Monthly Archives: September 2013

When Truth Whispers by Dora Hiers

My Review:
This is a cute short story with some mystery involved. Teal comes home after being away for a long while, and awakens old feelings in Hunter. There are complications with secrets between them, though….and I will leave you to wonder if they will resolve them!

I enjoyed it! I wished it would have been longer however, as with most of these short eBooks, you barely get into the story and it ends. They are cheap though and good entertainment!

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:

Pelican Ventures Book Group-White Rose Publishing (March 14, 2013)
***Special thanks to Dora Hiers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 After a successful auditing career, Dora left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom to her two sons. When her youngest son didn’t want her hanging out at school with him anymore, Dora started writing Heart Racing, God-Gracing romance. Dora belongs to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Carolina Christian Writers. Dora and her husband, her real life hero, make their home in North Carolina.

When Dora isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, family gatherings, and mountain cabin getaways. She despises traffic, bad coffee, technological meltdowns, and a sad ending to a book. Her books always end with a happily-ever-after!

Readers can connect with Dora:
Website – www.dorahiers.com
Email – Dora(at)DoraHiers(dot)com
Blogs – http://seriouslywrite.blogspot.com/ & http://dorahiers.blogspot.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/dorahiers
Twitter – https://twitter.com/DoraHiers
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/dorahiers/boards/

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

After a humiliating breakup, best-selling romance author Teal Benning flees to Promise Lake to complete her current novel, minus paparazzi and flashing cameras. Suffering from writer’s block and a broken heart, Teal accepts the offer of help from neighbor, Hunter Miciver.

Hunter longs to be more than the friend who picks up the shattered pieces of Teal’s heart, but when Teal finds out his secret, will she see him for the man he is—a man of faith and devotion, a man who would cherish her for the rest of her days—or will she lump him into the same category as all the other men in her life, including her father?

Will Teal recognize when truth whispers her name?

Product Details:
List Price: $3.99
File Size: 276 KB
Print Length: 126 pages
Publisher: Pelican Ventures Book Group-White Rose Publishing (March 14, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00BUD26QC
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Lending: Enabled

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“You can stop screaming now, Kibbles. We’re home.”

Teal Benning downshifted and coasted into the gravel driveway, the wail of country music drowning the cicadas’ chatter coming through the sports car’s open windows. But the tunes did nothing to tame her cat’s occasional ear-piercing screech.

Home? Not technically, but close enough. She’d grown up in this tiny house tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Promise Lake.

For the last five years, home was in Atlanta, where she was Teal Benning, best-selling romance author and pro-basketball superstar Ian Hartsuk’s fiancée.

In Promise Lake, she was just Teal Benning.

Teal sighed and closed the windows. Jerking the keys from the ignition, the silence settled over her, and in the darkness, a glint sparkled from her finger, the remnant of her two-year-long relationship. Teal stared at the single diamond and clamped her lips together.

Correction. Ian Hartsuk’s ex-fiancée.

She tugged off the ring and smashed it deep into her laptop bag.

Why hadn’t she flung it at Ian’s head? She would have relished his expression as he watched several thousand dollars sink to the bottom of the hot tub. Wouldn’t that have been priceless? Nah. What was a few thousand to him? She’d figure out what to do with it later.

Teal stepped out on stiff legs, giving the short black dress a yank south and tugging her sweater tighter. She heaved the laptop bag over a shoulder and reached in for Kibbles’s carrier. Dried leaves crunched under high-heeled sandals as she wobbled around to the back of the car in the loose gravel.

The blackness settled around Teal’s throat like a noose. Her eyes burned, but she refused to give in to self-pity. What had she expected? Ian was no different from any other man she knew. Including her father. Cheating and lying, that was the name of their game.

Teal lifted her chin and pushed back her shoulders. All she needed was three months of disconnecting from the world and the constant paparazzi who hounded her in Atlanta. Without anyone traipsing around after her vying for the most obnoxious camera shot, and with Internet service more off than on, she’d forget all about Ian and the looming wedding date. The wedding that wouldn’t happen.

She had three months to pound out the words to the book that had already eluded her for eight weeks. Ninety days to create a heart-racing romance.

With a broken heart.

Teal clenched her jaw.

One look at the eye-popping price tag on the long white dress hanging in her closet in Atlanta would fix that.

Teal set the cat carrier and laptop bag on the ground and pressed her fingers against the tense muscles along the back of her neck, rolled her shoulders, and stretched. She reached into the trunk for her suitcase.

“Took you forever and a day to get home, Teal.”

Her head jerked up and banged against the trunk lid, breaking the expensive clip holding her hair in an elaborate twist. Hair fell over her eyes, and she lost her hold on the over-stuffed suitcase. It landed with a thud on the cat carrier, the contents spilling out onto the damp ground.

Kibbles screeched and clawed through the opening, then scampered away to cower in the bushes next to the house.

The voice in the darkness sounded deeper, richer, bolder, than she remembered. But comfortable.

And definitely amused.

“Make yourself useful, Hunter, and give a girl a hand.” She didn’t bother turning around, just knelt down and reached for the undies first. She scooped up the bras next and stuffed them in the suitcase pocket.

Yeah, she’d been angry and hurt. But was that an excuse to fling every stitch of clothing she owned into a suitcase for just a three-month stay? It wasn’t as if her mother didn’t own a washer and dryer. Sheesh!

“I’ll get this, Teal. You get that ferocious tiger of a cat.” Heavy footsteps ground into the gravel, and Hunter Miciver squatted next to her.

“Ha! That ferocious tiger weighs about seven pounds. All meow, no bite. Kibbles isn’t used to being outside. She’ll be lurking somewhere near the front door.” She snatched a stray bra off the ground and dangled it behind her back.

Hunter stuffed the rest of the clothes into the case and glanced at her, waiting, holding the lid open.

She rolled her eyes and crammed the bra into the case.

He closed the suitcase and unfolded to his full height, all six feet of him.

She stood, the top of her head reaching Hunter’s neck. Unlike Ian, where she’d barely reached his chest and always felt like such a minuscule person in the midst of his giant friends.

But then, they hadn’t turned out to be her friends, had they? Only Ian’s. Including her best friend, Kate.

Some best friend.

Not Hunter. He was a true friend, a lifelong ally. Had he known, Hunter would have warned her about Ian. Hunter couldn’t lie if his life depended on it.

Teal smiled. “Thanks, Hunter. It’s good to see you.”

A cool breeze caressed her face, along with Hunter’s scent. Different than what she remembered. Distinctly masculine with a hint of…she sniffed. Peppermint?

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you’re home. Crazy loud feline, and all.” Hunter closed the trunk lid and turned to face her. Even in the darkness, she made out the sympathy in his expression. Lacking his trademark smile and the crease lines around his eyes, both arms opened wide and reached out for her. “I’m sorry, Teal.”

She lifted her chin.

She. Would. Not. Cry.

Not over a jerk like Ian. And not even for two wasted years.

But, Kate? The first friend she’d made in Atlanta?

Teal couldn’t stop the single sob that crawled from the back of her throat. She took a step forward, and Hunter’s arms tightened around her.

She closed her eyes. A hug never felt so warm, so comforting, so…like coming home.

From Hunter Miciver?

Was that because she had known Hunter since elementary school? Hunter and his sister, Kelli, who lived across the street and were the only other kids in their neighborhood, played together after school every day. They spent the summers hanging out at the lake, and winter weekends skiing, tubing, or snowboarding.

Or was it because he acted like her big brother, too? He never complained about tagging along with her and Kelli on their first few dates. Crushing six teenagers into a car made for four didn’t even bug the guy.

Somewhere along their journey, Hunter had evolved into a friend with open arms, always willing to share a hug when her relationships soured and disintegrated.

Which they always did.

But a dear friend was all Hunter would ever be. Not quite marriage material. Or dating for that matter.

Not that she was looking. Because she was definitely not in the market.

She disengaged herself from his arms with a gentle step back. She didn’t want him to get the wrong idea.

A rush of cool air whispered by. She shivered and tugged her sweater tighter, rubbing her hands against the thin material covering her upper arms. “How did you know?”

He leaned against the car and crossed his arms. One brow lifted. “Your breakup is plastered all over the Internet, Teal.”  He made the quotation symbol with his fingers. “Best-selling romance author suffers heartbreak—”

Sheesh! Was it an unspoken rule that the girlfriend was always the last to know her boyfriend was cheating on her?

“OK, Hunter. I get the message.” Teal sucked in a deep, shaky breath, the crisp mountain air soothing her battered spirit a little. “When did you get in?”

“Just drove into the driveway myself. Followed you in. Didn’t you see me behind you?”

No, she hadn’t. She had been…distracted.

By the image of Ian’s teeth nibbling a trail along some brunette’s neck, his hands blazing a different path. And the click before a camera flashed, the exact moment when she realized who the brunette hair belonged to.

