are very long (which can be intimidating for some readers) and they start with a question then they answer the question with "God's Text" (otherwise known as a Bible verse) and then there is a paragraph or two that goes into more detail and it ends with a way to apply it to your life. Short, sweet, to the point and in terms that today's girls will understand. I'm impressed!


Robin Marsh is an Emmy nominated and national award-winning journalist. She anchors the weekday morning newscast at KWTV-News9, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City. Robin uses her influence from television as a way to share with women and girls about the love of Jesus at retreats for women, students, and churches. She was honored as a “Woman of Distinction” by Girl Scouts of the USA.

Visit the author's website.

Lauren Nelson was crowned Miss America 2007. She received the prestigious TOYA award (Ten Outstanding Young Americans) by the United States Junior Chamber Organization in 2008. Lauren serves many charities including Children's Miracle Network. She is a co-anchor at KWTV-News9, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City. Lauren loves teaching Bible studies and leading worship with her husband.

Visit the author's website.


Miss America 2007, Lauren Nelson, and award-winning TV news anchor Robin Marsh share a passion to encourage teen girls. In this relevant, engaging devotional they show the cell phone generation of girls why accepting God’s call is the best decision they’ll ever make.

Each devotion includes a question in teen lingo, God’s “text response” from Scripture, insightful reflections, and a daily spiritual app to help girls relate biblical wisdom to everyday needs as they explore:

  • how to deal with the drama of other girls

  • decisions about boys and sexual purity

  • do’s and don’ts of social media

  • the fun of living out a bold faith

  • their identity and uniqueness in Christ

A cleverly presented, timely look at God’s help for the needs young women face today. Perfect for individual faith growth and as group discussion and study material.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99

Paperback: 176 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736945210

ISBN-13: 978-0736945219


Finding Friends

Becca: “Why is Paige hanging out with that group of girls? All they do is trash talk other girls—even the ones who are their friends.”

God’s Text: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).

Getting Connected

Face it, girl. In today’s culture there’s a lot of pressure to find the perfect guy, have the perfect friends, and look like a celebrity at a photo shoot. It’s easy to get a skewed vision about what is good and what is not so good. So how do you respond when someone warns you about the friends you’ve surrounded yourself with? Do you cover your ears?

It’s natural to want to believe the best about people, but God’s Word reminds you to consistently be on guard in the area of relationships. If someone raises a red flag, even if it’s your mom, pray and ask the Lord to help you determine if the relationship will help you grow in your spiritual journey or pull you down. Loving someone and being nice to others is always a good thing, but the people you choose as close friends and as a boyfriend will affect your future.

Today’s App: Do you have a gut feeling that suggests you need to be cautious in a particular friendship? Do your friends make you a better person? Don’t risk being involved in bad relationships. Be satisfied and secure in the relationship you have with your heavenly Father, and ask Him to give you the strength needed to make the right choices.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"YHWH The Flood, the Fish and the Giant: Ancient Mysteries Retold" Book 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 authors are:

and the book:

Authentic (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Mike Parker for sending me a review copy.***

I LOVE THIS BOOK! I have been looking for a way to make Bible stories come to life for my kids and this more than does that. It helps that we are studying ancient history in school right now and this book runs in perfect parallel with what we are doing, but actually goes into greater detail. We will be going through the whole book and discussing the stories together as we read.

Chloe (age 12) said, " I really, really liked it. It was more interesting than just reading the Bible and it was funny too."

Philip (age 14) said, "I thought it was really cool."

Stephen (age 9) and Paige (age 7) were in agreement that it puts the Bible stories in easy to understand language.

I'm very excited that the second volume is coming out soon!


GP Taylor is the New York Times best selling author of such young adult novels as Shadowmancer, Wormwood, and The Tizzle Sisters. He resides in England on the banks of a river in the midst of a dark wood, an arrow's flight from the Prince Regent Hotel.

Visit the author's website.

Paula K. Parker is a U.S.-based playwright and author whose works include stage adaptations of the Jane Austen classics, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma. YESHUA: The Vine, The Demon & The Traitor, the sequel to "YHWH," is scheduled for release in the spring of 2012.

Visit the author's website.


YHWH is a collection of 20 Old Testament stories, re-told for the Harry Potter generation.

In a world where Children are probably more familiar with Harry Potter than Jesus, it’s often hard to encourage them to read the Bible in its traditional form. YHWH introduces the wonderful Bible stories to them in a way that captures their imagination YHWH is based on the scripture but adds description and other allegory to make the stories come alive.

The project is supported by Walk Through the Bible Ministries who teach the Bible to over 40,000 school children each year. It could be used by Christians as a tool for evangelism and would be ideal as a gift for children and young people unfamiliar with the classic Bible narratives.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 300 pages

Publisher: Authentic (June 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1860248004

ISBN-13: 978-1860248009


YWHW: The Flood, The Fish & The Giant

By GP Taylor & Paula K. Parker

Authentic Media

Chapter One: The Fall

In the early light of morning, by the Tigris River that ran through the valley of Gan-Eden, a long, black serpent slithered in and out of the eucalyptus trees. The creature was followed at a distance by a small and fearful rat. Wherever the snake went, so the rat followed, but always far enough away so the bright white teeth that were hidden in the snake’s mouth could not strike it. The cobra cared for nothing but itself. It neither ate nor slept, but just slid through the undergrowth as it sought a place to hide from the sun. The serpent raised itself up and puffed out its hood, then stopped and tasted the air as it flickered its blood-red tongue. Every creature in the garden sensed the advent of death and all was silent. Sensing warmth nearby, the snake edged closer to the body of a man that lay as if unconscious in the clearing of the forest.

As the first rays of sunlight broke against the tall trees, the snake sniffed the face of the bearded creature. He smelled different from any other beast of the forest. It was then, with no human eye to see, that the snake began to slowly transform. Inch by inch, the scales of the creature quickly disintegrated and took the form of pure, white skin. As if it were being peeled, the snake changed in appearance. Its head grew and took on the countenance of a man. As the snakeskin peeled back, the rest of the body emerged. It was distinctly human, the only trace of what had been the cobra were the slitted eyes and two sharp fangs that edged his ruby lips.

Soon, the snake was no more. Its transformation was complete. The creature was angelic, tall, with long thin fingers. Waves of white hair were brushed back to reveal a chiselled face – the beauty of which no one on earth had ever seen.

‘Wormwood … do you always have to stay in that form?’ the creature asked the rat as it crawled over the stump of an old tree and looked up at him.

HE … might not see me like this. I feel safe if HE can’t see me.’ The rat replied, as it brushed its face with clawed hands that looked quite human.

HE sees everything. There is nothing in the universe that HE can’t see.’ The man replied angrily.

‘But Lucifer, HE was your friend and master,’ the rat answered without thinking.

