Friday, December 29, 2006

Book Review: "Leave it to Claire" by Tracey Bateman

Don't forget to enter the contest to win a copy of Afton of Margate Castle. Click here to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Tuesday.

You can't do it all

Claire is a romance author and a single mom. She has four kids ranging from a teenager to a 6 year old. She has to put up with her ex-husband who cheated on her and his new young wife (not the one he cheated with). Her mom, who's been her backbone for the past few years, decides to leave to be with her brother's family in Texas. The cute neighbor who moves in next door also happens to be Claire's son's teacher plus the worship pastor at church. Plus he seems to like Claire..a lot. Add all these in with unruly kids, carpal tunnel surgery and panic attacks, and Claire's got a lot to learn that she can't do everything all on her own.

I really enjoyed this read. It was fun hip mom lit. Almost anyone can identify also with trying to lose a couple of extra pounds, who can turn down hot fresh pizza really? Claire is a character that you both love and get frustrated with at the same time. For me when she had to deal with Rick and Darcy, especially the scenes with the counselor, you really feel for her. I mean imagine having to hear your ex husband say that he never really loved you and he only married you because it was his duty. And plus now he's started a better life with a younger prettier, perfect woman who keeps trying to be your friend when you'd really rather have nothing to do with them. So of course you side with her then. On the other hand, scenes with the way she handles her children made you want to thump Claire on the head. She thinks her kids can do no wrong even when she's presented hard core evidence such as the dirty poems. Thus she does not give them the correct punishments instead choosing to let them off easier. And then she wonders why they don't really listen or respect her? One can learn a lot from Claire and her adventures in this book.

Leave It to Claire by Tracey Bateman is published by Faithwords (2006)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Book Review: "Tying the Knot" by Susan May Warren



Don't forget to enter the contest to win a copy of Afton of Margate Castle. Click here to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Tuesday.

Learning to trust

Anne is a former EMT who's now a candidate to be a nurse. She's relocated to Deep Haven, MN to escape the gang violence she experienced first hand in Minneapolis. Anne is hoping to settle down and start a new quiet life in the town. However she keeps running into Noah Standing Bear, who is trying to start up a summer camp for troubled teens from the city. The two have many disputes and arguments as they both try to struggle with their former lives from the past. Also someone is stealing drugs from the hospital and attacking nurses. Fear from those who can help enters the little town.

I enjoyed returning to Deep Haven again. I wish I could visit this quiet town to go away to relax. I definitely make a stop at the bookstore for a read and cup of coffee. The characters in the town are all friendly and for the most part everyone gets along. However, at first Anne's treatment of Noah gets really annoying. She blames him for everything wrong that happens to her and there's a lot of prejudice in her accusations. I understand that because of her attack she's very wary of people and not able to trust easily. However you feel for Noah that he can't do anything right in Anne's eyes. He doesn't even have to be near her and she gets into a rage about him. She's prejudiced towards him because of what her attacker had done to her. I did like the story overall. Gang violence is a topic that is a big issue in major cities. It's sad that many teens and even children are affected by gangs. Many families are torn apart because of killings and it's almost normal to hear that a friend has been shot or hurt by a gang member. It's a good eye opener that we should help people in those situations instead of ignoring them. I also liked the use of a minority character, sadly it's still rare in Christian fiction to find a main character that is not Caucasian. This book was an interesting look into what happens when you have to fully trust God even when you're scared to.

Tying the Knot by Susan May Warren is published by Tyndale (2003)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Book Review: "Allah's Fire" by Chuck Holton and Gayle Roper


Don't forget to enter the contest to win a copy of Afton of Margate Castle. Click here to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Tuesday.

Straight from the evening news


Liz and her sister Julie are two Americans that live in Lebanon. When the building that Julie was attending a party at is destroyed by a bomb, Liz goes on a mission to find her after finding evidence that she may still be alive. Meanwhile John is a member of a special ops team sent to Beruit to find Palestinian extremists who have discovered a new way to threaten terror in the region. John and Liz's lives intertwine as they try to find Julie and prevent the terrorists from instigating more fear into the lives of the people there. The story is non stop action throughout, an edge of your seat reality read.

While reading this book, I felt like I was watching the evening news. Everything seemed so real and action packed. The situations the characters got themselves in could be ripped right out of the headlines. At first John's story felt a little boring to me with all the military talk and I wanted to get back to Liz's and Julie's story. However as I got more into the book, I enjoyed reading from both angles. I thought it was very interesting learning more about the Arab and Muslim culture. Many Americans don't really understand the religion and get only a one sided view on it. By explaining customs and rituals, the reader is able to have a better understanding of that side of the world. I also liked how the explanation of the way women are viewed in that world. As westerners, it's hard to understand why women would allow men to treat them the way they do in Arab countries. I appreciated that while Liz is an American, her character is used to the customs of the country because she grew up there. She does not act like a fish out of water or have scenes displaying ignorance. This book is recommended for those who like action stories, stories that could have happened, or interested in what life is like in the Middle East.

Allah's Fire by Chuck Holton and Gayle Roper is published by Multnomah (2006)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Book Review: "The Nativity Story- A Novel" by Angela Hunt and Book Giveaway


O Come O Come Emmanuel

Yesterday I wrote my review on the movie "The Nativity Story." Today is my book review on the novelization by Angela Hunt. I read the book before watching the movie so I went to the film knowing a lot of what was going to happen. If I thought the movie made the familiar characters more human and real, the book does even more so. The book adds to the movie script and includes more scenes that help to develop the characters. Mary is seen as caught between childhood and becoming a married women. We feel her struggle as she has to leave her old life behind. The reader is taken to understand what she went through after the angel told her what was going to happen to her. Since in the Bible, we don't hear a lot about Joseph what is written here shows him as an understanding and devout man. He loves Mary and wants to take care of her and the baby even though it will not be his completely.

I enjoyed the research that went on towards the writing of this book. It's full of historical detail and knowledge. You get a feel of the time, from Mary and Joseph's perspective, from Herod's, and the Wise Men. I know there is much debate about when the Wise Men showed up or even how many there are. I just find it amazing that any persons would come, near or far, to see a baby being born. Imagine how the shepherds felt when they saw Jesus, their Messiah had finally come. I also liked the prologue, which showed a modern view on the Nativity which is what most people believe in and have become immune to.

The Christmas season should be remembered in the way Hunt portrays the first Christmas. Very simple, with lots of faith and belief. The book shows that these were real people who were struggling to understand why they were chosen, yet they believed without a doubt. We today should follow in their footsteps. Another powerful read from one of my favorite authors.

The Nativity Story by Angela Hunt is published by Tyndale (2006)

Contest CLOSED
Now for the book giveaway! Here's an late Christmas present for you. I have a copy of the first book from Angela's The Theyn Chronicles series, "Afton of Margate Castle". Leave a comment with your email address saying you want to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on January 2. Good luck!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Movie Review: "The Nativity Story"

Merry Christmas!

How many times have we gone so accustomed to hearing the Christmas story, putting on live nativity plays, singing Christmas carols, that we forget what the Christmas story really is about? I know that we also become so immune to hearing that we have become too materialistic about Christmas, that all people think about is getting presents and nothing else. Many people have told me that they didn't plan on seeing "The Nativity Story" because they already knew the story, so what was the point? Well, they may think they know the story but they neither live nor show the respect for what the story truly is about.

One of my favorite movies when I was younger was Jesus of Nazareth. To me that was the definitive version of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. However even that movie doesn't really take you into their lives and what they had to go through.

The Nativity Story however makes you feel for these characters. Did you ever think about what Mary had to go through when she was told by the angel that she would be pregnant? Sure, she believed immediately, but think about the reactions other people including her parents would have had. You try telling your parents that you're pregnant because an angel said so especially when you're engaged to be married. I know that she trusted in God, but I appreciated the fact that she was still scared and unsure about what was going to happen. I liked the scene when she's praying to please let Elizabeth be pregnant so that Mary doesn't feel like she's gone nuts over everything.

I loved the guy that played Joseph. You knew he loved Mary from the beginning, and even though it was hard for him at first to accept her story, he believed it wholeheartedly. The scene where the lady at the market says what a joy it will be to see your face in your baby was very moving. Mary grabbing Joseph's hand to reassure him because he knew this wouldn't be the case.