Defeat and weariness weighed heavy against Teal’s shoulders. She sighed, sliding a gaze over Hunter, from the baseball cap hanging low over his head, past the black leather jacket and the snug-fitting jeans down to the tennis shoes. “You look great, Hunter. I like the whiskers.”

And the longish, curly hair. Not like his teen, geeky years when he always wore it short. And he had bulked out. He wasn’t so scrawny anymore. Not that she would share that little tidbit with him.

One side of his lips curved at her appraisal, and he hoisted himself away from the car. “Come on. Let’s get your stuff and your screaming cat, inside. Maybe I can talk you into throwing on a pot of coffee. That was a long drive.” Hunter grabbed the handle of her suitcase and heaved the laptop bag over a shoulder.

“Coffee?” She scooped up the cat carrier. “It’s after midnight. It’ll have to be decaf, because I don’t plan on staying awake all night.”

He gave his head a little jerk, the smile crinkles around his eyes more obvious. “Decaf? What’s up with that, Teal? You’re not even in your thirties, and you’re drinking decaf?”

She shrugged and slid the key into the front door. He didn’t need to know that she hadn’t slept a full night since…it didn’t matter. “So, what’s it feel like, Hunter? The big three-oh?”

“Just another blessed day in the big scheme of things, Teally.”

Hunter, ever the eternal optimist.

She understood a little of that now. Thanks to the military chaplain she’d interviewed for her last book. But lately, questions ping-ponged in her brain, growing more agitated the moment her head hit the pillow at night.

She pushed the door open and flipped on the light switch to the great room. Fur rubbed against her ankles as Kibbles darted inside.

“Wow! Your mom made a few changes,” he whispered.

The previous furnishings of worn recliners and a flea market sofa had been replaced with a couple new leather couches. Dark. Rich. Expensive. Definitely not her mom’s usual decorating touch.

Teal stared, gulped. “Yeah. I guess so. That’s what I get for not making it home in a while.”

“Too long, Teal.”

The sadness in his voice made her look at him. Some unreadable emotion lingered around his eyes, compressed his lips.

“Maybe, but how would you know? How many times have you been home in the last year?”

His face cracked into a giant grin. “Probably about as many times as you. But Kelli keeps me up-to-date with any changes on the home front.”

Kelli, Hunter’s twenty-eight-year-old sister was Teal’s childhood best friend, although mostly online now, since about four hours of driving time separated them. “The rat. I should have known.”

With quiet steps he disappeared up the stairs, carrying her suitcase to the bedroom her mother still preserved for her. She set the carrier on the hardwood floor and wandered into the utility room, removing her sweater and hooking it on the rack. Teal retrieved Kibbles’s food and water dish and filled them up, then dumped fresh litter into the box her mother kept for her visits.

Teal slipped back into the kitchen, breathing a quiet sigh that her mother hadn’t redecorated in here.

She flipped the coffeemaker switch as sneakers slapped the wood floor behind her.

“At least your old bed is still in the bedroom.” That voice, so deep and intense, did funny things to her insides. Weird.

Or was she just comparing Hunter’s deep tone to Ian’s voice, which seemed rather whiny in comparison? She frowned. She so didn’t want to go there, to be the kind of person who constantly trashed the ex-fiancée.

Water gurgled through the coffeemaker, the precious aroma quickly filling the small kitchen. She grabbed a couple mugs from the cabinet and automatically added sweetener to hers. Hunter liked his coffee black.

“So what’s going on with you, Hunter? How long will you be home?”

“Until the first week of January.”

She glanced over a shoulder, the coffee decanter hovering just above the mugs.

Hunter had taken off his leather jacket and lounged against the counter, arms crossed, his muscled upper torso filling out that black long-sleeved shirt, oh-so-nicely.

What was wrong with her? She blinked and turned her attention back to the decanter, now dribbling coffee on the countertop. “You can take off work that long?”

“Nah, not really. I’ll get some work done from here, including online meetings. But everybody needs a little downtime, Teal.”

Maybe she should have been a graphic arts designer. Granted, she had the flexibility to work from wherever she chose, but deadlines waited for no writer. Didn’t she know it? She had three months. Until February 17th.

She finished pouring the coffee and handed him the mug. “Where is home now?”

He cleared his throat, adjusted the ball cap lower over his face and mumbled, “Mostly D.C.”

Teal waited for him to elaborate.

“Teal, you’re home. I wasn’t expecting you until next week sometime.” Teal’s mother breezed into the kitchen. She planted a kiss on Teal’s cheek and gave her a one-armed hug, being careful not to spill Teal’s coffee. She did the same with Hunter. “Good to see you, too, Hunter.”

“I’m sorry to wake you, Ramona.”

Teal didn’t flinch at Hunter’s use of her mother’s first name.

Ramona had reverted to her maiden name after her divorce and despised the title “Mrs.” Everybody called her Ramona. Including Teal, most of the time.

“That’s OK, Hunter. I heard talking, and I just wanted to make sure that it was Teal.” Ramona covered a yawn.

That was odd. Who else would be talking in the kitchen in the middle of the night?

Teal narrowed her eyes and stared at her mother.

A new, colorful robe was knotted around her waist. And Ramona’s long hair? Where was it? She wore it now cut short, and angled at the bottom.

Teal’s jaw dropped.

Hunter reached over and propped Teal’s chin up with his thumb, a gentle expression on his face. Pity? Why not? He knew about her breakup and that she never handled changes well.

What a long day. All she wanted was to slink upstairs, curl up in the bed, and bury her head under a pillow. Would she wake up to find this day had been a nightmare?

“Nice hair cut, Ramona.” Teal managed to choke out the words.

And it was. Truly. But why would Ramona cut her hair?

“Thanks, honey. It was time to let my long hair go.”

The furniture. A drastic haircut and a brand new, flashy red robe.

What was next? The kitchen? Teal’s bedroom?

“Want some coffee, Ramona? I just made a pot. Decaf.” Teal sank onto the bar stool in front of the island.

“No. I’m headed back to bed. Is everything OK, honey?”

Teal stiffened. She hadn’t had a chance to break the ugly news. But that conversation would not take place tonight. Teal forced her lips into a smile. “Sure. Why?”

Her mother studied Teal’s short, black party dress. “Well, for one reason, when we spoke on the phone last, you said you were coming home next week.”

Hunter’s brows arched.

Next week. Yes, well, that was before the hot tub incident with Ian and Kate tonight. She sucked in a deep breath and tugged her dress down. She felt naked, exposed, vulnerable.

Hunter stepped so close she caught that whiff of peppermint again. He looped an arm around her shoulder.

She glanced up, surprised at the tenderness shining from his warm eyes.

“Isn’t it wonderful that Teal could work out her schedule to come home early for the holidays? It’s been far too long since we’ve had a chance to hang out. Maybe we can find time to hit the slopes sometime next month.”

Her hero, stepping in to save the day.

Or rather, to shore up the emotional dam that threatened to break. She managed to send a smile of gratitude and caught his wink.

His stomach growled.

All three of them laughed.

Hunter dropped his arm to pat his belly. “Quiet down there.”

“Hunter, I think you’d better feed that hungry bear hiding inside you. I’m sure I have something in this kitchen that you and Teal can scrounge up.” Ramona looked from one to the other, something akin to suspicion mingling with her smile. “All right, then, I’m off to bed. See you in the morning, Teal. Good night, Hunter.”

Well, that conversation was postponed. Thanks to Hunter. Missing the warmth of Hunter’s arm, Teal shivered and rubbed her arms. Why hadn’t she changed into jeans for the trip here? “Sleep well, Mom. See you in a few hours.”

“Good night, Ramona,” Hunter added.

Her mother padded from the room.

Hunter leaned back against the counter, sipping coffee. He’d changed. Grown and filled out. But he was still the same childhood buddy. She smiled.

“What?”

“Did I tell you it’s good to see you?”

“I missed you, too, Teal.”

“I didn’t say that.” She sputtered, swatting him on the upper arm. Her hand met firm, lean muscle. Stunned, she blinked. A couple times.

“It was implied.” Satisfaction gleamed from his roasted-coffee-colored eyes and curved one side of his lips.

“Would you like something to eat, Hunter? Ramona always has eggs and cereal in the house.”

Hunter pulled a cell phone from his jeans pocket and studied it. His eyes widened, and then his lips thinned. He scrubbed his beard. “I’m sorry, Teal, but I’ve got to run. Um…a client needs something. Will you be OK?”

A client? In the middle of the night?

“If one more person asks if I’ll be OK—”

“Hey. Don’t shoot me. Just checking. You just went through a rough experience, and I haven’t seen you in awhile.” He mashed the phone back in his pocket and drained his coffee, then pushed away from the counter. He rinsed out the cup, eyeing her over his shoulder. “You up for a run in the morning?”