‘As HE was yours, Wormwood. Then the Creator cast us out – just for thinking we were His equal.…’ Lucifer answered as he looked about him, knowing he was being overheard. ‘And now, not only does the man Marah inhabit this place, but the Creator in his wisdom has made that – a friend for Marah; the man created from dust – blood and gall – now has a companion.’

Lucifer pointed to the body of a woman who lay on the ground in a deep sleep. She was covered in eucalyptus leaves, her long black hair trailing in ringlets across her dark skin.

‘She is … very beautiful,’ Wormwood answered as he looked down at the woman. ‘Is she an angel?’

Lucifer looked at Marah. He traced his finger along Marah’s naked skin and dug the nail into his flesh until he came to a long wound in his side.

‘Interesting …’ Lucifer mused as he traced the wound. ‘It looks as though HE has taken a rib to form this other one.’

‘Shall we kill them?’ Wormwood asked. ‘We killed many angels in heaven until Raphael put an end to our war.’

‘Not yet,’ Lucifer answered. ‘I think that here will be a fine place to wage our war on the Creator. If HE has one weakness, it is compassion. If I were King of Heaven, I would not have allowed us to live. All HE did was cast us down to this place. Even with our rebellion, He showed kindness. How foolish is HE?’ Lucifer asked the rat.

Wormwood did not speak. He stared at the woman and watched her breathing. Lucifer reached out and touched her face.

‘What will we do with them?’ Wormwood asked.

‘There will be time; after all, we have all eternity,’ Lucifer answered quickly as he heard footsteps in the forest.

Suddenly changing back to the shape of the serpent, Lucifer slithered quickly into the undergrowth. Wormwood darted to the cover of the trees.

Gan-Eden was still. The scent of death had vanished. Marah lay on the ground as if asleep. Around him, bushes covered in blossoms were once more humming with bees. The trees shadowing him were alive with birds singing, building nests and pecking at the ripening fruit. Animals walked up to gently sniff at the sleeping humans and then wander into the brush. The footsteps drew closer and closer. From amongst the trees and bushes, a breath as warm as sunlight and deep as eternity flared the nostrils of the man as the voice echoed, ‘Marah … awake.’

Marah’s eyes shifted under closed lids and gradually opened; without turning his head, he looked around, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Gan-Eden. Yawning he stretched, extending his arms, and touched … something.

He turned to see a figure sleeping on the ground. It was like him … but it wasn’t.

‘Creator,’ Marah asked, ‘… what … is this?’

The voice that had awakened him echoed in response, ‘She is woman. She will be your companion and your helper. Your wife. All the animals in the garden were made male and female. It was not good for you to be alone; in the entire garden, there was none equal to you. I caused you to fall into a deep sleep and took one of your ribs and, from that rib, I created her.’

Marah rose to his knees to inspect the sleeping woman. He brushed away the leaves that covered her body. Her skin was soft as a butterfly’s wings and thick dark lashes brushed cheeks the colour of peaches. Hair the shade of a raven’s wing flowed from her head, covering her to her thighs. Her lids fluttered and then opened. The eyes inspecting him were almond-shaped, their colour reflecting the grass beneath her. She looked at Marah curiously and reached to touch his face. She laughed; the sound was as light and fresh as the mist that arose each morning.

Taking her hand, Marah helped the woman to stand. Wife, he thought. A companion and a helper. Like me, but not like me.

‘You are bone of my bone,’ he told her, ‘and flesh of my flesh.’

Her brow wrinkled, as if not understanding.

Marah cupped her cheek. ‘You are “woman”,’ – then he touched his side – ‘for you were taken out of “man”.’

The woman opened her mouth, working to shape full lips. ‘Mmm … aaahhh.…’

Touching his chest, he told her, ‘I am “Marah”.’

‘Marah,’ she spoke as if tasting the word.

Pointing to her, he said, ‘Havva.’

That is good,’ the voice of the Creator echoed through the trees.

Havva looked around for the source of the voice and then looked at Marah, her brow furrowed in question.

‘That is the Creator,’ Marah said.

Havva looked at him and smiled. It was as if she knew all of what Marah spoke.

‘The Creator is good,’ Havva answered.

Marah smiled. ‘Yes, He is.’ Taking her hand, he said, ‘Now come … let me show you Gan-Eden.’

Together they walked through forests and meadows, up hills and down into valleys, enjoying the feel of soft grass beneath their feet. Marah led Havva to a river; releasing her hand, he jumped into the water, laughing. Turning, he extended his arms. ‘Water.’

‘Water,’ she laughed and jumped, gasping as the cold water hit her skin and filled her mouth and nose.

He held her hand as they waded through the water. Fish darted between the man and woman, tickling their legs and feet with brightly coloured fins. Marah showed Havva how to drink the water with cupped hands and wiped her dripping lips. Then they left the river and walked to a nearby tree. Plucking fruit from a laden bough, Marah handed one to Havva.

‘Peach,’ he bit into the ripe flesh, juice spurting and dripping to his chest. ‘Mmmm …’ he nodded.

She bit into her peach; her eyes widened at her first taste of food. She nodded and laughed as the juice ran down her chin. After eating several more peaches, they plunged back into the river to wash their skin and then laid down on the bank to rest in the sunlight.

As the sun slipped down the sky, changing from golden to orange, to disappear beyond the horizon, Marah led Havva to a spot beneath a massive oak. He showed her how to pull up armfuls of tall blades of grass and lay them on top of each other. When the pile of grass reached their knees, Marah sat down and reached up to pull Havva down next to him. He lay on his back, with his hands cushioning his head. After a moment, Havva lay next to him and placed her head on his chest. As the sky darkened the moon arose, creamy and full, and stars scattered like diamonds across the expanse. The man and woman’s breathing slowed and before they fell asleep, they heard, ‘That is very good,’ whispered across the night sky.

Through the days that followed, Marah showed Havva the length and breadth of Gan-Eden. As they wandered, they tended the plants. Marah showed Havva how to use a sharp stone to cut the pips and seeds from the fruit they ate; they stuck the seeds in the ground. ‘From these, the Creator will make more grow.’ They would climb the trees to toss down fruit for the animals that couldn’t reach it. And in the evening, the Creator would come. Not that they saw the Creator; they felt His presence as the sun warmed their skin and heard His voice whispering through the sky. They would talk about all they had done and the Creator would instruct them about the needs of the animals and plants in Gan-Eden.

Be fruitful and increase in number,’ the voice of the Creator whispered in their hearts, ‘fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’

One golden day when the warm wind blew in from the west, Marah and Havva followed the bank of the Tigris to where it met with the Euphrates to form the Great River. The waters rolled and cascaded, frothing over rocks. On the bank of the river, stood two trees. Both were gigantic, taller than any other tree in Gan-Eden and laden with ripe fruit, filling the air with spicy sweetness. As they looked across the waters, the Creator spoke. The voice echoed across the sky.