My one nitpicking moment was when Jesus was actually born. I know all about movie births, but Jesus didn't have an umbilical cord! Ironic? Hah. But the rest of the scene, I was moved. Mary actually experiences pain, the baby doesn't just magically deflate out of her body. I think that too often we don't think about that and make his birth to be a clean, magical event. I started to cry then, and it continued when the shepherds and wise men showed up. This movie made me really appreciate the holiday more. I felt it was biblically accurate and very very spiritual. How many times do you see a major motion picture continually have scripture in it? I loved the music played during the film, especially "O Come O Come Emmanuel" in the beginning.

I really wish more people would go see this movie. I don't understand why more people who claim to be Christians will go see a movie filled with sex, harsh language and gore than see a movie that explains what the meaning of Christianity really is about. I don't understand why the same people who go take their 5 year old to see the R-rated Passion of the Christ (great movie, not knocking it down) will not take them to see this movie. It's a sad world that we live in when Christians refuse to support their own beliefs.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Movie Review: "The Da Vinci Code"

(off topic but I went to see Casino Royale again yesterday, even better the second time around *VBG*)

I'm sure everyone knows the controversy surrounding The Da Vinci Code. I won't go into detail here about it. I read the book more out of curiosity due to the buzz surrounding it. I think it had been Newsweek or Time that had said if you were one of the last 3 people that hadn't the book yet, you'd only need 3 days top to finish it. I finished it in 2. This isn't a book review so I won't go into the book, but I'll just say from a literature perspective, fascinating read, suspenseful, easily addictive.

When I finally watched the movie on DVD, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect. I know many people had protested the movie, but I know the TRUTH so I knew I wouldn't be in any danger of being deceived. Plus Ron Howard always puts out a good movie, and Tom Hanks is one of today's great actors.

After watching the movie, my reaction was......meh. I supposed if you hadn't read the book, it would be a good suspense movie. Lots of action, very gory for a PG13 movie. I liked Tom Hanks as Langdon, Ian McKellum was a good choice as Teabing, and I don't really know any other French actresses so I suppose Audrey Tatou was a good Sophie. I just felt the last quarter of the movie fell flat. Langdon didn't do much as he did in the book. I felt the movie differed from the book a great deal. The biggest difference in my opinion was Tom Hanks' portrayal of Robert Langdon. In the book, Langdon is very into and knowledgable of the gnostic gospels, the female religions aspects and the whole religious side of things. He accepts everything as fact and believes it. In the movie, he is more of a skeptic, he knows the facts but he doesn't really believe them. He scoffs at Teabing's attempts to explain the Last Supper painting to Sophie. And what was with the ending? It was totally different from the book which I have heard many people complain about.

So as for the movie itself, I'd give it 3 stars. As for the Da Vinci Code itself, I think it's bunk but I still think finding out all those theories are very interesting. My pastor did a sermon series about the whole Da Vinci Code ordeal (it's called Decoding DaVinci, near the bottom of the page). Very interesting stuff. I wouldn't ban this film, but if you do get offended by this material I wouldn't suggest watching the movie. Otherwise, it's an ok movie, just hope that you know the real TRUTH instead.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fall Into Reading Challenge Wrapup


Well the Fall Reading Challenge finally came to an end yesterday. These were the 18 books I originally set forth to read back in September:

Terminal 9 by Patricia Rushford and Harrison James
Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn
Under the Northern Lights by Tracie Peterson
Maggie's Story by Dandi Daley MacKall
Sadie-in-Waiting by Annie Jones
The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergren
Impasse by Laurel Oke Logan
Caught in the Middle by Gayle Roper
Dreaming in Black and White by Laura Jensen Walker
Allah's Fire by Gayle Roper
The Potluck Club by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson
Interior Motives by Ginny Aiken
The Prophet by Francine Rivers
Savannah Comes Undone by Denise Hildreth
Pitch Black by Melody Carlson
Entangled by Tracie Peterson
Sahm I am by Meredith Efken
The Trouble With Tulips
by Mindy Starns Clark

However I ended up reading....44 books from September 24 until yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!!! And that's not even including books I had to read for school!! Check out all the reviews I have on my blog for them.

The best book you read this Fall - Far and away the books by Meredith Efken: SAHM I AM and @Home for the Holidays.

Amber Miller is hosting a giveaway for @Home for the Holidays. Enter to win what I've declared the best book I've read all year!

The book you could have lived without - I made a choice not to read a book I wouldn't like but if I had to pick one, I didn't really like it would be Dee Henderson's Before I Wake

Whether or not you read more than you would have without the challenge - Well I know for sure I would have put off the books I had in my Reading Challenge Lineup. I read more but I made it a point to finish the ones on the list.

The best thing about joining in the challenge - Seeing books other people listed and forcing myself to read the books on my list.

If you discovered (and enjoyed) a new book or author after reading someone else's list - I liked seeing all the new books on people's list and I was greatly surprised and pleased there are lots of people out there who read Christian fiction too!

Any other insights, enjoyments, thoughts, or impressions! - This was lots of fun! Looking forward to the spring challenge!!!

Book Review: "Under the Northern Lights" by Tracie Peterson

Cold yet heartwarming

Tracie Peterson's Alaskan Quest series reintroduces us to Jacob and Leah Barringer, first seen as children in her Yukon Quest series. Now grown up and independent adults, the two still live up in Alaska and have come to adore their new home. In Under the Northern Lights, the second book in the series, Leah has just married Jayce Kincaid and is ready to settle down and have a quiet life with him. Unfortunately for her, Jayce's evil twin brother Chase kidnaps her and Helaina Beecher, the Pinkerton agent searching for Chase. While the two women have to fight for survival against
Chase, Jayce and Jacob go out to search for the women they love in hopes of rescuing them. When something happens that nearly destroys Leah, the four have to to depend on faith in order to move on.

I love seeing characters reappear in books. I wanted to know what happened to Jacob and Leah at the close of the Yukon Quest series when they were children. Now as their adults, the pair have had to share their own hardships and triumphs. Alaska is always a great setting because it's so vast and big and like Hawaii, familiar yet different at the same time. I'm glad that Helaina's character changes throughout the story. In the first book, she is very stubborn and headstrong because she's trying to prove to herself and others that she can survive on her own. In this book, Leah has to force her to realize that finding Chase is not the most important thing in the world. I also felt sorry for Leah with what she went through. The turn of the events at the end though are rather interesting and I bet her and Jayce would have appreciated modern technology for their situation! She rightly feels bitter and I believe that she is allowed to. The only thing I didn't like was she felt guilty over feeling bitter but I feel that in her situation she had an absolute right to. I love when I feel like I'm drawn into a book and that happened several times while reading this one. I actually felt cold when reading certain scenes and had to get a blanket. Recommended for Peterson fans and anyone who enjoys a good historical fiction story.

Under the Northern Lights by Tracie Peterson is published by Bethany House (2006)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Book Review: "Theodora's Baby" by Penny Culliford

Swap chocolate for a baby

Theo and Kevin have just gotten married and now are expecting a baby! Being pregnant isn't all fun and games for the couple. It means Theo can't stand the sight of chocolate! The couple are going through their first days of marriage and already they are having issues. From Kevin not wanting Theo to write in her diary to Theo leaving for a few days because Kevin wouldn't fix the bathroom, the newlyweds sound like their having lots of fun in their new life. With Theo's pregnancy comes cravings for weird food, having to wear Charity-like maternity clothing (gasp!), trying to find a job that will take her in her "condition" and her sister-in-law getting pregnant at the same time. Plus Declan keeps showing up. Thank goodness Kevin lets Theo have her diary back. She'd be lost without it.

Theodora is one of my favorite characters as of lately. I love everything that she goes through and how she handles situations.
I thought it was pretty arrogant of Kevin to refuse Theo to write in her diary. His reason is that he wants her to talk to him instead of writing. Really though, guys stop listening after a while. If Theo had really stopped her diary and talked to him all the time, I guarantee Kevin would have gotten fed up and been like "why don't you talk to you friends about this stuff?" I mean Theo gets frustrated with him and football but she never asks him to quit it completely. Arrgh, men. I do like how Theo and Jeremiah finally sort of get along. Although I really didn't like his earlier viewpoint on her especially when he think they've gotten married after she got pregnant. I hate people who jump to conclusions and especially Christians who think they are better than everyone else. I'm glad she took a stand though and I'm glad they were able to make up. There's not much Charity in this book but her and Theo have settled down and are more friendlier with each other. It's also interesting to read how Charity's oldest son has started to rebel against their conservative lifestyle.