Teal glanced at the kitchen clock. Two a.m. Now that she was away from the public eye, she might be able to catch a few hours of good sleep. “Hunter, I don’t know what world you live in, but it’s morning now.”

That familiar coaxing smile appeared, the one he always used to cajole her into cooperating with his plans. He slid an appreciative glance over her bare legs. “You may be just a tad out of shape, Teal, but you’re not too far gone from our track days. What? Are you afraid I’ll show you up?”

“Out of shape! Show me up?” She snorted and stood up. “Right. Like that’s going to happen.”

“OK, then. How about seven-thirty?”

She didn’t usually work until Saturday afternoons, anyway. And it was just a run, not an all-day event.

“Only if you promise to throw in breakfast, too.” She groaned. How had she let him talk her into this?

One dark brow arched, and he flashed a wicked grin. How did he do it? This cheeriness. At two in the morning.

She wanted to growl.

“It’s a deal, Teally. With at least a gallon of coffee, too. I’ll meet you here.”

“Awful smug, aren’t you? We’ll see if you’re singing the same tune after you’re eating my dust.” She mumbled as she flipped the coffeemaker off and followed Hunter to the front door, her gaze drawn to his bulky shoulders and wide, strong back. Hunter must be on some workout regimen.

“G’night, Hunter. Sweet dreams.”

He glanced over a shoulder, his eyes suddenly dark and unreadable. “Night, Teally. See you in a few hours.”

She closed the door behind him. She was glad Hunter was home. Maybe they could spend some time together, revisit their teen hangouts like the ski slope and the lake.

February 17th. Burn that date in your brain, Teal.

She had three months to finish this book.

She couldn’t afford to let Hunter be a distraction.

****

Hunter cocked his head, listening for the click of Teal’s deadbolt, and popped a peppermint in his mouth.

Sweet dreams?

Hunter didn’t have time for dreams. He needed to get to his computer. Fast.

And hit the bathroom even faster.

He couldn’t afford to let Teal be a distraction.

For now, anyway. Not when Shale needed him.

He probably shouldn’t have spared the precious minutes to come over to see Teal. But she had surprised him by turning onto their small road ahead of his car.

And here he was. Like a moth drawn irresistibly to the light of her smile.

After all, shouldn’t there be some perk to being in Promise Lake and not halfway across the world?

The real reason he’d returned to this side of the world growled again, disrupting the peaceful night. Pain shot through his gut. He pressed a hand against his stomach.

A distinct click rattled from the other side of the door.

He hustled to the end of the driveway, and then jogged across the street to his parents’ house.

What happened to the operation? He didn’t expect to hear from Shale until sometime tomorrow, er…today. Later today.

“What’s going on, Shale?” he huffed, under his breath.

Hunter stopped to grab his bags from the car then raced inside and up the stairs towards his old bedroom. He set the bags down and hit the bathroom.

When the overseas doctor suggested medical tests, he had said no. What would happen if the doctor found something that required surgery? How would he cope by himself? Here in the states his family could help if surgery was necessary.

Relieved for the moment, he sank into the desk chair, which squeaked, as loud and obnoxious as ever. He booted up the computer and tugged his favorite sports cap off, running a hand through his hair. “Come on. Come on.”

Finally. He tapped at the keys, and while he waited for the program to load, he pulled out his cell phone and texted Shale.

Hunter glanced at the bed next to the desk. He closed his eyes and rubbed them, and then circled his neck to work out some kinks.

Two-thirty.

Samson, his parents’ ten-year-old golden retriever, ambled into the room and gave him the “What are you doing interrupting my sleep?” dogface.

“Hey, old buddy. How’s it going?” Hunter scratched the dog’s head until Samson plopped down on the rug and huffed.

“I’m with you, buddy.”

With a couple hours of work ahead of him, he would be lucky to catch some sleep before he left to run with Teal.

What would it be like to have a normal job? One where he could be snuggling under that toasty comforter by now. Where operatives or assets situated all over the world weren’t texting him at odd hours of the night. Er, morning.

Or to be married? With a wife to warm his bed, to cozy up to him with a hug at the end of a long day. And a family to come home to, with plenty of kids to help him see that the world wasn’t all bad. To bring the smiles and the laughter back into his day.

God, will Teal ever see me as the right man for her? Not just some jerk who will treat her bad, but the one who will show her what true romance is? With Your help, I would do my best to take care of her, love her, and cherish her for all of my days.

He would give up the job for her. In a second.

But one thing he wouldn’t do.

He refused to be someone she turned to for hugs and comfort when her boyfriends dumped her. Or the other way around.

And what’s the first thing he did tonight when he saw her?

Offered a hug.

Mush ball.

Hunter checked the screen. Time to get clicking.

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Filed under Book Reviews

Week 4 of school…Exploration to 1850’s

Week 4 of school is done!!! Week 5 is started because of some vacation time I am having to take, we are trying to do ahead of ourselves a bit, so we don’t get behind.

However, I know we will be learning a lot on the vacation time as well!

We had a hard week! It seems like the time sometimes makes school harder, but I know I am going to push through it and get it done!

They are learning a ton too!
P1060267

T.’s notebooking looks a little different than the rest of the boys. He however is learning!

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Writing away

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His idea of what the Mayflower should have looked like…

P1060265Math time….blocks left scattered.

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L. thinks lately school is so hard to wake up for. It might help if he goes to bed earlier though!

P1060274One of our science books

We have been learning deeply about Mammals this week! I found it very interesting learning about marsupials and their birth processes. It might be nicer to grow the baby outside yourself!

P1060275We used this on Thursday as we were out a bit, working on school out and about! They turned in some writing work for their classes and we are set!

P1060276Working from bed for school!

P1060277I am warm!!!

P1060280Reading our science!

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They really detailed back to me what they learned and added a bunch of info they learned on WildKratts

P1060284A  notebooking page from one of their notebooks.

P1060291Plans for the future/high school history and literature ideas!

P1060286Reading and acting out Julius Caesar

P1060287They enjoyed it! Later my son said to me “That was school?”

 

P1060288The younger boys were playing with the microscope and a camera

P1060289That one is clearer!

P1060290The microscope! I didn’t get them in action with it…but it was a great learning afternoon.

 

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Filed under Daily Happenings, Homeschooling, MFW

Beyond these hills by Sandra Robbins

My Review:

I think the best part about this book was it was refreshing to see characters that were honest from the beginning. Andrew could have not told them when he did, who he was and there would have been the classic misunderstanding that is so frustrating, but instead, the honesty was refreshing.

Set in the Smoky mountains, the history behind forming the national park there, was heartbreaking. It made me want to go and read and research the history behind the parks.

This is a great read…one to enjoy on one of those crisp fall evenings with a cup of tea. Sweet and simple romance!

-Martha

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 (September 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

In the romantic conclusion to the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, Sandra Robbins tells a story of love and loss. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Laurel Jackson fears she’ll have to say goodbye to the only home she’s ever known. Can she find the strength to leave?

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In the romantic conclusion to the Smoky Mountain Dreams series, Sandra Robbins tells a story of love and loss. The government is purchasing property to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Laurel Jackson fears she’ll have to say goodbye to the only home she’s ever known. Can she find the strength to leave?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Smoky Mountain Dreams (Book 3)
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736948880
ISBN-13: 978-0736948883

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Cades Cove, Tennessee

June, 1935

  The needle on the pickup truck’s speedometer eased to thirty miles an hour. Laurel Jackson bit back a smile and glanced at her father. With his right hand on the steering wheel and his left elbow hanging out the open window, he reminded her of a little boy absorbed in the wonder of a new toy.

The wind ruffled his dark, silver-streaked hair, and a smile pulled at the corner of his mouth as the truck bounced along. His eyes held a faraway look that told her he was enjoying every minute of the drive along the new road that twisted through Cades Cove.

If truth be told, though, the truck with its dented fenders wasn’t all that new. He’d bought it a few months ago from Warren Hubbard, who’d cleaned out a few ditches in Cades Cove trying to bring the little Ford to a stop. Rumor had it he kept yelling Whoa! instead of pressing the brake. The good-natured ribbing of his neighbors had finally convinced Mr. Hubbard that he had no business behind the wheel of a truck.

Laurel’s father didn’t have that problem. He took to driving like their old hound dog Buster took to trailing a raccoon. Neither gave up until they’d finished what they’d started. Mama often said she didn’t know which one’s stubborn ways vexed her more—Poppa’s or Buster’s. Of course her eyes always twinkled when she said it.