This is the centre of the garden,’ the Creator spoke above the sounds of the rushing water. ‘The trees in the middle of the garden are the tree of life’ the wind blew ruffled the leaves on the tree on the right, ‘and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ The leaves on the left tree waved in the breeze.‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely taste death.’

‘Marah,’ Havva asked, ‘what is “death”?’

‘I do not know,’ he told her. His face had grown solemn and thoughtful. He was not laughing now. ‘But we do not need to know. It is enough that the Creator tells us not to eat from the tree.’ He took her hand and looked into her eyes. ‘We will obey.’

She nodded hesitantly. ‘We will obey.’

As they turned to go, Havva caught sight of an animal she had not met. From a distance, it looked like the branch of a tree it curled around, but its skin glistened like a lizard.

‘Marah, what is that?’ she pointed to the snake as it bowed from the branch.

He looked. ‘That is Serpent.’

‘Why does it not come and greet us?’

Marah shrugged. ‘I know not.’ He took her hand. ‘Come, I saw pomegranates. Let’s eat some.’

As they walked away, Havva felt an itching sensation between her shoulders. Looking back, she saw the serpent watching her; it looked as though it was smiling.

Time passed slowly in Gan-Eden. Havva had grown accustomed to the land. She knew where to find the best pears and apples, when to pick the raspberries and how to choose the ripest tomatoes. All was well. The Creator walked in the land by the river and they listened to His voice as the sun set and the moon rose out of the mountains.

One morning, the sunlight streamed into her eyes and woke Havva. She looked over at Marah; he was sleeping on his side, with a large leaf covering his head. She smiled at her husband, who snorted and rubbed his nose, and snuggled into their bed. Havva stood up to gather food for Marah and herself.

Wandering, she plucked an apple from a nearby tree; the fruit was sweet and crunchy. She washed the sticky juice from her fingers. She pulled a large leaf from a tree and used it to gather fruit for Marah and herself: more apples, raspberries, dark red cherries, peaches, a small melon. When she came upon the pomegranate tree, she found herself standing near the Great River and the two trees the Creator had told them about.

The fruits on both trees were unlike any she had seen before: larger than any Havva had gathered, and their fragrance made her mouth water and filled the glade with its essence.

‘Havva,’ a voice said from deep within the glade.

She turned. There, slithering towards her was the serpent. As it neared, she could see that it began to slowly change and stand up on two legs. It looked like Marah – its eyes were tilted slits, the mouth wide. The creature shuddered joyfully.

‘How do you know my name?’ she asked.

‘We all know that Havva and Marah are favoured by the Creator,’ Serpent spoke, hissing out each word. ‘I see you are gathering food,’ it said. ‘Have you come to pick fruit from these trees?’ It walked towards the tree on the left.

‘But not fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,’ Havva answered.

‘Is it true that the Creator really said, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’

‘No,’ Havva said. ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but the Creator said, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’

‘You will not surely die,’ Serpent said. ‘The Creator does not want you to eat it, for He knows that when you eat the fruit, you will be wise like Him, knowing good and evil.’ Plucking a fruit, it bit into the flesh. Serpent closed its eyes and hissed, ‘No other fruit tastes so good.’

Havva took a step closer to the tree. The fruit was large and plump, its aroma filling her head. She dropped the leaf filled with the fruit she had gathered. None of the fruit I picked looks or smells as good as this, she thought. Surely becoming as wise as the Creator is a good thing.

Slowly lifting her hand, she reached up and – hesitantly – touched the nearest fruit. It was firm and ripe; one slight tug and the fruit fell into Havva’s hand. She sniffed it; the aroma was sweet and set her mouth watering. She extended her tongue and licked it. She waited … nothing happened … no death … it tasted like the dawn. She took one bite – then another and another. She consumed the fruit, grabbed another and ate it. Hand over hand, she ate several pieces of fruit, unable to assuage her hunger.

‘Havva!’ shouted another voice. She whirled around, a fruit in one hand and a half-eaten fruit in the other.

Marah stared at her, stared at her hands. ‘What have you done?’ he whispered.

Havva stepped towards her husband. ‘Marah … I woke before you … wanted to gather food … the serpent told me that the Creator didn’t want us to be like him … I ate one … the fruit is unlike any we have eaten before … nothing happened … I’m the same –’

‘No,’ he shook his head, ‘you are different….’

‘I am like the Creator….’ She lifted the uneaten fruit to his mouth. ‘Don’t you want to … be like Him?’ She lifted the other fruit and took a bite. ‘They are wonderful.’

Marah stared at his wife … opened his mouth … and took a bite.

The ground was soon littered with fruit, some eaten, some just bitten into. Other fruit was just thrown to the ground and smashed underfoot in their haste to grab more. No matter how many they ate, their hunger remained.

‘Marah …’ she said, her voice anguished. ‘Something is different.’

‘What do you mean?’ Marah asked, his mouth full of fruit.

‘I do not know. We should know,’ Havva’s voice was rough and sharp as a stone. ‘We ate the fruit … the serpent said we would be wise as the Creator and know everything.’

‘Havva …’ Marah said, ‘the serpent is not the Creator and we did as he told us, not as the Creator told us.’

Havva grabbed her waist. ‘Marah … something is different … in me.’ She doubled over, crying out in pain. ‘Something is twisting inside.’

Running to the river, Havva retched as she coughed up the half-eaten fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It twisted her guts and stuck in her throat as she retched and retched. Again and again she tried to rid herself of the pain in her stomach and her heart. She was distantly aware of Marah kneeling next to her. She heard his cries of anguish and pain as he emptied his stomach of the fruit.

Reaching out, she pulled a leaf from a nearby bush and wiped her mouth. Not enough. She grabbed another and, opening her mouth, wiped her tongue. Still not enough.

Pulling leaf after leaf, the man and woman tried to clean the feeling from their mouths, their bellies, their hearts. Shivering, Havva took fig leaves and knotted the ends, until she had formed a covering for herself. Noticing that Marah was also trembling, she formed a covering for Marah.

‘Marah … Havva …’

They looked at each other, hearts pounding.

‘The Creator,’ Marah whispered. ‘He is coming.’

‘He will see us … He will know.’ Havva said. Turning, she ran down the path, stumbling over rocks and stumps, scratching her legs on bushes, until she found four trees that leaned towards each other. Several small bushes growing at their base formed a small shelter. Dropping to her knees, she crawled inside. A moment later, Marah crawled in beside her. She could hear Marah’s heart beating in fear.

Marah … Havva … where are you?’ The leaves on the bushes trembled … ‘Marah?’

Marah looked at Havva and shook his head. ‘I must answer …’ Taking a shuddering breath, the man stuttered, ‘I-I am in here …’

Where is Havva?’