I hope this isn't the last we'll hear from Theodora and her diary. I want more!

Theodora's Baby by Penny Culliford is published by Zondervan (2006)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Book Review: "The Brushtroke Legacy" by Lauraine Snelling


Paintbrush Connection

Ragni is fed up with her advertising job in Chicago. She's also frustrated that her dad has Alzheimer's making life for her mother extremely difficult. She also has to put up with her older sister complaining about her teenage niece going through a rebellious period. When her spa vacation is cut short due her mother wanting her to look at some old family property in North Dakota, Ragni and her niece Erika set out on a road trip. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start due their differences as they grew apart. When they get to the house, it's in shambles and they have to work together to try to fix out. Out of their normal elements, the two soon find remnants of their ancestor Nilda who left her artistic touch around the house and in both of them. The story flips between Ragni's story and Nilda's, who was a housekeeper who came with her daughter to work for a man out west.

This was good compelling story. I love all of Lauraine Snelling books and this one disappoint. Ragni is your everday career woman who needs to take a break from work. Erika is the rebellious teenager who wants everyone to leave her alone. The two are forced to get along and it is interesting to see how their relationship changes throughout the story. I liked the going back and forth between Ragni's and Nilda's stories. Nilda's story reminded me Janette Oke's Love Come Softly. Very sweet and frontier-like. The only thing I wondered was it didn't seem like Ragni knew about Nilda's story. I didn't see her reading a diary or hearing old stories from her mother. So I don't' know if Ragni and Erika knew the whole story about why she lived in the house. The two though are reconnected with each other and their own selves after seeing their ancestor's paintings. It was cool to read about Ragni's inspirations and urges to want to paint. I really enjoyed this book. Who knew North Dakota could be such a scenic and adventurous place?

The Brushstroke Legacy by Lauraine Snelling is published by Waterbrook (2006)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Book Review: "The Trouble With Tulip" by Mindy Starns Clark

Martha Stewart meets Nancy Drew

Jo Tulip has just been jilted at the altar and been involved in murder investigation, all in the same day. Her best friend Danny (who's secretly in love with her) gets Jo to come to the crime scene of an elderly woman who turns up mysteriously dead in her own home. The police rule it as an accident but with Jo's knack for household tips, she discovers it to be a murder. Theft, fraud, the deceiving of old ladies, and alchemy all come into play to as Jo and Danny try to discover the truth about really happened.

This was my first Mindy Starns Clark book and
I really got a kick out of it. I loved all the household advice spread throughout the novel. Very interesting techniques given how to combat any home problem. I have yet to try out any but I may do so in the future. The murder investigation was really gutsy of Jo to do it mostly by herself. There were a lot of twists I wasn't expecting. I really Jo's character. I do hope we get a full confrontation with Bradford. The guy is a jerk. She should be happy she didn't marry him, what a wimp. I also hope Jo can work out her relationship with her parents. It'll also be interesting to see how Jo's and Danny's future will work itself out.

I really liked the letters from the advice column. I found it funny that the writers of the letters always seemed to be clueless about the situations they were writing about. I guess housewives from back then really were in the dark? Great book, great mystery, and good fun read.

The Trouble With Tulip by Mindy Starns Clark is published by Harvest House (2005)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Movie Review: "Eat Drink Man Woman"


Ok, who doesn't like Chinese food? The only thing better than take out Chinese food is real authentic, freshly prepared Chinese food. I've been lucky to have this when my family visited Malaysia and my grandmother and aunt cooked a feast for us.

A chef has three grown daughters. Once a week, everyone comes home to a huge meal the dad has cooked. They don't talk much while they eat, it's just something they do every week. The daughters are each trying to live their own lives, and the dad can see the family is growing apart. He focuses his time on a family friend and her daughter, who do appreciate his cooking. Meanwhile the daughters are all trying to figure out what they want in life and discover love along the way. Mix all of this with tasty Chinese dishes in almost every scene.

Ang Lee is one my favorite directors. I absolutely loved Crouching Tiger, adored Sense and Sensibility, I even liked The Hulk. Minus one certain movie, his movies are always enjoyable to watch. I liked this movie because even though the characters spoke Mandarin, the storyline is universal. There were three daughters in the movie, just like in my family. Everyone is trying to live their own life and still have a sense of responsibility for the family. Many funny scenes in the movie (the scene near the ending for one) as well as sad, touching ones. Another thing I liked about the movie was that the oldest daughter was a Christian. She never wavers from her faith throughout the entire movie. Even though her family doesn't share or necessarily understand her beliefs they never overly mock her or try to make her feel ashamed for converting. This movie is good for anyone who like father/daughter movies and love stories.

One last warning: DON'T watch this movie on an empty stomach.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Book Review: "Consider Lily" by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt


Good girl lit gone right!

Lily Traywick is the daughter of the owners of huge and famous department store in San Francisco. She is poised to inherit it in the future. However, Lily does not want to continue life working with clothes. She spends time with her two best friends and tries to figure out why she's not able to get a boyfriend. After a makeover she meets Sam, another employee at the store. Soon they begin to date, and Lily starts to really enjoy life. Then Sam's friend Delia comes to town, wrecking havoc into their relationship. Lily jots all these events in her blog, writing about everything that's happened with Sam, her friends, her parents, anyone she's come into contact with. When her blog's secrets become public to those who are in it, it'll take a miracle for her to recover.


I thought this was a fun and cool read. I really like this new Chick-lit genre and this book definitely fits in it. My favorite scene in the book would have to be the hockey game where she has to wear that shark head. I just about died laughing. I know how Lily feels about being one of the guys. It happened to me too, they are so used to hanging out with you that they don't realize you're actually a girl. I'm glad Lily kept rejecting Sam when he tried to come back to her after leaving Delia. He needed to suffer after what he had put her through. To be honest, if I had been in Lily's shoes at that point, I would have been severely depressed. Everyone had turned on her even though she had just been telling the truth about them. To be fair though, I don't know why Lily just hadn't used code names when writing in her blog. If you plan on spilling out details of your life, you can't use real names because you never know who will be reading about it. I did enjoy them though. (Although do you realize that fictional characters always get more hits than real people do?) I also appreciated how Lily is a Christian that is strong about her beliefs (she wouldn't date Sam at first because she wasn't sure) and wants her friends to become believers, yet she is not the pushy overbearing stereotypical Christian like other characters in the book. Excellent book, one I would recommend anyone (Christian or non-Christian) to read. This is a fun read that everyone can enjoy because everyone know how it feels to be in Lily's shoes.

Consider Lily by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt is published by Waterbrook (2006)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Book Review: "Freefall" by Kristen Heitzmann


More than meets the eye

First I want to say that I think that this book has one of the most beautiful covers I've seen in a while. I just love the waterfall and all the shades of blue in the scenery. And you notice how everyone always looks better when their hair is blowing in the breeze?

A mysterious girl who can't remember anything about herself is found on the island of Kauai. Mysterious circumstances surround her and those who try to help her including Cameron, a lawyer who takes it into his hands to protect the girl. Bits and pieces of her memory begin to come back, and it is found that the girl is a famous award wining actress Gentry Fox. Gentry, had left her Hollywood life due to scandal, soon finds herself facing someone who is threatening her life and those around her.


I always think that Hawaii is always a great place to have a book setting. It's exotic yet familiar at the same time. The descriptions of the places in the book are lovely and make you feel like you are really there. I liked the book and the suspense storyline, although I felt that the book summary played too much on the Jade/amnesia thing too much, as Gentry gets her memory back pretty quickly in the story.
Cameron was a good male lead, even though I felt that his and Gentry's relationship felt a little rushed. His ex-wife was annoying and actually reminded me of Addison from Grey's Anatomy. This book gave an interesting look into the movie industry and what an actress really has to go through. It's not all smiling for cameras and signing autographs. People will do anything to move up in the industry and they will pay any price to reach their goals. I thought it was interesting about how the young boy allowed himself to go along with the story about his "affair" with Gentry, never really thinking about how it really affected the both of them. I also liked the struggle with the kissing scenes that Gentry has while she is acting. They're not "real kisses" but it's very hard to not be involved when you are being intimate with someone. Maybe that's why so many Hollywood couples break up. Very interesting when you think about how the lives of movie stars may not be everything that you see on TV or in magazines.