The truck was another matter entirely. Mama saw no earthly reason why they needed that contraption on their farm when they had a perfectly good wagon and buggy. To her, it was another reminder of how life in Cades Cove was changing. Laurel could imagine what her mother would say if she could see Poppa now as the speed-
ometer inched up to thirty-five. Land’s sakes, Matthew. If you don’t keep both hands on the wheel, you’re gonna end up killing us all.

But Mama wasn’t with them today to tell Poppa they weren’t in a race, and he was taking advantage of her absence to test the limits of the truck. At this rate they’d make it to Gatlinburg earlier than expected. When she was a little girl, the ride in their wagon over to the mountain village that had become a favorite of tourists had seemed to take forever. Now, it took them less than half the time to get there.

She glanced at her father again and arched an eyebrow. “You’d better be glad Mama stayed home.”

Her father chuckled. “Do you think she’d say I was driving too fast?”

Laurel tilted her head to one side and tried to narrow her eyes into a thoughtful pose. “I’m sure she wouldn’t hesitate to let you know exactly how she felt.”

A big smile creased her father’s face, and he nodded. “You’re right about that. Your mother may run a successful business from a valley in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, but she’d just as soon pass up all the modern conveniences the money she makes could provide her. Sometimes I think she’d be happier if we were still living in that one-room cabin we had when we first married.”

Laurel laughed and nodded. “I know. But I imagine she’ll be just as happy today to have us out of the way. She can unload her latest pottery from the kiln and get the lodge cleaned and ready for the tourists we have coming Monday.”

Her father’s right hand loosened on the steering wheel, and his left one pulled the brim of his hat lower on his forehead. “It looks like business is going to be good this year. We already have reservations for most of the summer, and our guests sure do like to take home some of her pieces from Mountain Laurel Pottery.”

Laurel frowned. There would be guests this summer, but what about next year and the year after that? A hot breeze blew through the open window, and she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket. She mopped at the perspiration on her forehead before she swiveled in her seat to face her father. “Having the lodge and the pottery business is kind of like a mixed blessing, isn’t it?”

He frowned but didn’t take his eyes off the road. “How do you mean?”

Laurel’s gaze swept over the mountains that ringed the valley where she’d lived all her life. Her love for the mist-covered hills in the distance swelled up in her, and she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. “Well, I was just thinking that we get paid well by the folks who stay at our lodge while they fish and hike the mountain trails, and Mama makes a lot of money selling them her pottery. But is the money worth what we’ve lost?” She clasped her hands in her lap. “I miss the quiet life we had in the Cove when I was a little girl.”

Her father’s forehead wrinkled. “So do I, darling, but you’re all grown up now, and those days are long gone. Change has been happening for a long time, but our way of life officially ended twelve years ago with the plan for the Smokies to become a national park. Now most of the mountain land’s been bought up by the government, and there’s a park superintendent in place over at Gatlinburg. I guess we have to accept the fact that the park is a reality.”

A tremor ran through Laurel’s body. She clutched her fists tighter until her fingernails cut into her palms. “No matter what we’re doing or talking about, it always comes back to one question, doesn’t it?”

Her father glanced at her. “What’s that?”

“How long can we keep the government from taking our land?”

“Well, they don’t have it yet.” The lines in her father’s face deepened, and the muscle in his jaw twitched. “At the moment, all the land that borders our farm has been bought and is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There aren’t many of us holding on in the Cove, but we’re not giving up without a fight. I have a meeting with our lawyer in Gatlinburg today to see how our court case is going. You can get your mama’s pottery delivered to Mr. Bryan’s store, can’t you?”

 “I didn’t know you had a meeting with the lawyer. Don’t worry about the pottery. Willie and I can take care of that.”

A smile cracked her father’s moments-ago stony features at the mention of her younger brother, who was riding in the truck’s bed. “You make sure that boy helps you. He has a habit of disappearing every time I have a job for him. I sure wish he’d grow up and start taking on some responsibility around the farm.”

Laurel laughed. “Willie’s only twelve, Poppa. When he’s as old as Charlie or me, he’ll settle down.”

Her father shook his head. “I don’t know about that. He’s always gonna be your mother’s baby.”

Before she could respond, the truck hit a bump in the road and a yell from behind pierced her ears. Laughing, she turned and looked through the back window. Willie’s face stared back at her. “Do it again, Pa,” he yelled. “That was fun.”

Her father frowned, grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, and leaned over to call out the window. “Be still, Willie, before you fall out and land on your head.”

Willie stood up, grabbed the side of the open window, and leaned around the truck door to peer into the cab. “Won’t this thing go any faster?”

Her father’s foot eased up, and he frowned. “We’re going fast enough. Sit down, Willie.”

The wind whipped Willie’s dark hair in his eyes. He was grinning. “Jacob’s pa has a truck that’ll go fifty on a smooth stretch,” he yelled. “See what ours will do.”

The veins in her father’s neck stood out, and the speedometer needle dropped to twenty. “If you don’t sit down and stay put, I’m gonna stop and make you sit up here between your sister and me.”

“I’m just saying you ought to open this thing up and see what she’ll do.”

The muscle in her father’s jaw twitched again, and Laurel put her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. How many times had she seen her no-nonsense father and her fun-loving brother locked in a battle of wills? Her father took a deep breath and shook his head.

“Willie, for the last time…”

Willie leaned closer to the window, glanced at Laurel, and winked. “Okay. I’ll sit, but I still think we could go a little faster. Jacob’s gonna get to Gatlinburg way before we do.”

The truck slowed to a crawl. “Willie…”

A big grin covered Willie’s mouth. “Okay, okay. I’m just trying to help. I know Mr. Bryan is waitin’ for these crates of Mama’s pottery. I’d hate to get there after he’d closed the store.”

“He’s not going to close the store. Now for the last time, do as I say.”

“Okay, okay. I’m sittin’.”

Willie pushed away from the window and slid down into the bed of the truck. Her father straightened in the seat and shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that boy. He’s gonna put me in my grave before I’m ready.”

Laurel laughed, leaned over, and kissed her father’s cheek. “How many times have I heard you say that? I think you love sparring with him. He reminds you of Mama.”

For the first time today, a deep laugh rumbled in her father’s throat. “That it does. That woman has kept me on my toes for twenty years now.” He glanced over his shoulder through the back glass toward Willie, who now sat hunkered down in the bed of the truck. “But I doubt if I’ll make it with that boy. He tests my patience every day.”

Laurel smiled as she reached up and retied the bow at the end of the long braid that hung over her shoulder and down the front of her dress. “I doubt that will happen. You have more patience than anybody I know. There aren’t many in our valley who’ve been able to stand up to the government and keep them from taking their land. Just you and Grandpa Martin and a few more. Everybody else has given up and sold out.”

There it was again. The ever-present shadow that hung over their lives. Cove residents were selling out and leaving. How long could they hang on?

“Seems like we’re losing all our friends, doesn’t it?” Her father shook his head and pointed straight ahead. “Like Pete and Laura Ferguson. We’re almost to their farm. I think I’ll stop for a minute. I promised Pete I’d keep an eye on the place after they moved, and I haven’t gotten over here in a few weeks.”

Ever since Laurel could remember there had been a bond between her father and the older Pete Ferguson. Each had always been there to lend a hand to the other, but now the Fergusons were gone. Their land sold to the United States government and their farm officially a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

She glanced at her father’s face, and she almost gasped aloud at the sorrow she saw. The court case he and Grandpa Martin had waged over the past year had taken its toll on him. He was only a few months away from turning fifty years old, and Grandpa would soon be sixty-five. They didn’t need the worry they’d lived under for the last twelve years. Why couldn’t the government just give up and allow them to remain on their farms in the mountain valley that had been their family’s home for generations? That was her prayer every night, but so far God hadn’t seen fit to answer.

Her father steered the truck onto the dirt path that ran to the Ferguson cabin. The wildflowers Mrs. Ferguson had always loved waved in the breeze beside the road as they rounded the corner and pulled to a stop in the yard.

Laurel’s eyes grew wide, and she stared, unbelieving, through the windshield to the spot where the Ferguson cabin had stood as long as she could remember. Her father groaned and climbed from the truck. For a moment he stood beside the vehicle’s open door, his hand resting on the handle. He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what he saw. Then he closed the door and took a few steps forward.

Laurel reached for the leather bag that sat on the floorboard near her feet, unsnapped the top flap, and pulled out her Brownie box camera before jumping from the truck. She hurried to stand beside her father, who stood transfixed as he stared straight ahead. Willie, his face pale, climbed from the back of the truck and stopped next to their father. No one spoke for a moment.

Willie pulled his gaze away and stared up at their father. “Where’s the house, Pa?”

Their father took a deep breath. “I guess the park service tore it down, son.”

A sob caught in Laurel’s throat as they stared at the barren spot of land that had once been the site of a cabin, barn, and all the outbuildings needed to keep a farm productive. “But why would they do that, Poppa?”