Havva looked wide-eyed at Marah, who nodded.

‘I … I am in here with Marah.’

‘Why are you in there?’

‘We heard you in the forest and we were afraid you would see … us … as we are … naked … so we hid from you.’

Who told you that you were naked?’ the Creator spoke in a sad whisper. ‘Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?

The pain in the Creator’s voice tore at Marah, the knowledge of his disobedience too heavy to confess.

‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’

‘Havva.’ The woman cringed under the weight of His voice. ‘What is this you have done?’

Havva’s thoughts were as rapid as her heartbeat. What can I say? How do I explain?

‘It was Serpent. He told me it would make me like you …’ her voice dropped to a tearful whisper, ‘and I ate.’

The leaves at the door to their shelter began trembling, shivering, as the wind began blowing, howling. The presence of the Creator rose above the earth, His voice swelled to cover all creation.

Serpent, because you have done this, you are cursed above all the creatures of the night. You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’

What will He do to us?’ she whispered.

‘Havva.’ The woman wrapped her arms around her legs and laid her head on her knees. ‘You will give birth to children and they will bring you pain. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’

‘Marah.’ The man turned from his wife, as the Creator spoke to him. ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it”: cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’

A sudden, sharp sound rent the air. It was unlike anything that Marah or Havva had ever heard before. It pierced their ears and tore at their hearts.

Marah … Havva…’ The Creator’s voice sounded as painful as their hearts. ‘Come here.’

Marah dropped to his knees to crawl from their hiding place; after a moment, Havva followed. Standing, they looked around. Nothing seemed different about the land … yet it was. There, by a bush, was a slaughtered sheep. Its throat was cut, blood issued from its fleece, mixing with the dust of the earth.

The voice of the Creator rose above the trees again, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’

The ground under the man and woman’s feet trembled and shook, as the sky grew blinding white. In fear, they watched as a figure descended from the clouds to stand in front of the two trees. It had the shape of a man, with wings like the mighty eagle. His face was terrible to see. In his hand was a flaming sword.

Looking at Marah and Havva, the angel lifted the sword and opened his mouth. ‘GO.’

The word echoed from one end of Gan-Eden to the other. Fire flashed from the sword; a tree near the humans erupted into flames.

Grabbing Havva’s hand, Marah began running, screaming, as first a tree and then a bush exploded before them.

They came to the edge of the river where Marah had first showed Havva how to drink and swam across the river, choking on the water that filled their nose and mouth. They crawled out of the water and collapsed on the riverbank, panting. After his heart and breathing had slowed, Marah rolled over and pulled himself to his knees. He looked up and gasped.

Havva grabbed his ankle, too afraid to look. ‘What is it?’

‘They’re gone,’ Marah’s voice was ragged.

‘What’s gone? The serpent?’

‘No,’ Marah dropped to the ground next to his wife. ‘The tree of life … it is gone. Gan-Eden has disappeared.’

Turning, Havva looked behind them. Across the river, beyond the far bank, was … nothing. There were bushes, forests, and hills; but they were not those of the garden. Arching her neck, Havva looked in one direction and then turned to look in the other. Straining her eyes, she could not see the massive tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were … gone!

‘Marah, where is it? Did the Creator destroy the land?’

‘I don’t think so. I think Gan-Eden is hidden from us. Maybe one day, He will let us return.’ He reached down and took Havva’s hand and pulled her up. ‘… For now, we must find shelter … the night is coming.’

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"When The Smoke Clears" Book Review

When The Smoke Clears


Lynette Eason

As a member of the North Cascades Smokejumpers, Alexia Allen always takes care of the equipment that keeps her safe. So when she nearly dies in a fire due to equipment failure, she knows something is up. Ordered to take time off while the investigation continues, Alexia makes a last-minute decision to recuperate at her mother's home and attend her high school reunion. Yet trouble seems to be following her, and within hours of arriving home she's involved with murder, arson--and a handsome detective. But the conflicts ahead are nothing compared to the ghosts of her past. As she strives to remember and forgive her family history, she must also decide if the secret she's been guarding for the last ten years must finally come to light.

Ok, you better set aside a weekend when you pick this book up because once you start it, you really don't want to put it down. Strap yourself in because it is a bumpy ride... well it is if you are Alexia Allen anyway. It is kind of hard to protect yourself when you don't know who is trying to kill you or why they are after you in the first place. And Alexia is out to discover all the different ways she might die, if she can't keep outsmarting the bad guys - whoever they are. This book is #1 in a new series and not everything is wrapped up neatly at the end because I think we are in for another whirlwind with book #2! Great characters, and an incredible ride as the story unravels during this book - this new book just confirms what I've known for quite awhile now... you can not go wrong with Lynette Eason's books!

Author Bio
Lynette Eason is the author of several romantic suspense novels, including Too Close to Home, Don't Look Back, and A Killer Among Us. She is a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.

***Special thanks to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for a review copy of this book***

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Injustice For All" Book Review



Robin Carroll

When the "good guys" turn out to be "bad guys," who can you trust? In this fast-paced mystery, FBI consulting psychologist Remington Wyatt witnesses the murder of her godfather---a federal judge---and recognizes the killers. She knows it's only a matter of time before they come to silence her. But how long can she hide?

A federal judge lies bleeding on his office floor, betrayed by a most unlikely source—people who helped him bring criminals to justice. Now, why would someone working for the FBI need to disappear after witnessing this crime? When Remington Wyatt sees her godfather’s murder, she recognizes the killers and knows it’s only a matter of time before they come to silence her. She must do the only thing possible to stay alive . . . run. FBI agent Rafe Baxter is serious about his career, and solving a cold case involving a federal judge’s death puts him in line for the promotion he so desires. But the case leads him to the small town of Hopewell, Louisiana, where some secrets seem inextricably hidden deep within the bayou. Injustice for All explores what happens when everything a person believes in is utterly destroyed. Who can you trust?


What happens when you witness a murder and you can't go to the authorities because the authorities are the ones that committed the murder? Remington is about to find out. She uses her expertise as an FBI psychologist to cover her trail when she runs from the law.

I love the way this story runs in two separate sections until the story catches up to itself. And when it does it doesn't slow down for a second! It's difficult to explain how amazing this story is without giving away anything important. So I want to be careful, but I still want to explain how awesome this story is and how excited I am that it is the first in a new series. And while I look forward to the next book as I believe it will be an edge of your seat type of series!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Song Of My Heart" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Song of My Heart

Bethany House (February 1, 2012)


Kim Vogel Sawyer


I really like the originality of Kim Vogel Sawyer's books. This book is set in Kansas and while the setting is familiar, the characters and storyline are quite unique. Sadie just wants to sing, but while her pa is laid up from a work injury she needs to help support the family as well. Her cousin has a solution, move to Kansas where he is and work at the mercantile and sing at the Opera House. Sadie takes him up on the offer so she can send money home to her family but she never expects to get caught up in the middle of illegal happenings in this sleepy little town. Meanwhile Thad comes to town as law enforcement and ends up earning his keep. Can Sadie make up her mind whether to be loyal to family or loyal to her heart. A very enjoyable book.


Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and numerous grandchildren.


Sadie Wagner has always been devoted to her family. So when her stepfather is injured and can't work, she decides to leave home and accept a position as a clerk at the mercantile in Goldtree, Kansas. Goldtree also offers the opportunity to use her God-given singing talent--though the promised opera house is far different from what she imagined. With her family needing every cent she can provide, Sadie will do anything to keep her job.

Thad McKane comes to Goldtree at the request of the town council. The town has been plagued by bootlegging operations, and Thad believes he can find the culprit. After he earns enough money doing sheriff work, he wants to use it to pay for his training to become a minister.

Thad is immediately attracted to the beautiful singer who performs in Asa Baxter's unusual opera house, but when he hears her practicing bawdy tunes, he begins to wonder if she's far less innocent than she seems. And when Sadie appears to be part of the very crimes he's come to investigate, is there any hope the love blossoming between them will survive?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Song of My Heart, go HERE.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"In Too Deep" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

In Too Deep

Bethany House (February 1, 2012)


Mary Connealy


I love Mary Connealy's writing so much - and I never thought I'd enjoy westerns, but her humorous writing just relaxes me and makes me laugh. This is the first time I read a book out of order though, and I won't be quick to do that again. I own the first book in this series "Out Of Control" but hadn't had a chance to read it yet, so I went ahead and read "In Too Deep". She does a good job of catching the reader up on what went on in the first book as you go, but it all sounded so good that I just kept kicking myself that I hadn't read it yet! I just don't know how she manages to pack just innovative storylines, intriguing characters (good and bad), humor and romance all into one book, but she does. This book didn't disappoint at all (except disappoint me that I hadn't read the first one first!). I will go back and catch myself up and I sure can't wait for the last one in the series!


Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Christy Award Finalist, a Carol Award Finalist and an IRCC Award finalist.

The Lassoed in Texas Series, Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. Petticoat Ranch was a Carol Award Finalist. Calico Canyon was a Christy Award Finalist and a Carol Award Finalist. These three books are now contained in one large volume called Lassoed in Texas Trilogy.

The Montana Marriages Series, Montana Rose, The Husband Tree and Wildflower Bride. Montana Rose was a Carol Award Finalist.

Cowboy Christmas—the 2010 Carol Award for Best Long Historical Romance, and an Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Finalist.

The Sophie's Daughters series. Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats, Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

She is also the author of; Black Hills Blessing a 3-in-1 collection of sweet contemporary romances, Nosy in Nebraska, a 3-in-1 collection of cozy romantic mysteries and she's one of the three authors contributing to Alaska Brides with her Carol Award Winning historical romance Golden Days.


In 1866 Colorado, Ethan Kincaid agrees to a marriage of convenience with the same casual disregard he gives every decision. Audra Gilliland, young mother of two, accepts his proposal because she wants to stop being a burden to her newly married stepdaughter. And suddenly both of them are in far deeper than they'd planned.

Ethan doesn't expect Audra to affect him so profoundly, and when she begins to, he's terrified of the pain he's felt before when someone he loved was seriously injured on his watch. He's determined that his new wife will do as he says so he can keep her safe from the dangers that lurk on their ranch. Audra has been cared for all her life by one man or another--and they've done a poor job of it. Now she's planning to stand up for herself. And her new husband had better agree or get out of her way!

What will it take to transform two wayward hearts fearful of getting in too deep into two trusting hearts ready to risk falling deeply in love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of In Too Deep, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Friday, February 3, 2012

"The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn

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:

Frontline Pub Inc (January 3, 2012)

***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***

I haven't read this book yet, but my mom got it and has raved about it ever since s0 I can't wait to read it!


Jonathan Cahn leads Hope of the World ministries and the Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel, a worship center made up of Jew and Gentile, people of all backgrounds, located in Wayne, New Jersey. His teachings are seen on television and radio throughout the nation and are known for their prophetic significance and their revealing of deep mysteries of God’s Word.

Visit the author's website.


Is it possible…

That there exists an ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future?

That this mystery lies behind everything from 9/11 to the collapse of the global economy?

That ancient harbingers of judgment are now manifesting in America?

That God is sending America a prophetic message of what is yet to come?

Before its destruction as a nation, ancient Israel received nine harbingers, prophetic omens of warning. The same nine harbingers are now manifesting in America—with immediate ramifications for end-time prophecy.

Hidden in an ancient biblical prophecy from Isaiah, the mysteries revealed in The Harbinger are so precise that they foretold recent American events down to the exact days. The revelations are so specific that even the most hardened skeptics will find it hard to dismiss or put down. It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller – with one exception… IT’S REAL.

The prophetic mysteries are revealed through an intriguing and engaging narrative the reader will find hard to put down. The Harbinger opens with the appearance of a man burdened with a message he has received from a mysterious figure called The Prophet. The Prophet has given him nine seals, each containing a message about America’s future. As he tells of his encounters with The Prophet, from a skyscraper in New York City, to a rural mountaintop, to Capitol Hill, to Ground Zero, the mystery behind each seal is revealed. As the story unfolds, each revelation becomes a piece in a greater puzzle – the ramifications of which will even alter the course of world history.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99

Paperback: 272 pages

Publisher: Frontline Pub Inc (January 3, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 161638610X

ISBN-13: 978-1616386108


An Ancient Mystery

An ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future.”


“What would I think?”

“Yes, what would you think?”

“I’d think it was a plot for a movie. Is that it? Is that what you’re presenting . . . a movie manuscript?”


“A plot for a novel?”


“Then what?”

He was silent.

“Then what?” she repeated.

He paused to carefully consider what he was about to say and how to say it. Her reputation among those in media was that of a woman who neither wasted her time nor indulged those who

did. She was not known to suffer fools gladly. The discussion could meet an abrupt end at any given moment and there would be no second chance with her. The fact that there had even been a

meeting in the first place, that she had even agreed to it, and that he was now sitting in her office, high above the streets of Manhattan, was nothing short of a miracle—and he knew it. He had only one concern—the message. It didn’t even occur to him to remove his black leather overcoat, nor had anyone offered to remove it for him. Leaning forward in his chair, he gave her his answer, slowly, cautiously, carefully deliberating every word.

“An ancient mystery . . . that holds the secret of America’s future . . . and on which its future hangs. And it’s not fiction—it’s real.”

She was quiet. At first, he took the silence as a positive sign, an indication that he was getting through. But then she spoke and quickly dispelled the notion.