The story gets a little long near the end, but I still enjoyed it. Kristen Heitzmann has put out another great book.

Freefall by Kristen Heitzmann is published by Bethany House (2006)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Book Review: "The Begotten" by Lisa T. Bergren


Middle Ages Version of X-Men

A lot of times we like to play the what if question. This can lead to long drawn out debates on what could have happen if something had taken place. Sometimes we worry that things would have been radically different if things had changed. Other times times we speculate on the possibilities that could have taken place if only such and such had taken place. That is the premise of The Begotten. Paul had written many letters to churches. What if there had been another letter sent to a special group of people called The Gifted?


Set during the time of the Inquisition, the secret of Paul's extra letter is trying to be kept hidden by the holy leaders. They are against females holding high authority and wish to keep any knowledge about it in secret. Years later however, individuals with secret powers find each other as they strive to help out those in need. They are Christians, strong in their faith, battling those who have turned to the dark side.

This book was a wonderful engrossing read. I love books about medieval times with knights and lords and ladies. The whole story was fascinating when you imagine a group such as the Gifted existing in today's world or even the world back then. Daria was a very strong female character especially for that time period. She was highly respected by the people around her. The men are eager to protect her yet they do not see her as just a weak female or try to woo her. They are quick to defend her and risk their lives for not only her but anyone in their company. I felt this book in a genre like The Da Vinci Code, although far superior. Myth and legend are always interesting especially when you can incorporate scriptural truth with it. In my opinion, I felt the characters were like a middle ages version of X-Men or Heroes. Group of people with special powers that feel unwanted by the rest of the world.

I highly recommend this book for those who are fans of this genre, and for anyone who enjoys a really good story. If you have a good imagination, this book definitely makes good use of it.

The Begotten by Lisa Tawn Bergren is published by Berkley Books (2006)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Book Review: "The Brethren" by Beverly Lewis


It's not always happy in Paradise

In the third book of the Annie's People series, The Brethren continues the story of Annie Zook and the people of the Amish community of Paradise. Annie has put away her paintings and is living with her friend Esther, who has been shunned for accepting Jesus and is worried about her husband Zeke who has accepted the responsibility of the death of his brother from long ago. Meanwhile Ben, the Englisher that stole Annie's heart, finds a secret about his past and goes back to Paradise to find answers. His discovery shakes up the entire community and brings new meaning to his and Annie's relationship.

I really liked this book yet I felt the book was a little rushed at the end. I want to know what will happen to Louisa and Sam in the future. Her story didn't move that much in this book.
It was interesting to find out about Ben's past, yet it felt somewhat predictable once you found out he was adopted. I did finding out more about the culture and the customs of the people. It's very interesting that the Amish can live in modern America and still have a completely different society. I've enjoyed reading all of Beverly Lewis' Amish books and I had been waiting for the conclusion of this series. The Amish lifestyle has always fascinated me. They had been sadly brought into the limelight after the shooting a few months ago.

The thing that has always confused me about the Amish is what do they really believe in. After reading Lewis' books and especially this series, it seems that to have a personal relationship and admit that Jesus is your savior is considered vanity and grounds for being banned. They seem to only read from the Old Testament and even then only the bishops are allowed to really study it. Another series of Lewis' deals with a form of old medicine that can be considered as witchcraft. I understand most of their views about not conforming to the rest of the world and to keep life simple. What I don't understand is that it seems that the Amish are not really Christians if they don't believe in accepting Jesus into their lives.


The Brethren by Beverly Lewis is published by Bethany House (2006)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Movie Review: "Stranger than Fiction"


I had just seen Elf prior to seeing this movie. So the image of Will Ferrell I had was one of him in green tights screaming because he had just squirted perfume in his mouth. The previews however looked like Will Ferrell was making his "serious" movie turn a la Jim Carrey in The Truman show. I saw this movie mainly because I wanted to see if Ferrell could really act (and not just be Ricky Bobby).

I felt the premise of the movie was very creative, entertaining, and educational. I learned quite a bit about literature from the movie. Many authors have written how they liked the movie because of its authenticity as to how the process of writing a book happens. Since I have never attempted to write a book, I will take their word for it. If this movie shows how hard it is to write a book, I'm not sure if I will attempt to write one. (Well as long as none of my characters ever show up on my doorstep)

I liked the indie feel this film had. Even with all the big names and special effects it still felt small and close knit. I especially liked the scene when Harold gives Ana "flours" as a gift. It was very creatively cute. There were funny scenes but not crude humor from other Ferrell movies. And the ending gives you a lot to think about too. Actually I also was wondering, if he's a character from her book, did she create him from the beginning of his whole life, or one she starting writing he showed up? I'm confused.

The only thing I didn't like was Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in the beginning of the film. I am fine with people having their own opinions and disagreements with the way the government is run. What I didn't like was the fact that she had broken the law, refused to admit it and made it sound like it was Harold's fault. And somehow it is aimed that the audience is supposed to agree with her. Also what was up with the locker room shower scene? Did we really need to see naked old guys? Did that enhance the story plot?


It's always nice when comic actors take a serious turn. This shows they are truly talented. Will Ferrell has shown that he can really act no matter what the role. This man deserves nominations for his role.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Book Review: "Sadie-in-Waiting" by Annie Jones


Sisterly Road Trip

Sadie is feeling kinda glum. She's living in a small town, just got appointed graveyard superintendent (who really wants that job?), and she's having trouble raising her two teens. Plus she's suspecting her husband of an affair and her eccentric dad is driving her and her sisters, April and Hannah, absolutely nuts. The sisters are close but Sadie is given the most responsibility over their father, who took care of them after their mother left them when they were little. Since they are never allowed to discuss their mother, the sisters are kept in the dark as to why she left them long ago. One day when their dad leaves to go find their mother, Sadie and her sisters go to track him down. On their road trip they discover things about themselves they didn't know and learn to strengthen their relationship with each other and with their families back home.

I liked that there were 3 sisters in this book, just like in my family. You see how each sister fit their role as youngest, middle, and oldest perfectly. I'm glad finally took charge and stood up for herself against her daughter, her husband, her sisters, and the townspeople. Small town settings where everyone always knows each other are always interesting to me because I live in largely populated area. It's always refreshing to read about simpler lifestyles. I also liked how the sisters grew closer together as they find out the truth about their mother. A very touching and moving scene. Family is the most important thing in the world. I felt that this book wasn't really chick lit or mom lit. It was more a women's fiction type of book. Still I enjoyed it and am ready to read about Hannah's story in "Mom Over Miami."

Sadie-In-Waiting by Annie Jones is published by Steeple Hill (2004)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Never Ceese by Sue Dent


This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is doing a tour for Never Ceese by Sue Dent. It is notable that Sue is one of our CFBA members!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue Dent was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and currently resides in Ridgeland. When not writing, Sue designs websites and works with digital photograpy.

Sue loves to hear from her fans through her Website in fact, the push from eager readers has already set the ball rolling, and she's hard at work on Forever Richard, the sequel.

In Never Ceese, Sue sets out to prove that faith and fun can live happily in the same story, and that vampire/werewolf fantasy can have a spiritual message too.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Never Ceese takes religious fantasy to a new level, bringing an entirely new Light to a very dark side of fiction, doing a very admirable job to prove that vampire/werewolf fantasy does not have to be evil to be enjoyed.

The story starts with the classic tale of an English manor owned by Richard, the vampire who righteously is the bain of his neighbor's existence, what with the missing goats and all!

Then enters Cecelia, better known as Ceese, the young werewolf maiden who's arrived via invitation by Richard's aging companion, Penelope.