Her father took a deep breath. “Because this land is now a part of the park, and they want it to return to its wild state.”

Willie inched closer to their father. “Are they gonna tear our house down too?”

Her father’s eyes darkened. “Not if I can help it.” He let his gaze wander over the place he had known so well before he took a deep breath and turned back to the truck. “Let’s get out of here. I shouldn’t have stopped today.”

Laurel raised the camera and stared down into the viewfinder. “Let me get a picture of this before we go.”

Her father gritted his teeth. “Take as many as you want. Somebody’s got to record the death of a community.”

None of them spoke as she snapped picture after picture of the empty spot that gave no hint a family had once been devoted to this piece of land. After she’d finished, the three of them returned to the truck and climbed in. When her father turned the truck and headed back to the road, Laurel glanced over her shoulder at the spot where the house had stood. She had always looked forward to visiting this home, but she didn’t know if she would be able to return. Too many of her friends were gone, scattered to the winds in different directions. The holdouts who still remained in the Cove lived each day with the threat that they too would soon be forced from the only homes they’d ever known. If her family had to leave, they would be like all the rest. They would go wherever they could find a home, and the ties forged by generations in the close society of their remote mountain valley would vanish forever.

Andrew Brady set his empty glass on the soda fountain counter and crossed his arms on its slick white surface. The young man who’d served him faced him behind the counter and smiled. “Can I get you somethin’ else, mister?”

Andrew shook his head. “No thanks. That cold drink helped to cool me down some. I didn’t expect it to be so hot in Gatlinburg. I thought it would be cooler here in the mountains.”

The young man grinned and reached up to scratch under the white hat he wore. “Most folks think that, but our days can be a bit warm in the summertime.” He glanced at several customers at the other end of the counter and, apparently satisfied they didn’t need any help at the moment, turned his attention back to Andrew. “Where you from?”

Andrew smiled. “Virginia. Up near Washington.”

The young man smiled and extended his hand. “Welcome to Gatlinburg. My name is Wayne Johnson. My uncle owns this drugstore, and I work for him.”

Andrew grasped his hand and shook it. “Andrew Brady.”

“How long you been here, Andrew?”

“I arrived Thursday.”

Wayne picked up a cloth and began to wipe the counter. He glanced up at Andrew. “You enjoying your vacation?”

Andrew shook his head. “I’m not in Gatlinburg on vacation. I’m here on business.”

Wayne shrugged. “I figured you for a tourist. Guess I was wrong. They come from all over now that the park’s opening up. I hear that we had about forty thousand people visit Gatlinburg last year. That’s a far cry from what it was like when I was a boy. We were just a wide spot in a dirt road back in those days. But I expect it’s only gonna get better.”

Andrew glanced around the drugstore with its well-stocked shelves and the soda fountain against the side wall. “It looks like this business is doing okay.” He shook his head and chuckled. “I don’t know what I expected, but I wouldn’t have thought there’d be so many shops here. Mountain crafts are for sale everywhere, and the whole town is lit up with electric lights. It looks like the park has put this town on the map.”

Wayne propped his hands on the counter and smiled. “I guess folks in the outside world thought we were just a bunch of ignorant hillbillies up here, but we been doing fine all these years. We’ve even had electricity since back in the twenties when Mr. Elijah Reagan harnessed the power on the Roaring Fork for his furniture factory. He supplied to everybody else too, but now they say we’re gonna have cheap electricity when TVA gets all their dams built.”

Andrew nodded. “I guess it’s a new day for the people in the mountains.”

“It sure is, and we’re enjoying every bit of it.” He picked up Andrew’s dirty glass and held it up. “You sure you don’t want a refill?”

Andrew shook his head. “No, I’d better be going. I have some things to do before I head out to Cades Cove tomorrow.”

Wayne cocked an eyebrow. “Only one reason I can think why you might be going out there. You must be joining up at the Civilian Conservation Corps.”

Andrew pulled some coins from his pocket to pay for his soda and laid them on the counter. “No, I’m not with the CCC. Just intend to visit with them a while.”

Wayne shrugged. “There’re a lot of CCC camps all over the mountains, and those boys are doing a good job. You can see part of it when you drive into the Cove. They built the new road there. It sure makes gettin’ in and out of there easier than it did in years past. I reckon Roosevelt did a good thing when he put that program in his New Deal.”

“Yeah, it’s giving a lot of young men a chance for employment.” Andrew smiled, picked up the hat that rested on the stool beside him, and set it on his head. “Thanks for the soda.”

Wayne studied Andrew for a moment. “You never did tell me exactly what your job is. What brought you to Gatlinburg from Washington?”

“I work with the Park Service. I’m here on a special assignment.”

Wayne’s eyes narrowed, and his gaze raked Andrew. “Special assignment, huh? Sounds important, and you look mighty young.”

Andrew’s face grew warm, and his pulse quickened. Even a soda jerk could figure out that a guy who looked like he’d barely been out of college for a year couldn’t have gotten this job on his own. But with his father being a United States congressman and a supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it hadn’t been hard for his father to arrange this appointment.

The worst part for him, though, had been his father’s command that Andrew had better not embarrass him on the job. He swallowed the nausea rising in his throat and tried to smile.

“I guess I’m just lucky they thought I was qualified.”

“Well, congratulations. Come in for another soda the next time you’re in town.”

“That I will.” Andrew turned and headed for the exit.

When he stepped outside the drugstore, he stopped and stared at the newly paved road that wound through the town. Before long that stretch of highway would wind and climb its way up the mountainsides all the way to Newfound Gap that divided the states of   Tennessee and North Carolina. He’d heard that spot mentioned several times as the ideal location for the dedication of the park, but the event was still some years away. His assignment here would be one of the factors that determined when it would take place.

Andrew took a deep breath of fresh mountain air and turned in the direction where he’d parked his car. Several tourists brushed past him, but it was the approach of a young man and woman who caught his attention. Obviously honeymooners, if the glow of happiness on their faces was any indication. Ignoring everybody they passed, they stared into each other’s eyes and smiled as if they had a secret no one else knew.

Andrew shook his head in sympathy as they walked past him and wondered how long it would take them to face up to the reality of what being married really meant. He’d seen how his friends had changed after marriage when they had to start worrying about taking care of a family. He’d decided a long time ago it wasn’t for him. He had too many things he wanted to do in life, and getting married ranked way below the bottom of his list. Convincing his father of the decision, though, was another matter. The congressman had already picked out the woman for his son’s wife. “The perfect choice,” his father often said, “to be by your side as you rise in politics.”

Andrew sighed and shook his head. Sometimes there was no reasoning with his father. He wished he could make him…

His gaze drifted across the street, and the frown on his face dissolved at the sight of a young woman standing at the back of a pickup truck. Her fisted hands rested on her hips, and she glared at the back of a young boy running down the street.

“Willie,” she yelled. “Come back here. We’re not through unloading yet.”

The boy scampered away without looking over his shoulder. She shook her head and stamped her foot. Irritation radiated from her stiff body, and his skin warmed as if she’d touched him.

As if some unknown force had suddenly inhabited his body, he eased off the sidewalk and moved across the street until he stood next to her. “Excuse me, ma’am. Is there anything I can do to help?”

She whirled toward him, and the long braid of black hair hanging over her right shoulder thumped against her chest. Sultry dark eyes shaded by long lashes stared up at him, and a small gasp escaped her lips. “Oh, you startled me.”

His chest constricted, and he inhaled to relieve the tightness. His gaze drifted to the long braid that reached nearly to her waist. He had a momentary desire to reach out and touch it. With a shake of his head, he curled his fingers into his palms and cleared his throat.

“I’m sorry. I heard you calling out to that boy, and I thought maybe I could help.”

Only then did her shoulders relax, and she smiled. Relief surged through his body, and his legs trembled. What was happening to him? A few minutes ago he was mentally reaffirming his commitment to bachelorhood, and now his mind wondered why he’d ever had such a ridiculous thought. All he could do was stare at the beautiful creature facing him.

She glanced in the direction the boy had disappeared and sighed. “That was my brother. He was supposed to help me move these crates into the store, but he ran off to find his friend.” She smiled again and held out her hand. “My name is Laurel.”

His hand engulfed hers, and a wobbly smile pulled at his lips. “I’m Andrew. I’d be glad to take these inside for you, Laurel.”

“Oh, no. If you could just get one end, I’ll hold the other.”

He studied the containers for a moment before he shook his head. “I think I can manage. If you’ll just open the door, I’ll have them inside in no time.”

She hesitated as if trying to decide, then nodded. “Okay. But be careful. These crates are filled with pottery. My mother will have a fit if one piece gets broken.”

He took a deep breath, leaned over the tailgate of the truck, and grabbed the largest crate with Mountain Laurel Pottery stamped on the top. Hoisting the container in his hands, he headed toward the store and the front door that she held open.