“An Indiana Jones movie,” she said. “An ancient mystery hidden for thousands of years under the sands of the Middle East . . . but now revealed . . . and upon it hangs the fate of the entire world!”

Her flippancy provoked him to become all the more resolute.

“But it’s not fiction,” he repeated. “It’s real.”

“What would I say?” she asked.

“Yes, what would you say?”

“I’d say you were crazy.”

“Perhaps I am,” he said with a slight smile. “Nevertheless . . . it’s real.”

“If you’re not crazy, then you’re joking . . . or you’re doing this all for dramatic effect . . . part of a presentation. But you can’t be serious.”

“But I am serious.”

She paused for a moment, staring into the eyes of her guest, attempting to ascertain whether he was sincere or not.

“So you are,” she said.

“So I am,” he replied, “and you have no idea how much so.”

It was then that her expression changed. Up to that point it had suggested a trace of amused interest. It now turned to that of total disengagement.

“No, I guess I don’t. Listen, I believe you’re a sincere man, but . . . I’m really . . . I’m really very busy, and I don’t have time for . . . ”

“Mrs. Goren.”

“That’s Goren. The accent’s on the last syllable. But Ana is fine.”

“Ana, you have nothing to lose by listening. Just go on the slight possibility . . . ”

“That you’re not crazy?”

“That too,” he said. “But the slight possibility that what I’m saying could actually be true, even the slight possibility that there could be something in what I’m telling you, even for that slightest

of possibilities . . . for just that . . . it would be important enough to warrant your time. You need to hear me out.”

She sat back in her chair and stared at him, making no attempt to hide her skepticism.

“You still think I’m crazy.”

“Fully,” she said.

“For argument’s sake, let’s say you’re right. I am crazy. Indulge me, as a public service.”

She smiled.

“I’ll indulge you, Mr. Kaplan, but there’s a limit.”

“Nouriel. You can call me Nouriel.”

At that, she got up from her chair and motioned for him to do likewise. She led him away from her desk to a small round conference table where the two sat down. The table was situated in

front of a huge glass window through which one could see a vast panorama of skyscrapers with similar windows, each reflecting the light of the afternoon sun.

“All right, Nouriel. Tell me about your mystery.”

“It’s not my mystery. It’s much bigger than me. You have no idea how big, or what it involves.”

“And what does it involve?”

“Everything. It involves everything, and it explains everything . . . everything that’s happened, that’s happening, and everything that’s going to happen.”

“What do you mean?”

“Behind September 11 . . . ”

“How could an ancient mystery possibly have anything to do with September 11?”

“An ancient mystery behind everything from 9/11 to the economy . . . to the housing boom . . . to the war in Iraq . . . to the collapse of Wall Street. Everything in precise detail.”

“How? How could an ancient mystery possibly . . . ”

“Affect your life? Your bank account? Your future? But it does. And it holds the key to America’s future . . . to the rise and fall of nations . . . to world history. And it’s not only a mystery, it’s a message, an alarm.”

“An alarm?” she asked. “An alarm of what?”

“Of warning.”

“To whom?”



“When you hear it,” he said, “you’ll understand why.”

“All this from a mystery that goes back . . . how far did you say?”

“I didn’t say.”

“So how far back does it go?”

“Two and a half thousand years.”

“A two-and-a-half-thousand-year-old mystery behind what’s happening in the twenty-first century from politics to the economy to foreign affairs—all that and you’re the only one who knows about it?”

“I’m not the only one.”

“Who else knows about it?” she asked.

“There’s at least one other.”

“Not the government? The government has no idea, even though it’s behind all that?”

“As far as I know, no government, no intelligence agency, no one else.”

“No one but you.”

“And at least one other.”

“And how did you happen to discover it?”

“I didn’t discover it,” he answered. “It was given to me.”

“Given? By whom?”

“A man.”

“And who was this man?”

“It’s hard to say.”

At this she leaned forward and spoke to him in a tone both intense and slightly sarcastic.

“Try me,” she said.

“You won’t understand.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” she replied, with a trace of amusement in her voice.

“No, he never told me.”

“So this earth-shattering mystery is known only by you and this one man who gave it to you but doesn’t have a name.”

“I didn’t say he didn’t have a name. He just never told it to me.”

“And you never asked?”

“I did, but he never told me.”

“No phone number?”

“He never gave me one.”

“No business card?”


“Not even an e-mail?”

“I don’t expect you to believe me yet.”

“Why not?” she replied, making no attempt to hide her skepticism.

“It sounds so plausible!”

“But hear me out.”

“So this man with no name gives you this mystery.”

“That’s correct.”

“And why to you?”

“I guess I was the right one.”

“So you were chosen?”

“I guess so,” he replied, his voice trailing off.

“And where did he get the mystery from?”

“I don’t know.”

“A mystery on which the nation’s future is hanging, and no one knows where it came from?”

“From where do prophets get their messages?”

“Prophets!” she said. “So now we’re talking prophets?”

“I guess we are.”

“As in Isaiah . . . Jeremiah?”

“Something like that.”

“The last time I heard about prophets I was in Sunday school, Nouriel. Prophets don’t exist anymore. They’ve been gone for ages.”

“How do you know?”

“So you’re telling me that the man who gave you this revelation is a prophet?”

“Something like that.”

“He told you he was a prophet?”

“No. He never came out and said it.”

“And you believe all this because it came from a prophet?”

“No,” he answered. “It wouldn’t have mattered who said it. It’s not about the messenger; it’s about the message.”

“So why are you telling me all this? Why did you come here? I’m not exactly known for dealing with anything remotely like this.”

“Because the stakes are so high. Because the future is hanging on it. Because it affects millions of people.”

“And you think I have a part in this?”

“I do.”



She leaned back in her chair and stared at him for a moment, intrigued, amused, and still trying to figure him out.

“So, Nouriel, tell me how it all began.”

He reached into his coat pocket, laid his closed hand down on the table, then opened it. In the middle of his palm was a small object of reddish, golden-brown clay, circular and about two inches in diameter.

“It all began with this.”

He handed it to her. She began examining it. The more she looked at it, the more intrigued she became. It was covered with what appeared to be ancient inscriptions.

“It all began with this.”

“And what is it?”

“It’s a seal,” he answered. “It’s the first seal.”

"Ellie's Haven" by Shar MacLaren

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:

Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

I adore Sharlene MacLaren's writing style. She creates the most amazing characters and while I haven't been able to read this one yet, I wanted my readers to know that she has this new book out - definitely worth getting!