Ceese and Richard would prefer to tear each other apart, literally, but they are drawn together by their mutual love for Penelope. She is dying and has one request...that the two of them love one another.This is the overall theme throughout Dent's interesting tale of two who were wronged but learn to work together. Meanwhile they are threatened by an evil stem cell researcher who wants the immortality and power that he thinks their blood will bring him!

Dent's characters do differ from the stock one's we're all accustomed to in a very important way. They are not mindless, brutal killers. Bloodthirsty, yes, but they are constantly resisting the urge to kill, and, thus, curse another human. Feeding on rodents, goats, virtually any warm-blooded animal helps to satiate the never ending thirst for blood, but how long will they be able to resist that most delicious morsel man?

There is a chance that their curses can actually be lifted if they can find the strength within to resist their selfish natures and act selflessly toward another. Will they succeed? That same basic choice lies before us all every day...

A vampire and a werewolf, one determined to, once again, be able to acknowledge what will get her to heaven, the other no so sure he can. A spiritual fantasy designed to spark the imagination, to speak to the heart as well as entertain.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Book Review: "@Home for the Holidays" by Meredith Efken


Meredith Efken has done it again!

She has put out another book that I proceeded to finish in just a few hours. I was actually in the process of reading two other books, but I dropped them both to read this one. It was definitely worth it. I declare it tied for best book of the year!


In @Home, the sequel to SAHM I AM, we again are meeting up with members of the SAHM (stay at home moms) email group. Rosalyn is now on better terms with her sister Veronica but the two are still at it with their sibling rivalry. They propose to hold a contest as to who can have more readership with their posts, while each facing their own personal situations. Dulice finds herself in the position as a working mom while her husband has become a SAHD. Zelia is in the process of adopting two children from Zimbabwe while Brenna is trying her luck with egg donation adoption. Then there's also Jocelyn who's slowly busying herself to death, Paige who has to take over for her pastor husband who's fallen ill, and Marianne, the newest member who finds herself with the baby blues and a very unruly 2 year old. The women still find time to get together and talk about everything through the email loop.

I looooooooved this book. It's so addictive to read because there are no chapters to stop at. I found everyone's story funny, sad, touching, and very very real. The only thing I didn't like was the attitudes of some of the women when Dulcie was talking about her work experience. While it's understandable that things have changed with her life, it still wasn't fair for the group to gang up on her and accuse her for not being true to herself. I don't think it's right for people to tell others what to do simply because that is what work for their own selves. Dulcie enjoyed going to work, the other women should not have put guilt trips on her for doing so. There were some times I wanted to strangle Rosalyn with her snobbishness but at least this time we had Veronica there to tell her off about it. The sisters' relationship was very funny and realistic. I really enjoyed reading this book. It's such a fun and easy and enjoyable read and it helped to get me in the holiday spirit.

(i also must confess that I never got the hang of the Christmas song game and only figured it out after I visited Meredith's website and saw the answer *sheepish look*.)

@Home for the Holidays
by Meredith Efken is published by Steeple Hill (2006)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Book Review: "Cow Crimes and the Mustang Menace" by Sharon Dunn

Father Knows Best? Maybe not.

Ruby Taylor is at it again. In her third book, as she and Wesley are trying to figure out their relationship, Ruby stumbles across a string of robberies targeting her work. This leads to her finding out a town's shady history involving a murder. Amid a missing bull and a county fair involving potato recipes, Ruby tries to find out who is committing all the robberies and how it somehow connect to that story from yesteryear. Her attempts at sleuthing lead to comical and scary situations.

This was such a great book. I like Ruby more and more with each book in the series. I liked her friendship with Starlight and I was glad that Ruby kept trying to point out to Wes that he needed to stop suspecting them just because they were new in town. The whole scentless hairspray made me curious as well as to how it works. I don't want to spoil the ending but the reasons for all the "activities" happening in the area had a sad story behind it. You almost feel sorry for the perpetrators. It's intersting to think how much a father's acknowledgment means to someone.

I am glad that Ruby had realistic reactions to the way Wesley reacted in the beginning of the story. He doesn't tell her where he's gone so of course she's worried and angry when she does find him. I also want to know if they ever have a talk about the letter that Ruby found. If Wesley feels that he has to be a perfect Christian, this might hinder their relationship. I was also glad that Ruby found the Proverbs 31 woman slightly frustrating as well. As good of a role model as that passage is, sometimes I think some Christian women strive too much to attain that status. While Ruby's faith is tested many times, she doesn't lose it instead it helps her to grow.
I hoping there's another Ruby Taylor mystery in the future.

Cow Crimes and the Mustang Menace by Sharon Dunn is published by Kregel (2005)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Eye of the Oracle by Bryan Davis



It is December 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:



BRYAN DAVIS

and his latest book:

Eye of the Oracle


Bryan Davis is the author of the four book Dragons in Our Midst series, a contemporary/fantasy blend for young people. The first book, Raising Dragons, was released in July of 2004. The second book, The Candlestone, followed in October. Circles of Seven debuted in April of 2005, followed in November by Tears of a Dragon.

Bryan is the author of several other works including The Image of a Father (AMG) and Spit and Polish for Husbands (AMG), and four books in the Arch Books series: The Story of Jesus' Baptism and Temptation, The Day Jesus Died, The Story of the Empty Tomb (over 100,000 sold), and Jacob's Dream. Bryan lives in Winter Park, Florida with his wife, Susie, and their children. Bryan and Susie have homeschooled their four girls and three boys.

To read more about Bryan and his books, visit the
Dragons in our Midst Website or visit Bryan's blog.

Eye of the Oracle

by Bryan Davis

Dragons in our Midst - Prequel
Oracles of Fire - Volume 1

≈1≈


The Seeds of Eden


Angling into a plunging dive, the dragon blasted a fireball at Lilith and Naamah. The two women dropped to the ground just as the flaming sphere sizzled over their heads. Naamah swatted her hair, whipping away stinging sparks that rained down from the fireball's tail.

With a flurry of wings and a gust of wind, the dragon swooped low. As razor sharp claws jabbed at the women, Naamah lunged to the side, and Lilith rolled through the grass. A single claw caught Lilith's long black dress, ripping it as the dragon lifted toward the sky.

Naamah jumped to her feet and helped Lilith up. The dragon made a sharp turn in the air, and, with its jagged-toothed maw stretching open, charged back toward them.

Lilith pushed a trembling hand into the pocket of her dress. "Only one hope left," she said, panting. Pulling out a handful of black powder, she tossed it over her head. "Give me darkness!" she cried.

The powder spread out into a cloud and surrounded the women. Naamah coughed and spat. The noxious fumes blinded her and coated her throat with an acrid film. A hand grabbed her wrist and jerked her down to her knees just as another flaming cannon ball passed over their heads.

"Crawl!" Lilith ordered.

Naamah scooted alongside Lilith as she scuffled over the dry tufts of grass. Sparks from the rain of fire ignited tiny blazes that illuminated their hands as they passed through the veil of darkness.

Naamah gagged but refused to cough. With a guardian dragon hovering somewhere overhead, giving any clue to their whereabouts could be fatal.

After several minutes, Lilith whispered, "I think I found the cave."

Her hands, barely visible and clutching a small bundle of sticks, crawled over a bed of gravel and then to a rocky floor. When she finally stopped, Naamah sat up and gazed into the dark cloud behind her. She squeezed fractured words through her tingling throat. "Will the dragon follow?"

"Shachar is persistent," Lilith rasped, "but she is no fool." She coughed quietly, clearing her voice. "She will not risk the possibility that we're a diversion for a more dangerous attack. If she doesn't find us soon, she will go back on patrol."

"What about her dragon sense? Won't that draw her to us?"

"I'm not sure. A dragon's danger alarm is still a mystery to me. I think since our only direct threat is to the ancient garden she patrols, her sense of protection will draw her there."

The black cloud began to dissipate, revealing the mouth of a shallow cave, barely deep enough to keep out the wind. Close to the back wall, the women found a flat stone and built a fire next to it with Lilith's collection of sticks. When the crackling flames began to rise, Lilith and Naamah sat on the stone to rest.

From her pocket, Lilith withdrew a small bundle wrapped in a black cloth. After untying a knot on one end, she produced an earthenware cup filled with herbs. "The way to Eden has yet another obstacle," she said, tossing a pinch of the herbs into the campfire. "Our task will not be easy."