As they entered the building, a tall man with a pencil stuck behind his ear hurried from the back of the room. “Afternoon, Laurel. I wondered when you were going to get here.”

She smiled, and Andrew’s heart thumped harder. “We didn’t leave home as early as we’d planned.” Her smile changed to a scowl. “Willie was supposed to help me, but he ran off.” And just as quickly, her expression changed again to a dazzling smile. “Andrew was good enough to help me get the crates in.”

Mr. Bryan helped Andrew ease the crate to the floor and glanced up at him. “Any more in the truck?”

Andrew nodded. “One more, but it’s smaller. I don’t need any help getting it inside.”

“Then I’ll leave you two. I’m unboxing some supplies in the back.” Mr. Bryan turned to Laurel. “If anybody comes in, holler at me, Laurel.”

“I will.”

A need to distance himself from this woman who had his heart turning somersaults swept over Andrew, and he hurried out the door. Within minutes he was back with the second container, but he almost dropped it at the sight of Laurel kneeling on the floor beside the first one. She opened the top, reached inside, and pulled out one of the most beautiful clay pots he’d ever laid eyes on. Swirls of orange and black streaked the smoky surface of the piece. She held it up to the light, and her eyes sparkled as she turned it slowly in her hands and inspected it.

He set the second crate down and swallowed. “Did you make it?”

She laughed and shook her head. The braid swayed again, and he stood transfixed. “No, my mother is the potter. I help her sometimes, but I didn’t inherit her gift. This is one of her pit-fired pieces.”

She set the pot down and pulled another one out. She smiled and rubbed her hand over the surface. Her touch on the pottery sent a warm rush through his veins.

“Exquisite.” The word escaped his mouth before he realized it.

She cocked her head to one side and bit her lip. “Exquisite?” she murmured. She glanced up at him, and her long eyelashes fluttered. “I’ve searched for the right word for a long time to describe my mother’s work. I think you’ve just given it to me. They are exquisite.”

He swallowed and backed away. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

She shook her head. “No, thank you. You’ve been a great help.”

“I’m glad I could be of service.” He searched his mind for something else to say, something to prolong his time with her, but his mind was blank. He took a deep breath. “I need to go. It was nice meeting you, Laurel.”

She smiled. “You too, Andrew. Goodbye, and thanks again.”

“Goodbye.” He slowly backed toward the door.

Outside in the fresh air he took a deep breath and pulled his hat off. He raked his sleeve across his perspiring brow and shook his head. What had just happened? He’d felt like he was back in high school and trying to impress the most popular girl in his class.

He closed his eyes for a moment, and the image of her holding the pottery in her hands returned. He clamped his teeth down on his bottom lip and shook his head. She’d misunderstood. It wasn’t the pottery he was describing when the word had slipped from his mouth.

Exquisite? The word didn’t do her justice.

And she had a beautiful name too. Laurel. He straightened, and his eyes widened. He hadn’t even asked her last name.

He whirled to go back inside the store but stopped before he had taken two steps. His father’s face and the words he’d spoken when Andrew left home flashed in his mind. Remember who you are and why you’re there. Don’t do anything foolish. People in Washington are watching. He exhaled and rubbed his hand across his eyes.

For a moment inside the store he’d been distracted. He was the son of Congressman Richard Brady, and his father had big plans for his only living son.

He glanced once more at the pickup truck that still sat in front of the store and pictured how Laurel had looked standing there. When he’d grasped her hand, he’d had the strange feeling that he’d known her all his life. How could a mountain girl he’d just met have such a strange effect on him?

He pulled his hat on, whirled, and strode in the opposite direction. Halfway down the block he stopped, turned slowly, and wrinkled his brow as he stared back at the truck. The words painted on the containers flashed in his mind, and he smiled.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find out her last name. For now he would just call her Mountain Laurel. His skin warmed at the thought. A perfect name for a beautiful mountain girl.

He jammed his hands in his pockets and whistled a jaunty tune as he sauntered down the street.

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Wedded to War by Jocelyn Green

Wedded for War

By Jocelyn Green

Reviewed By Martha Artyomenko

If you are studying the Civil War (or The War Between the States, whichever you choose to call it) you have to include these novels in your homeschool adventure.

They are more geared towards high school or adult reading, but Jocelyn Green has multiple resources to go along with these books to increase learning as well as lists of other books to reference and read in your studies.

In Wedded to War, Charlotte Waverly, a wealthy accomplished young woman is serving as a nurse in New York City. Hoops are a thing of the past as well as her jewelry. She has joined the ranks of the servants of the war, a nurse, a part of the sanitary commission in Washington City. Her family, her suitor and the city disapproves of a single woman serving in this capacity. She has one goal in mind, serving her Father in heaven and doing His Will.

There are other secondary characters, including historical ones, such as Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.

I loved this book! It feels like you are there, amongst the people of the time period, living their journey with them. You are serving the unwashed soldiers, facing the criticism and also understanding the criticism.  This book will help your high school student to understand the history in a new way!

Ms. Green’s website is filled with resources as well, to help you, including other research books to look at and compare.

http://heroinesbehindthelines.com/?page_id=1576Image

Her second novel, Widow of Gettysburg is also amazing. You will feel like you took a trip back in time to Gettysburg. It is full of many details that can be hard to read or see on a film, but in your mind, this book will make it seem like you were there.

The timeline covers 1861-1863 and is full of historical snippets on each chapter’s page, with real notes from nurses at that time.

These are books you will not want to miss!

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Week #3

We are learning Leaning on the Everlasting Arms for our hymn this week! It is one of my favorites, so we have been singing it several times during the week!  We read the history behind it  in “Then Sings my soul”, but I thought this link was interesting as well.

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http://hymnswelove.blogspot.com/2012/05/story-behind-leaning-on-everlasting.html

Our theme this week has been about Jamestown. We have plans of building the wigwam and a model of Jamestown, so I am picking up supplies on Wednesday for it.

We discussed the King James version bible and are working hard on memorizing the book of James. We may memorize the first chapter at this rate.

Notebooking has been going better this year, with them writing some in their notebooks about what we have read. I think this is going to help them retain it better.

Tuesday – We watched Bill Nye the science guy DVD on Mammals and a Popular Mechanics for Kids about Whales and dolphins to go along with our science studies on Mammals/

We started our read aloud this week…Almost Home by Wendy Lawton

For book basket books we have read- Samuel Eaton’s day, Sarah Morton’s day, Pocahontas and some others…

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L. also read a book about some of the different painters around the world.

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We also watched Dear America- Journey to the New World

We have taken walks every other day for P.E this week, but also H.  and P. are practicing basketball 3 days a week.

Our reading for history came from many different texts from MFW Exploration to 1850’s  .

L. and H. are both doing Teaching Textbooks for math, with extra math drill sheets.

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H. went in for testing this week, to make sure there is no occupational issues with his learning this week, so hopefully I will get the results from that next week.

I worked on making some reading games to play!

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Hopefully reinforce some of the blending and speed up T.’s reading.P1060218

He has been enjoying doing the program Reading Eggs  everyday for reading, and I am considering extending our membership for the rest of the year. P1060213

Language arts is not their favorite time of the day….but it gets done!

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Often in many different ways….

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Really?? You are taking my picture now?

P1060220Hard at work!

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We always need fuel for breakfast or lunch! Yesterday, we worked on putting pancakes and waffles in the freezer. I used some recipes from this book…Not your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook . We tried the Lemon Flax Waffles and Bulk pancakes made with 100% whole wheat flour that I ground in my new grain mill and flax seed grinder.  I also made some instant oatmeal packets.

The freezer is pretty full!

Thursday- We are adjusting to having classes again. P. has the most this year, but two of the boys have an afternoon writing class.

We raced around trying to get history read, breakfast eaten before he went to do biology labs and algebra class. (He had Writing and Humanities on Tuesday). Labs are twice a month, but so far, I think we are getting into a groove!

After he left and H. for basketball practice, we finished our reading history. We are on track as far as our read alouds.

L. read Katie the Windmill Cat and did a math drill on top of his regular L. Arts and Math.

H. when he got home, had a snack and then did his math. If he gets a lower grade, he has to go back and fix it, so we had a few of those to do.

P1060231After Thursday’s writing class, H. typing his writing assignment into the computer before correcting it.

P1060233A supposedly fun reading game turned bad. It is certainly a Friday!

P1060232The tearful face, hidden beneath a sweater.

P1060234 If you can see the book title…it says it is a playful and fun way to teach reading.

P1060236 It does seem a little more fun with someone else watching him!

P1060235Book Basket reads for the day!

P1060237Snack break!

P1060240One of our little visitor’s for the day!

P1060241Taking a break with the baby….baby is sticking out his tongue at us!