“Shar” grew up in western Michigan and graduated from Spring Arbor University. After college she traveled worldwide performing with a music group and then returned home to start teaching school. She married her childhood friend, Cecil MacLaren, with whom she raised two daughters (and now has three grandchildren). After over 30 years as a teacher, Shar asked God for a new mission that would fill her heart with the same kind of passion she’d felt for teaching and raising her family. She found her mission writing Christian romance, and since 2007 has released ten novels that have earned her numerous awards and an ever-increasing base of loyal readers who are comforted, inspired, and entertained by her books.

Visit the author's website.


Ellie Booth is on the run from her bootlegging stepfather whom she’d witnessed murder a man in their home state of Kentucky. Landing in Wabash, Indiana, she seeks a cover identity and hastily marries Gage Cooper, a widower with four children. Ellie quickly falls in love with the Cooper kids, and, not long after, with their father. But tensions mount when Ellie’s stepfather picks up her trail and Gage discovers his new bride hasn’t been entirely honest with him. Filled with colorful historic detail, emotional drama, and lighthearted humor, Ellie’s Haven is the action-packed follow up to Livvie’s Song in MacLaren’s River of Hope Series, set in 1920’s Wabash, Indiana.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 416 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603742131

ISBN-13: 978-1603742139


Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight….

—Psalm 5:4–5

February 1928

Athens, Tennessee

Nothing wakes a body faster than a barking dog competing with the heated shouts of furious men. Eleanor Booth threw off her heavy quilt and leaped out of bed, pulled her flannel collar up tight around her throat, and raced across the gritty floor to the window. With her fingertips, she rubbed a circle of frost off the pane and peered out into the cold, dark morning, squinting to make out the shadowy figures that appeared to be facing off just feet away from the rotting front porch. An icy chill surged down her spine.

“I ain’t payin’ you one cent more, Sullivan. You done took me for every last penny.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Byron. Your pocket ain’t empty till I say it is, and as long as you keep producin’ hooch, the greenbacks’ll keep rollin’ in. You stop payin’, and I’ll shut you down quicker than a lizard on hot sand.”

They were at it again—Byron Pruitt, Ellie’s worthless stepfather, and Walter Sullivan, that crooked government agent. Byron’s dog, Curly, didn’t let up his fierce, frenzied barking, which ought to have deterred the dispute but seemed to fuel it instead.

“Byron,” Ellie’s mama, Rita, pleaded in a panicked tone. “Byron, pay the man so he’ll get off our property.”

“Shut up, woman, and git back inside! I ain’t payin’ ’im another dime!”

Ellie snatched her fraying robe from the foot of her bed, slipped it on, and rushed out of the room, toes gone numb from the frozen air wafting up through the floorboards. Tennessee winters didn’t generate much snow, but that didn’t stop the temperatures from plummeting into the single digits.

She entered the dark, tiny living room and found her mother standing in the open doorway, shoulders hunched, hands clutching the door frame. Her grayish-black hair was mussed every which way, and her tattered flannel nightgown hugged her narrow frame.

Ellie shot a hasty glance at the potbelly stove in the middle of the room, where nothing but a few embers glowing through the blackened glass. More shivers stampeded down her spine. “What’s goin’ on?” she asked, coming up behind her mama.

At the sound of her voice, Byron gave a half-turn, and that’s when Ellie spied the sawed-off shotgun in his arms. “Git back to bed, missy,” he groused. “You ain’t needed here.”

Walt Sullivan had a gun, too—a pistol—but he kept it holstered, one hand hovering over it.

“Byron, put that gun down before somebody gets hurt,” Ellie said firmly.

“Yeah, Pruitt. Listen to your purty li’l daughter.”

“Shut yer tater trap and git off my land, Sullivan.”

“Not till I get what’s due me.”

“I done paid you. Now, git!”

“’Fraid you paid me half.”

“You keep raisin’ the rates, you dumb ox. How you ’spect me to make any kind o’ livin’?”

Sullivan chortled. “That ain’t my concern, now, is it? I swear, if you don’t pay up, I’ll come back with my men, and we’ll turn your whole operation into mincemeat by midday.” He made the mistake of taking a step toward Byron, whether to intimidate or to show his authority, Ellie couldn’t say. She knew only that it was a mistake.

Byron raised his rifle and quickly fired off three shots, each one reaching its intended target. For a brief moment, his eyes glistened in the vanishing moonlight. Then, eyes bulging in an expression of shock, he dropped to the ground like a sack of wet cement.

Utter mayhem followed. Curly kept barking and ran circles around the fallen body, while her mama shrieked. “Byron! You—you—you’ve shot ’im. Is he dead? Oh, dear God, help us!” And Ellie, to suppress her own sobs, turned away from the body, where red fluid already oozed from mouth and nose. She clutched her stomach to keep from retching right there on the floor.

“Shut up, just shut up, both o’ you!” Byron roared. “I have to think.” With eyes flaming and nostrils flaring, he turned and started pacing.

The women kept quiet, save for the occasional gasp of air, and hugged each other. Ellie swallowed down some of the bitter juice churning in her stomach and chanced a peek over Mama’s shoulder.

Byron paused and crouched over Sullivan’s body, feeling for a pulse. He cut loose a curse. “He’s dead, all right.”

Ellie’s mama gasped and released her to cover her mouth with her hands. “Oh, mother of all things holy, Byron! What in the world have you done?”

“Shut up, I told you, ’fore I shoot you, too!” He raised his gun at her.

On impulse, Ellie leaped between them, her arms raised. “Put that gun down, you fool!” She had to tell herself to breathe.

The man’s beady eyes stared as if to bore holes through her, but he lowered his weapon. Still, she knew Byron Pruitt had no soul—she’d known since the day she’d met him—and she’d go to the grave wondering why her mama had married him after her father had died. Perhaps, she’d seen him as her only hope of surviving in the hills. Some protector he’d turned out to be, operating an illegal distillery that brought the scum of society straight to their door. If he ever turned a profit, her mama never saw it, for what he didn’t gamble away he paid in bribes to keep the authorities off his back.

“I gotta get rid o’ this body,” he muttered, sweeping five stubby fingers through his scraggly hair.

“No,” Ellie said quietly. “We have to call the sheriff.”

“Are you crazy?” he spat, stepping over the body and walking toward them, his eyes as wild as a rabid dog’s. “We ain’t callin’ no sheriff. I kilt a man, a government man, in cold blood. You think any court o’ law’s gonna let me off the hook?”

Ellie huddled close to her mama and wrapped a protective arm around her.

“W-we won’t tell,” Mama said, her whole body quivering. “We promise, Byron.”

Ellie couldn’t believe her ears. “Mama, how can you say that?”

Byron’s eyes bulged with madness as he climbed the rickety porch steps and entered the house. The worst kind of cold slithered in the door and tangled around Ellie’s ankles. “Because you two’re in this with me, that’s how she can say it. I’ll tell the cops you both played a part, that you talked me into doin’ it.” He raised the shotgun and poked the barrel into her mama’s chin, lifting it.