Sparks flew toward the cave's low ceiling, riding on thin strings of silvery-green smoke. Naamah breathed deeply of the aroma-saturated air, a pungent blend of camphor and garlic. She exhaled, tasting the herbs at the back of her tongue. "What could be more difficult than getting past a dragon?"

"There are forces in our world that dwarf the power of dragons. I have foreseen much that you don't know."

As cool, damp air chiseled away at the fire's rising warmth, Naamah scooted toward her sister, overlapping the fringes of their silky black dresses on the flat stone. Barefoot and shivering in the draft, she wrapped her arms around herself. "Didn't you know it would be this cold? We should have worn our cloaks."

"It is only temporary. The cold air is a path that leads us to the garden." Lilith pushed her long black hair off her shoulder and huddled close, her voice low. "Naamah, you must have more faith in me. My husband's arts have allowed me to see another world, the world of phantasmal knowledge. It is the realm of future possibilities, where I can see what might happen."

Naamah folded her hands. "What might happen?"

The bushes rustled just outside the entrance. Lilith glanced over her shoulder, her lips pressing into two pale lines as she set the cup of herbs on the cave's floor and drew a dagger from a sheath on her belt.

"Just the wind," Naamah whispered. "If it were the dragon, we would have heard her wings."

"Perhaps." Lilith's knuckles whitened as she wrung the dagger's wooden hilt. "But even the wind carries spirits who might expose our plans."

Naamah waited for the color to return to Lilith's fingers. "So … why are you counting on phantasmal knowledge when it can't tell you for sure what's going to happen?"

"Because our opponent is so predictable." Lilith placed her long, thin hand on Naamah's thigh. "Life is the ultimate game of chance, with millions of possible moves, so I only see what might happen. My choices and our opponent's choices mesh in a tapestry through time, and I can see where some of the threads lead if I follow one or more of the thousands of patterns that fill my eyes. So far, Elohim has reacted to my moves exactly as I expected he would."

Lilith waved the dagger over the fire. A bright, angelic creature swirled inside the rising smoke, its image warping and undulating as the draft swept it around. Inside the flames, a red dragon appeared, jets of fire blasting from its nostrils. The dragon's blaze licked at the angel's bare feet as it whipped around in the smoke's endless circles. "Our plans rest on Samyaza's shoulders, and if he fails, our doom is certain. We must prepare for that possibility."

Naamah rubbed her hands up and down her bare arms. "How can this husband of yours give you the power to see the future? I have never known a man who could see past a bottle … or a brothel."
"You have never known such a man, because you don't know the Watchers." She thrust the dagger back to its sheath. "Your men are all fools."

Naamah pulled the hem of her dress high above her knee. "Fools, yes, but their money spends as well as yours."

Lilith slapped Naamah's hand and yanked the skirt back down. "Your harlotry will be the death of you someday! Sister or not, I cannot protect you from yourself."

Naamah caressed her stinging hand and scowled. "You didn't call it harlotry back when we were collecting wild oats together. You've been no fun at all since you got religion with Samyaza."

Lilith grabbed Naamah's shoulder and pulled her almost nose to nose, hissing. "This religion, as you call it, might just save your life. If you want to survive, you had better listen to me!"

Naamah jerked away and scooted to the far edge of the stone. "I'll listen. Just don't turn me into something unearthly, like that iridescent dog you keep in your dungeon."

"That was from one of my first potions, and you know it." Lilith sighed and reached for Naamah's arm. "If Samyaza wins, then we won't have to turn into anything unearthly. If he loses … well, he need not know our alternate plans."

"Is that why you're so jumpy? Do you think your husband's spying on you?"

"I do feel the presence of a spy, but I doubt that Samyaza sent it."

"So what should we do?" Naamah asked.

"This spy is of no consequence. Shachar is the greater danger, but she will leave the area soon enough, and we will press on. Until then, we have time for an important step in my plan." Lilith lifted a thin cord around her neck and pulled a leather pouch from her bosom. She loosened the drawstring and carefully poured into her palm a dozen or more white crystals the size of cottonseeds, covered with tiny spikes that made each crystal resemble the head of a mace. "These are the seeds of Samyaza's power. With them we will be able to plant his potency wherever we please."

Naamah touched one with her fingertip and rocked it back and forth. "We will?" she asked.

Lilith poured the seeds back into the pouch but kept one in her palm and closed her fingers around it. "Our master will teach you how to use it soon enough, but first we must prepare ourselves as vessels—myself to wield the power and you to receive the planting." She picked up her cup, dropped the seed inside, and stirred the contents with a slender black root, holding the cup just above the flames as the herbs melted into a thick brew. After seven swirls, she crumpled the stirrer and threw it into the mix. As purple foam rose above the brim and dribbled over the sides, she waved her hand over the top and sang in a low, mournful voice.

O Master of the midnight skies,
The god of darkness, light disguised,
Provide for me the gift of flight
And give me wings to flee my plight.

Now through the waters guide my strife,
And grant the gift of lasting life.
Regenerate my body whole;
For this I give my living soul.

And should my husband learn my plans,
O let his reins come to my hands,
For strength alone cannot compare
To woman's last beguiling snare.

O let us be the farmers' hands
To sow the seeds of fallen man.
The giants planted here must grow
Escaping from these lands below.

In Naamah's womb prepare your soil.
With calloused hands we'll sweat and toil.
O make your seeds become like trees;
To trample Adam's hopeless pleas.

With both hands trembling, Lilith raised the cup to her mouth and took a long, slow drink. She closed her eyes and grimaced, a shudder crawling across her pale cheeks. After licking her lips, she rubbed some of the liquid into each of her palms, then extended the cup to Naamah.

"You must be joking!" Naamah said, squinting at the curling purple fumes. "I'm not drinking that!"

Lilith took Naamah's hand and wrapped her fingers around the handle. "Just smell it! That's all I ask. Then decide if you want to drink or not."

Naamah tightened her grip on the handle and gazed into the cup. Thick gray liquid bubbled inside. Warm vapors and a pleasant aroma bathed her senses. As she took in the delightful smell, her throat dried out, filling her with a sudden desire to drink. Her tongue clamped to the roof of her mouth, parched and swelling. It was more than a desire. She had to drink. Now!

She guzzled the liquid, then slung the cup against the cave wall and glared at Lilith. "You tricked me!"

Lilith wagged her finger. "It was for your own good."

Naamah crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the earthen shards. "I am going to turn into something disgusting, aren't I?"

"The potion does much more than that. Even if our earthly bodies die, we will be able to exist in another form. As our new bodies age, we will be able to use Samyaza's power to regenerate ourselves. But if we can get on the boat, we won't have to worry about unsavory transformations at all."

Naamah swung her head back toward Lilith and rose to her feet. "On the boat, you say?"

"Yes. The most obvious phantasmal thread leads to a terrible flood. Our enemy is building a boat that we could use to save ourselves, but the builders have a strange shield around it. Although normal humans can penetrate it, the Watchers and Nephilim haven't been able to. They want to destroy it and change Elohim's plan to flood the world. I, however, wish to find a way to get us on board in case they fail."

Naamah paced slowly in front of her sister. "I know a man who is working on a boat. He said it is very large and well-supplied."

"That would be the one," Lilith replied. "But the builders are unlikely to give away the secret of the shield."

"When he is at the market, he speaks only of supplying the boat." Naamah stopped, cocked her head upward, and smiled. "But when he visits my room, his lips become quite loose."

Lilith scowled. "Loose being the operative word." She stood and slipped her hand around Naamah's elbow. "Did this man mention the shield?"

Naamah swiveled her hips, twirling her dress slowly back and forth. "No, but if you let me sing a song to him, I can charm him into spilling his secrets."

"Oh, really?" Lilith tipped her head upward and stroked her chin. "What's his name?"

"Ham." A burning pain drilled into Naamah's pelvis. She laid a hand over her stomach but tried not to show how much it hurt. "I don't know his family name."

"I wish you had told me about this before," Lilith said, tapping her foot on the ground. "We have to find this man."

The pain stabbed Naamah again, but deeper than before, as if something had grasped her womb with sharpened claws. Still, she forced herself to keep a calm face. "If you'd let me in on your secrets once in a while, maybe I would have known you were trying to get on board."