P1060242  We got behind a huge semi with a part of a bridge trying to get through the round about on our way to our field trip and class.

P1060243Getting set up and listening to instructions!

P1060246 He just has fun no matter what! P1060245 Taking the quiz! P1060244Thinking hard!

P1060252 Explaining his point of view for survival in the woods.

P1060251 Sitting still for once….

P1060250 Working on writing down their answers

!P1060249 P1060248 As you can see, sitting still did not last long

!P1060247  Serious faces over here though!P1060259 Working on a topographic map activity. P1060258 It is always more fun working together! P1060257 Listening to P. explain what he would take to survive in the woods!

We decided a watermelon might not be the best choice for a food source! He also suggested a weather proof sleeping bag!

P1060256V. explaining her plan of action!

T. had some good plans and thoughts! P1060255 P1060254 Listening and objecting to the arguments!

P1060253T. actually listened and presented well!

It was a great class and field trip! They learned a lot about the science of watching the weather, the area for survival techniques and reading a map!

It was a long week, with lots of things accomplished and I am absolutely exhausted! See you next week!

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Menu for the week

Wednesday: Biscuits and Gravy, green beans

Thursday: Egg Rolls, fried rice (rice frozen in freezer- take out in morning) 

Friday: Chicken greek tacos, salad

Saturday:  Chicken pot pie (from freezer), salad

Sunday: Leftovers, popcorn

Monday: Beef broccoli stir fry, rice

Tuesday: Bierrocks, vegetable soup

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Insomnia is so hard….

You don’t have enough energy to do anything when you are awake at night, yet you are drained the whole next day.

I am so tired of being tired!

Anyone have any great tips on how to sleep better?

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Week# 2 Exploration….

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Monday…we were able to stop by a friends house and they got to experience a rope swing and paddle boats!P1060201

P1060202It has been still fairly warm here for Sept.

P1060203But this lake was a little cooler!

Since Monday was a holiday, I let the two that were home have a lighter day and we caught up later in the week on our Exploration to 1850’s work.

Tuesday was the local homeschool kick off, so we rushed through our work. I was working to finish copies before the workshop as well.

P1060204  There were a lot of people and tables with information available. P1060205Everyone seemed to ready for the year! We had a table for the support group meetings and I taught a workshop (The Technology post, I posted earlier in the week).

P1060198  One of the books I pulled from my bookshelf to have my son work in. It had some great map exercises. P1060199 This video went along with our reading for perfectly. We really enjoyed seeing it in pictures! P1060197T. working on his math with the whiteboard, blocks and workbook pages.

P1060212Making music!

Silly explorers! P1060211

 

P1060210We went for a couple of walks for P.E. as well as some trips to the gym, but this one, they were playing by the water waiting for us to catch up to them!

P1060209H. doing push-ups in the water!

Got to get that heart rate up! P1060208 P1060207 Walking our friend’s puppies might help!

A tired out mom needs a snack, book and a cup of tea after a long week! This book fits the bill! P1060206

 

All in all, we had a great week! I got my high school student squared away with his biology book all loaded onto his iPod, one of his history/literature books also loaded on there. He completed most of his work on his own, with some limited guidance from me, but knowing that he is able to contact me at any time. We still have to work out the schedule!

Thankfully, even though we had some car issues, we were able to get them fixed over the weekend and life is good!  On to another week!

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Red Dawn Rising by Sue Duffy

My Review:
This book will take you on many twists and turns, but had my heart pounding by the end of it! It didn’t help that I was reading it during a massive storm, I am sure!
This book reminded me of an Alias episode, which if you have never watched it, is a spy/CIA show where nothing is as it seems. People end up being alive that you thought were dead, others end up being your sisters/brothers/mother/father that you never would have thought possible. In the twists and turns of this story, it was written in a way that I think many teens would enjoy it, and be riveted by it!
-Martha

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:
Kregel Publications (April 8, 2013)
***Special thanks to Sarah Krueger for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sue Duffy is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Moody magazine, The Presbyterian Journal, Sunday Digest, and The Christian Reader. She is the author of Mortal Wounds (Barbour, 2001) and Fatal Loyalty (Kregel, 2010). Sue has also contributed to Stories for a Woman’s Heart (Multnomah). She and her husband, Mike, have three grown children.

Find out more at www.sueduffybooks.com.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Twenty-seven-year-old Cass Rodino is a hardworking, dedicated set designer on Broadway. But, like the actors who take the stage every night, she is masking a different reality. Her secrets lie deep within past wounds too severe to expose to anyone.

Evgeny Kozlov has secrets of his own. A former KGB assassin, he is trying to outrun the underground revolution he once served. Trying to right his wrongs, he’s in a race against time and against a former colleague, Ivan, who has sinister plans to bring down the United States, including an assassination attempt on famed pianist Liesl Bower.
As Cass and Evgeny separately set out to save Liesl from an impending doom, both are hurled into a fierce CIA/FBI dragnet, not knowing that their formidable opponent—a most unlikely predator—is already closing in on them.
Book 2 of the Red Returning Trilogy, Red Dawn Rising mixes suspense, action, and romance in a tale of personal tragedy and triumph that will keep readers pivoting between the evil desires of world powers and the redeeming powers of personal faith, life, and love.

Product Details:
List Price: $
Series: Red Returning Trilogy (Book 2)
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 12, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825442664
ISBN-13: 978-0825442667

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The Moscow night had frozen in place. But at three in the morning, a lone figure hurried along the back streets and alleys of a worn and grizzled neighborhood, leaving tracks in fresh yet impure snow. It was the safest hour for Evgeny Kozlov to surface from his warren. Once a warrior spy for Soviet intelligence, he had fallen to his own conscience and the conviction that everything he’d believed in was a lie. Now, the liars hunted him.Where an alley emptied onto a main boulevard, Evgeny stopped and peered cautiously through the brittle light of a streetlamp. He would have to cross the street to reach the bookstore where, in a back room with shades drawn, the only person he could trust waited for him. He resisted the urge to sprint headlong to safety. Instead, he pulled the hood of his coat lower over his face and emerged slowly from the alley onto the sidewalk, nearly colliding with an old woman long past sobriety. Ragged and absent-eyed, she hardly looked his way as she shuffled around him, hunched and rattling in her breath. He watched after her a moment and wondered how many others like her might perish this forbidding night, within reach of the gilded Kremlin, home of the government charged with tending even the least of its people.

He veered into the street, ambling in the fashion of the old woman, his heavy boots slurring against the pavement, the backpack that never left his side slung over one shoulder. To anyone watching, his boozy charade would make no impression. They wouldn’t see the gun he gripped firmly inside his coat pocket.

When he reached the front of the bookstore, he was about to turn into the alley running toward the shop’s back door when a face stopped him. In the display window lit by the streetlamp was a rack of CDs. He knew better than to linger in the exposing light, but he couldn’t move. The face on one of those CD covers wouldn’t let him. She was a striking young woman in a shimmering green gown seated at a concert grand piano, her long amber hair cascading over one shoulder. The title read Liesl Bower Plays the Russian Masters.

He stared into the eyes that couldn’t see him. Eyes that had, on three occasions, flashed with terror for what he might do to her. Now, gazing at her fixed, radiant smile, Evgeny brooded. Liesl, forgive me. I did not know the ones I served then. But now I do.

He remembered his last words to her. He’d slipped into her dressing room at Avery Fisher Hall just moments before a performance and warned her about those he would serve no more. “Never stop watching them,”  he’d told her. Regrettably, though, he had.

After a quick scan of the street, he darted into the alley. At the back of the shop, he tapped lightly on the door and waited. When it opened, the spidery hand of Viktor Petrov reached to pull him inside. “Hurry! They are near!”

“They found me?”

“Yes. You cannot return to the apartment.”

Evgeny searched the older man’s face, the hollows beneath his fierce eyes, the sagging jowls that belied the ramrod strength that had sustained his double life. The old-guard member of the KGB secret police had transitioned easily into that agency’s post-Soviet successor, the Federal Security Service. Viktor Petrov had served the new Russian Federation with exemplary dedication—while secretly plotting with other revolutionaries to overthrow it.

But no longer. He and Evgeny had penetrated the heroic, all-for-the-people veneer of Vadim Fedorovsky’s anarchist movement to discover its corroded underside. Fedorovsky and his mounting legion of Kremlin and military recruits had so dazzled themselves with the promise of a powerful new Russian empire that they had cultivated a callous disregard for the everyday plight of their own people.

“But how?” Evgeny rasped as he slipped inside the store, his joints protesting the cold. “No one ever finds me.” He raked his fingers through his dark, thinning hair. His fifties had pressed hard against him, and he’d felt himself begin to wither.