Ellie swallowed hard and stiffened. “Byron, don’t you dare hurt her.”

Her stepfather was a perpetual terror, always cocking a gun, sharpening a knife, or speaking not-so-veiled threats. It seemed that nothing satisfied him more than creating havoc in their little household. Byron Pruitt was a viperous lunatic, and if it hadn’t been for her beloved mama, Ellie would have left years ago.

Byron slid the muzzle up Mama’s face and held it at the center of her forehead. “I ain’t lyin’, Eleanor—if you don’t help me bury that body an’ promise to keep yer trap shut ’bout what you saw, I’ll kill yer ma.”

“You are plumb crazy,” Ellie whispered through her teeth.

“Don’t believe me?” He cocked the rifle and chortled. “I’ll blow ’er head off right now.”

Mama whimpered as a lone tear trickled down her trembling cheek.

Byron redirected the shotgun at the floor and pulled the trigger. A unison scream sounded as Ellie and her mama clutched each other and stepped away from the cloud of dust that rose from the splintered hole in the boards. Outside, Curly barked even louder, and Ellie could hear the chickens fussing in the coop.

But she heard nothing except the pounding of her own heartbeat when Byron stuck the barrel of his gun in her mama’s temple. “I’ll kill ’er, Eleanor, I swear it. You go to the cops, and she’s as good as dead. And here’s an interestin’ li’l tidbit: you workin’ alongside me at that liquor still makes you my partner in crime.” He laughed, the sound cold and hollow. “Them head beaters don’t look too kindly on us moonshiners, an’ with you bein’ one of us, well, they’re likely to lock you up tighter’n a pickle in a cannin’ jar. Just don’t forget that.”

She hated that he was right. “Fine. Just put that stupid gun down.”

He complied, but only after he’d held it in position for what seemed like another minute, an ugly sneer on his face. “Good. I’m glad we’re clear on that.” He pulled the gun strap over his shoulder. “Well, come on, then, both o’ you. We got a body to bury.”

Hours later, Ellie could barely believe she’d actually dug the grave of Walter Sullivan. Granted, she’d done it with Byron’s rifle aimed at her. Twice she’d emptied her stomach contents into the hole, only to hear the gun cock and Byron tell her to hurry up and finish before somebody came along.

Now, she watched her mama working at the stove to prepare lunch. In the living room, Byron sat in his rocker next to the fire and cleaned his gun, Ellie knew, to rid it of any traces of telltale gunpowder.

Ellie moved up beside her mama and touched her shoulder gently. “You’ve been stirrin’ this soup for fifteen minutes, Mama. Why don’t you go sit down a spell? You’re plain tuckered out.”

“What you two whisperin’ ’bout in there?” Byron barked.

“Nothin’,” Mama called back. Then, with lowered voice, she sputtered to Ellie, “You can’t stay here. You gotta leave today. I wouldn’t be able to bear it if anythin’ happened to you.”

“I can’t leave you with that maniac, Mama. He’s insane.”

“Of course you can, and you will. I’ll be fine. The minute he heads out to the barn, I want you to grab whatever you need and then skedaddle across the field to the Meyers’ house, you hear? Ask Burt to drive you down the mountain. He’ll do it.”

“What you two blabberin’ about?”

Byron’s brusque voice in the hallway had Ellie whirling on her heel. “Nothin’, just like Mama said. Go sit down. Your lunch is ready.”

“Humph. You best not be plannin’ to run off anywheres,” he grumbled before shuffling off to the table. Ellie caught the smell of his breath, and her stomach lurched, though she should have been accustomed to the stench of whiskey by now, considering the hours she’d worked at the still, where the air was saturated with mash. She would always associate the odor with Byron—and his shotgun, which was the only thing that had kept her working there.

The legs of his chair scraped against the sooty floor as he scooted in closer to the table, his back to them. With an icy chortle, he muttered, “You two don’t got nowheres to go, anyway.”

Three hours later, Ellie bumped along in the backseat of a Model T driven by Burt Meyer. Mildred, his wife of forty years, sat up front with him. Quiet tears dampened Ellie’s face as Burt maneuvered the automobile, its brakes squealing in protest, down a narrow pass.

She’d had no more than minutes to throw a few belongings into a little suitcase, hug her mama good-bye, and then sprint along the worn path across the cornfield. Mama had given her strict orders to locate her deceased husband’s aunt in Wabash, Indiana, and not to send word to her for at least a month, and then only through Burt and Mildred. “We can trust them,” she’d said as she’d helped her pack, Ellie crying all the while. “Don’t tell them where you’re goin’, though, and when you write to me, put the letter inside a small envelope and then tuck that inside a bigger one. Put your return address on the inside letter, never the outside one, you understand? The less information Burt ’n’ Mildred know, the better off they’ll be. They’re good people. I don’t want them gettin’ involved in this mess, other than to drive you to the train station.”

“You sure you want to leave your ma?” Mildred asked, bringing Ellie’s attention back to the present. The woman turned around and looked her in the eye. “You seem awful broke up ’bout leavin’, honey.”

Ellie wiped her cheeks and nodded. “I’m nineteen. High time I make my own way.”

“And get away from that fool stepfather o’ yours,” Burt muttered. “Too bad Rita didn’t leave with you.”

Mildred glared at her husband. “Now, Burt, that ain’t none of our concern,” she scolded him gruffly. When she was facing front again, Ellie heard her add, “Even if you’re right.” In a louder voice, she said, “We’re goin’ to miss you somethin’ fierce, Eleanor. Always did love it when you came across the field to visit us.”

“And brought them scrumptious pies with you,” Burt tacked on. “Won’t be the same up on West Peak with you gone.” He glanced back at her and winked. “Where you travelin’ to, if you don’t mind my askin’?”

“I…I plan to head north, look for a job. Not quite sure just where yet.” She could at least tell them that much.

Mildred turned around again, her brow wrinkled in concern. “You don’t got a plan, Eleanor? Why, we cain’t just drop you off if you don’t have no sort o’ arrangements.”

“Sure you can,” Ellie said, forcing brightness into her tone. She wiped away the last of her tears. “I need to break out o’ my cocoon.”

“Darlin’, if you want to break out, why don’t you go south? It’s so blamed cold up north.”

“Daddy has an aunt I’m plannin’ to stay with.” She regretted the disclosure immediately, but it did seem that they deserved an explanation of sorts. They’d always been so kind to Mama and her.

“Say no more,” Burt spoke up. “Long as you’ll be safe, that’s enough for Mildred and me.”

“He ain’t a good sort, that Byron Pruitt,” Mildred said, as if she knew that he had something to do with Ellie’s departure.

Ellie determined to purse her lips for the rest of the trip, lest some hint of the sordid murder slip past them. Best to keep it buried in the deepest parts of her soul.