Lilith glanced out at the bushes again and slowly turned back. "Very well. I will tell you why we are on this journey. You will soon see how all my plans tie together." She picked up a long stick and stirred the coals in their fire, creating a billowing gray plume. A new vision coalesced in the smoke, an angel standing next to a tree. The fire spewed a finger of flame through the angel's hand, making him appear to have a brilliant sword that flashed as he stood guard.

"That is the tree of life, and I have long coveted its fruit." Lilith pointed at the flame. "Here is our problem. One of the Cherubim protects it with a sword that creates a shield of light."

"I see," Naamah said. "Now that you have one of the Seraphim on your side …"

"You're way ahead of me." Lilith glanced outside and checked the brightening morning sky. "Samyaza will be there soon. I want to see him battle the Cherub and win the sword, then we can pluck the fruit at our leisure. Once he has regained his weapon, he will be invincible, perhaps even against the archangels."

Lilith arose and, bending low, sneaked out of the cave. Naamah followed close behind, pressing her hand against her belly again. Whatever that potion was, it seemed to be turning her organs inside out.

Constantly glancing at the sky, they wound their way through a dense forest, padding softly on a wide clover path until it opened into a field. Lilith halted suddenly and stooped next to a leafy bush. Naamah leaned over her, trying to follow her sister's line of sight. In the distance, a white glow arose above a thick, thorny hedge that extended as far as the eye could see.

Lilith's voice softened to a low hiss. "The hedge is Eden's boundary. The thorns are sharper than any sword, and the poison in the tips will shrivel you into a prune in seconds. The only way to enter is through the guarded gate." She skulked to the hedge and followed it toward the glow, Naamah once again trailing her. As they drew closer, a gap appeared in the hedge, and the guarded tree came into view. Stooping again, Lilith pointed at a beautiful, white-robed angel. "His sword shoots out a beam of light that can kill us even this far away. As long as he waves it over his head, it creates an almost impenetrable shield around himself and the tree."

Naamah settled quietly behind her and peered at the darkening sky. Black clouds boiled overhead. Bolts of lightning streaked jagged forks across the heavens. "Something weird is happening," she whispered.

"I didn't expect this." Lilith's brow bent downward. "Samyaza planned to come by stealth, not with a lightning fanfare."

Naamah pointed toward the top of a tall sycamore tree. "I see him."

A winged angel, bright and shining against the stormy backdrop, glided to the ground, his silver hair flowing in the freshening breeze. Dressed in white robes, drawn tight at his waist by a golden sash, he strode to the gate and spoke to the other angel in a booming voice. "Greetings in the name of Elohim."

The Cherub nodded, waving the sword to keep the shield in place. "May our God be glorified forever. What brings a Seraph to Eden's boundary today?"

"I have come to relieve you of your duty. You are to return to the council for a new assignment."

The Cherub glanced up at the troubled sky. "Something is amiss. I sense God's hand moving in the heavens, yet no messenger has alerted me of a change."

"I am the messenger." Samyaza held out his hand. "Give me the sword and go your way."

The Cherub lowered the sword, and the shield blinked off, but he kept the hilt firmly in his grip. "With all due respect, my liege, what is your name?"

"I am Samyaza, prince of the guardian angels." He took a step closer, bringing him within arm's reach of the Cherub. "It would not be wise to continue questioning my authority. Remember Lucifer's folly."

The sword trembled in the Cherub's hand, but his voice remained steady. "Your name is familiar to me, and you have the wings of a Seraph, but I am here by order of the Majesty on High, so I cannot abandon my post on your word alone. Only Michael can countermand the order."

Streaks of darkness shot out from Samyaza's eyes, splashing the Cherub with a sizzling, oily resin that stuck fast to his robes and spread quickly over his hands and face. The sword's light flashed on in the blinded angel's hands, sending a bright beam blazing into the sky. Samyaza lunged forward and shook the Cherub's wrist, slinging the blade under the branches.

Pushing the angel to the side, Samyaza flew toward the trunk, snatched up the sword, and stalked toward the gate. The Cherub threw himself toward the sound of Samyaza's pounding footsteps and wrapped his arms around his neck. The powerful Seraph reached back, grabbed the Cherub's hair, and heaved him toward the tree. The resin-covered angel slammed against the trunk, knocking white fruit to the ground. Samyaza marched toward him, his sword raised.

A loud clap of thunder shook the earth. Another angel, the largest yet, burst from the clouds and zoomed to the ground, landing with a drawn sword raised to strike. "Be gone, Samyaza, you wretched liar. You will not have this tree or its fruit."

Samyaza backed away, visibly trembling. "Michael! I have no quarrel with you. This was my sword before I—"

"Before you left our Lord and Master to satisfy your carnal desires." Michael helped the Cherub to his feet, and with a wave of his hand, the black resin melted away. "Take the sword and crawl back into your hole with your corrupted followers. It will be nothing more than a carving knife to you now."

Samyaza held the sword aloft, but it created no beam. Not even the tiniest spark flashed from the blade. He thrust the tip into a patch of clover and drove the sword into the ground up to the hilt, then shook his fist at Michael. "The people will follow us, not the tyrant in heaven! They want to be free of his authority, and we will teach them to follow the longings of their hearts!"

Michael waved his sword and a new, brighter shield covered the tree. As the dome swirled with radiance, the entire plot of ground ripped away from the earth, uprooting the tree and carrying Michael, the Cherub, and the fallen fruit with it. "If people want true life and freedom," Michael said as they slowly lifted into the sky, "they will look above. Like rain from the heavens, that is the source of their deliverance."

Boiling clouds swallowed the shimmering tree, and, for a moment, all was quiet. Samyaza stared at the ominous ceiling, slowly turning and backing away from the garden. His wings beat the air, and, just as his feet lifted off the ground, a dragon burst out of the clouds shooting twin jets of fire from its nostrils.

Black streams surged from Samyaza's eyes, colliding with the fire. The impact created a sizzling eruption of smoky gas that spewed high into the air. The dragon pulled out of its dive and zoomed by Samyaza, smacking him with its tail before ascending again toward the clouds. Samyaza toppled, but a flurry of his wings kept him from striking the ground.

Lilith leaned over and whispered to Naamah. "Samyaza likely remembers how his master conquered the first female human. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the first female dragon."

Samyaza yanked the sword out of the ground and stabbed it at the sky. "Does the mate of Arramos only fight when she can attack by surprise?" He turned in a slow circle, his eyes darting in all directions. "Come and meet me in single combat, if you dare!"

Shachar burst out of the clouds again, and with a great beating of her wings, she landed in front of Samyaza. "I am not a dog to be baited by a bone," she roared.

The Seraph spread out his arms. "Yet, you are here, panting and drooling for the very bone you disdain."

"Only to lance a demonic abscess." She pawed the ground with her claws. "If you desire a fair fight, drop the sword and let us see who wields the greater power."

"As you wish." Samyaza bowed dramatically and released the sword.

"Step away from it," Shachar ordered. "Far away."

Samyaza marched several paces to one side and gestured toward the sword. "Satisfied?"

Shachar nodded her scaly head. "Trusting you is a fool's game, but I will risk what I must to rid the world of its greatest plague."

The shining angel flashed a wicked smile. "Since you are the aggressor, I invite your first volley."

Shachar lunged at him, her teeth bared and her nostrils flaming. Samyaza dipped under her jets and latched on to her tail as she passed over. With a mighty spin, he slung her in the direction of the sword. The dragon crashed to the ground and slid next to the hilt. As she lifted her wobbly head, her eyes seemed glazed and distant.

Samyaza zoomed to her side and grabbed the sword. With a dramatic thrust, he plunged the blade into the dragon's underbelly. Shachar let out an ear-piercing shriek and writhed in the grass. "Coward!" she screamed. "Deceiver!" She spat out a weak ball of fire, but it rolled past the towering Seraph as he backed away.

When the dragon's throes settled down, Samyaza grasped the hilt of the sword and withdrew it from her body, jumping away from a gush of fluids. He glared at the bloody blade and dropped it to the ground. "Disgusting creatures!" With a flap of his wings, he lifted into the air and disappeared in the blanket of clouds.