“My friend, you are not as invisible as you once were,” Viktor said. “Somehow, you left a trail. And now you must flee. But first, there are things you must know.” He motioned for Evgeny to follow him to a small room in the back of the bookstore where they’d met several times before. Viktor had once saved the store’s owner from arrest and certain imprisonment for his part in a riotous demonstration against the sitting president. The owner had given Viktor a key and unrestricted access.

Without turning on a light, Viktor set a small flashlight on a shelf and aimed its beam toward the wall, allowing only a dim glow in which to see each other. “Sit,” Viktor instructed. “We do not have long.”

Evgeny pulled a straight-backed chair beneath him and waited. Viktor eyed him gravely. “It is far worse than we thought. I have just struck the richest vein of intelligence yet. Hear this. For all his authority, Fedorovsky is only a puppet and always has been, even before he went to prison.” When Evgeny’s brow arched, Viktor held up a hand to halt interruption. “Just listen. There is someone else who commands Fedorovsky and his coconspirator Pavel Andreyev. Someone who is the mastermind of it all. He is called the Architect by the few who know he even exists, a man removed from Russia but whose roots are deep in her intelligence network. He has immense wealth and power beyond our own president.”

Viktor paused long enough for Evgeny to respond, “Do you know this man?”

“No.”

“Where is he?” Already, Evgeny’s mind calculated the inevitable mission of stopping him.

“It is believed he operates from the sea, headquartered on one vessel or another within his fleet. He could be anywhere in the world.”

“Fleet?”

“This is a man of uncommon means. He—” Viktor quickly raised a quieting hand and looked toward the open door to the room. “Listen,” he whispered.

Evgeny leaned far enough to peer through the doorway, but he saw and heard nothing. Then a beam of light pierced the front window and arced through the store. He jerked back out of sight and glanced at the flashlight above him. Dousing it would only signal that someone was in the room.

Already hidden, Viktor remained still, but Evgeny could hear him wheeze. When the light retreated and didn’t return, Evgeny leaned forward in his chair and whispered, “A policeman making rounds.” It was both a statement and a hope. Surely his skills hadn’t failed him so miserably that he’d led others of his own trade to this place and to his trusted compatriot.

A cautious interval passed before either spoke again. Then, “There is something else,” Viktor said, his shoulders sagging. “Your uncle and cousins.”

Evgeny stopped breathing. But he already knew, in the way that assassins such as he knew death and those who forced it on others.

“They are all dead,” Viktor announced bitterly.

“When?”  Evgeny struggled to ask.

“Last night, as they slept.”

Through the years, others had met the same fate at Evgeny’s own hand. How dare he mourn now. But how could he not? These innocent peasants had died for no other reason than their tenuous kinship with him. A solitary spy, Evgeny had long since severed the distant and fragile ties to family, to spare himself and them any harmful entanglements.

Fedorovsky had ordered their execution even from prison, Evgeny was certain. His late mother’s brother and his two sons, the last of his family, had scraped a bare living from the soil with no hope of improving their lot. Evgeny was certain they had never heard of Fedorovsky, never knew of the man’s raging quest to overtake their country. They wouldn’t have cared anyway. Their country could fail them no worse under his reign than at the hands of all the despots past.

“I am very sorry,” Viktor offered.

But Evgeny had already shifted from the hateful news to something within his control. Vengeance. “I must go,” he told Viktor as he rose from the chair.

“Where?”

“Someplace where Fedorovsky’s people will not look for me.” Evgeny hoisted his backpack to his shoulders. “His house.”

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Technology-Friend or Foe? Using it to your advantage in homeschooling

Technology- Friend or Foe?

How can we use it to our advantage in our homeschool?

By Martha Artyomenko

Safety- We all need to have  some safety protocols to keep children safe, filters….time limits, having computers in a public place. Those guidelines are not what you should depend on. Communicate with them and be open and honest about why you have these rules

The unknown is often more desired and can make them want to go looking,

Use balance-  There are many ways technology can be helpful, radios, computers, TV, cars,  all of them are helpful, but sometimes it is best to use balance when using any piece of technology. They can be used for good or for bad.

We need to find ways to limit our time spent on electronics, yet be able to use them when we need them!

Now that we talked about safety, we can go on to the fun stuff!!

Here is just a few websites that can be really helpful in your homeschooling journey.

Kindergarten- First grade

http://www.starfall.com

http://more.starfall.com These are free!

http://readingeggs.com This one often has some free trials to try it out. If you email me, I can send you an invite for a free 2 weeks!

http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/web_games_menu.htm

Assorted Grades-

SOTW and Netflix list- https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?hl=en_US&key=0AumgWD14ZCPSdGNRQVVjeVotbjcwVlByV3pPS2xJRlE&gid=0

This is a list of movies that you were on Netflix that go along with Story of the World

Some FB groups for using movies that go with your school from Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Amazon etc.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/christianhomeschoolstreaming/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/153434258146309/

Magic School Bus with your science curriculum-  There are links for lap books, unit studies, worksheets etc. http://www.crossandquillmedia.com/2013/08/25/using-magic-school-bus-science-curriculum/

 

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http://www.crossandquillmedia.com- This site talks a lot about using media to your advantage in your homeschool. It gives you resources to be able to use it.

San Diego Zoo Website has some good resources.

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/

http://kids.sandiegozoo.org/games

National Geographic Kids

http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/

Math Games-

http://www.multiplication.com/games/play/cone-crazy

http://www.optionsanimal.com/elementary-education-animal-math-for-kids/

 

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Audio Books

If you have children that struggle with reading all the wonderful literature we have accumulated for them, it is easy to get discouraged…so audio books are a valuable resource.

There are places like Library and Ed Services to purchase them at a discounted price. (As a homeschooler, you are able to purchase from them)

https://www.libraryanded.com

But also, there are many places to download free or cheap audio books as well.

This has many classics listed on here for various audio sources.

http://librivox.org

Since I am moving on to eReader’s next, I will mention that there are audio versions of many eBooks for cheaper, if you own the eBook already on your Kindle. This even applies to some of the classics that you can get for free.

There are also many other types of eReader’s.

The library is also a valuable place to get audio books! The more you ask for, the more they buy!

eReader’s are somewhat hard for those of us that love to collect books as homeschoolers, but in another way, it is a way to collect books and take our library with us when we go somewhere. We now have it all there at the touch of a button!

Here are some ideas on using your eReader, without spending too much:

You can use the library to borrow the eBooks!

Library- http://montanalibrary2go.org/4E65CEEF-880E-4109-9439-E5D5695ADE2D/10/50/en/Default.htm

You only get to keep them for two weeks, but if you need longer, just don’t turn the wireless on when it is due until you are done reading it.  (I double-checked with the librarian and it goes back to them still, so it is fine ethically.

Some links for cheap or free eBooks, always check the price and publisher of the book before buying!

http://christianfictionebooks.blogspot.com

http://www.inspiredreads.com

http://ereadergirl.com

There are even companies that are offering eTextbooks as well.

BJU- http://www.mybjupress.com/eTextbooks.php

Apologia has most of their high school science textbooks on Mp3 audio

EasyPeasyHomeschool is not exactly textbooks, but free and online.

http://allinonehomeschool.com

There are also tons of website to print worksheets, and plenty of work, even so you could skip buying some subjects even.

http://www.homeschoolmath.net

http://www.superteacherworksheets.com

http://www.mathworksheetsland.com

http://themathworksheetsite.com

Cooking lessons

http://www.kids-cooking-activities.com/kids-cooking-lessons-cit-intro.html

This is a foreign language site that costs, but in many states they can get it free through the library. Often if you request it, we could possibly get it here.

http://www.mangolanguages.com

The Great Courses are audio and DVD- and many are available through the local library.

http://www.thegreatcourses.com

Flathead County Library has some homework resources, and other links on their home page that you can find.  The Teen page you would need to check out the links before letting your kids go on it, but you should do that with anything on the Internet.

http://www.flatheadcountylibrary.org/kids.htm

Homework help page- with great info.

http://www.flatheadcountylibrary.org/homework.htm

There are also book lists as well on there.

We also have available to us now…. many online classes from high tech, expensive ones to free.

http://landryacademy.com

http://www.memoriapress.com/onlineschool

http://montanadigitalacademy.org

Pinterest can be a time sucking machine…. but also helpful.

Type homeschool combined with planet studies, anatomy etc. and you will get tons of resources.

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If you like to follow homeschool Pinterest Boards…

http://pinterest.com/mattie89/homeschool/

http://pinterest.com/source/simplehomeschool.net/

http://pinterest.com/triciagoyer/homeschool-geography/

http://pinterest.com/triciagoyer/homeschool-literature-writing-studies/

http://pinterest.com/JustJamerrill/ultimate-homeschool-board/

http://pinterest.com/JustJamerrill/inspiring-homeschool-moms/

These are just a few ways to use technology to your advantage!

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