Shachar opened her mouth as if trying to speak. She twitched for a moment, then heaved a final sigh as her eyes slowly closed.

Lilith and Naamah ran toward the dragon. Lilith snatched up the sword and wiped the blade on the grass. "Samyaza might not be able to use this," she said, turning the blade over to clean the other side, "but if I can find the secret behind its flame, it could be a powerful weapon indeed."

She propped the blade over her shoulder and strode through the gateway, now unattended by angel or dragon. Naamah followed, gazing at the devastated garden. Knotted trees with bent crowns and twisted branches plagued the endless fields of dry grass. On one squared-off plot, leggy bushes hunkered over a tangled mess of tall weeds and thorny vines. Hundreds of thistles raised bristly heads among row after row of dwarfed fruit trees and shriveled vegetables. Naamah let out a low whistle. This was no Paradise, no land of perfection, despite the claims of her childhood songs.

Lilith tramped down to the bottom of the hole where the tree once stood. She stooped, pinching a sample of soil and drawing it close to her eyes. "Not a trace. Not a root or seed anywhere."

Naamah noticed a glinting speck in the dirt. "Here's something!" She plucked out a smooth white pebble, barely as large as her fingertip, and handed it to Lilith. "Could this be a seed?" she asked. "It looks like a pearl."

"It could be." Lilith knelt where Naamah found the pebble and used her finger to stir the soil, a mixture of moist brown dirt and a strange white paste. "Here are two more." She collected them and slid all three into her pocket. "We'll keep them for posterity."

"Posterity?"

"Future generations. I don't know how long it takes to grow a tree of life, but I intend to find out."

Lilith gazed toward a path that led into a stand of skinny oaks. "The other tree should be in that direction," she said, pointing.

As she headed toward the wood, she swiped Samyaza's sword in front of her as if fending off an invisible enemy or perhaps testing its weight and balance. Naamah had to jog to keep pace with her sister. Lilith's stern expression told her it wasn't a good time to ask questions, so she just stayed at her side, taking in the sights of loss and waste in the massive garden.

After following the path through the trees, they arrived at a glade. In the center of a circle of grass, a tree, heavy with red, oblong fruit, stood tall and lush. Lilith strode right up to the nearest branch and called out, "Lucifer, my lord and master, I bring you vital information."

A fresh breeze flapped Lilith's dress as she stood in stoic silence, the tip of the sword touching the ground in front of her. The wind crawled up Naamah's legs, bringing her a chill. The pain in her stomach had settled, but a new queasiness took over. Something foul drew near, worse than a fetid carcass. Whatever it was seemed to seep through her skin and into her heart, making it slow to a few, sickening thumps.

Soon, a gentle hissing joined the shush of the wind. A long, thick snake slithered out onto the branch and rested its head near a bobbing fruit. Lilith extended her arm and pushed her hand under the serpent's belly. Bearing scales like sun-baked leather, black hexagons meshed with olive-green, the snake crept along Lilith's pale arm. Its tongue darted in and out from its triangular head as it spoke in a slow, threatening cadence. "If you have come to tell me about Naamah's customer, you have come in vain. While I am in this cursed condition, my disciples sneak in through the garden's western gate. One of my agents overheard your conversation and reported the news about this boat builder."

"So that's what we heard in the bushes," Lilith said. "It was a spy."

The snake flicked its tongue, touching her cheek with its forked points. "I send spies on my enemies and my followers, especially followers as ambitious as you."

As the snake wrapped a coil around Lilith's neck, she lifted her chin and swallowed hard. "And how shall we use the information, my lord?"

The snake maneuvered its head in front of Lilith's eyes, wavering back and forth in a hypnotic sway. "I sent my agent to speak to my servant, Lamech, son of Mathushael. I have ordered Lamech to adopt Naamah into his family. Naamah's new brother, Tubalcain, knows Ham and will offer her to be Ham's wife."

"His wife?" Naamah said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Ham is a regular customer, but that doesn't mean I want him for a husband!"

The serpent's head shot toward Naamah, its fangs extended as it bit the empty air just inches in front of her eyes. Naamah staggered backwards, catching one of the tree's branches to keep her balance. Recoiling over Lilith's shoulders, the serpent hissed, "Either marry him or die!"

Naamah shivered in the tree's shadow, holding her stomach again as the fierce pain stabbed her insides.

The serpent turned its flaming red eyes back to Lilith. "Ham's father will recognize your name, so you must change it before you meet him. We cannot allow him to know who and what you are."

"Of course, my lord." Lilith kept her head tited upward. "Do you have a preference?"

"Choose whatever pleases you. I will arrange things to make your new name work."

Lilith smiled. "As you wish, my master."

The serpent's tongue flicked again. "I have news about the sword."

Lilith lifted the blade. "The secret to its flames?"

"Yes. The sword is designed to detect the nature of the hands that grasp it. The flames shoot from the blade only if the hands are innocent and undefiled. Of course, the Cherub who guarded the tree of life was holy, so he was able to use the blade's protective shield over the tree."

Lilith ran a finger along the blade. "And Samyaza's hands have been deemed corrupt." She gazed at the grip, wiggling her fingers around it. "Can the sword be fooled into thinking it is being held by holy hands?"

"Perhaps. It has no thinking process of its own. It merely responds to how it was forged."

Lilith studied the etchings in the blade's silvery metal. "Who are the two dragons doing battle in the design?"

"I am one of them, and I struggle with a dragon who is to come, a warrior who will fight with me to become king of the dragons. Michael etched that symbol when he gave the sword to Samyaza and commissioned him to find and protect the holy dragon who would come to try to conquer me."

"I see," Lilith said, nodding. "So this king must have holy hands in order to defeat you."

"Yes. But since this usurper could be a human representative for the dragons, our goal is to corrupt every family line, whether dragon or human, with the seed of the fallen ones. But, beware. Elohim has already hatched a plan to thwart ours. I know little more than a code phrase one of my disciples overheard—'oracles of fire.'"

"That's it? No context?"

"Only that there are two of them. Perhaps a pair of angels commissioned specifically to infiltrate our ranks and destroy our work from within."

"I will watch for them." Lilith lowered the sword. "And when will you become a dragon again and leave the garden?"

As the serpent slithered along Lilith's arm, she raised her hand to the tree. It coiled around the branch, and its head turned back toward her, its voice echoing like a ghostly whisper. "When I steal the body of a certain dragon, I will be whole once more." It crawled back into the thicker foliage and disappeared.

Naamah ran from the tree and sidled up to Lilith, crossing her arms again. Lilith chuckled and kissed the top of her head. "Don't worry, Sister. Yours will be a marriage of convenience. We can dispose of Ham when he has served his purpose."

Naamah turned her back to Lilith, her arms still crossed. "Then you marry him. You seem ready to betray your husband."

Lilith grabbed Naamah's shoulder and spun her back around, her eyes turning bright scarlet. "I'm doing this for us!"

The pain from Lilith's grip made Naamah shake. As she stared at her sister's fiery eyes, she felt tears forming in her own.

Lilith slowly relaxed her fingers. Stroking Naamah's hair, she leaned close and whispered, "Lucifer has given me the means to carry out the plan that will save our lives. He knows Samyaza is not likely to cooperate, but I don't really want to betray my own husband." She pressed the tip of the sword into the grass. "I won't resort to draining his power unless I have to."

"Draining his power?" Naamah pointed at the sword. "With that?"

"No." Lilith spread out her fingers, showing Naamah her palm. Splotches of purple stained her skin from the heel of her hand to her fingertips. "My seed concoction has many uses, and absorbing potency will come in handy." Reaching up, she caressed one of the red fruits dangling from the tree. "Speaking of seeds" —she plucked the fruit—"I think these might also come in handy."

"For posterity again?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes." Lilith dropped the apple-sized fruit on the ground and chopped down with the sword, slicing it cleanly in half. Kneeling, she picked through the flesh, collecting six seeds, then, spreading out her fingers again, she let the sparkling red seeds roll around on her stained palm.

"They look like rubies!" Naamah said.

Lilith dropped them into her pocket along with the others. "Much more valuable than rubies, Sister. They are the seeds of corruption. And those who control the corrupting influence wield the power to rule the corrupted."

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 609 pages
Publisher: AMG Publishers (September 25, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN: 0899578705