Monthly Archives: November 2013

Large Family Thanksgiving

You know you are a part of a large family  when Thanksgiving is very crowded, full of lots of food and lots of noise!

You start with lots of organizing, and then you know everyone will be sad if there is not leftovers.

So, your cooking list looks something like this….

2 turkeys (22 pounds each or more)

4 gallon bucket of peeled potatoes

1 gallon of green beans + 5 small cans

15 pies

Etc.

What is funny is that when everyone shows up, you discover you have over 26 pies, not counting the extra desserts.

1474587_505530062877990_1388446942_nI know, a full table, nothing gourmet, but it tasted gourmet!

1458536_505530329544630_1874483501_nThere is always a lot of things going on in the kitchen….

1454986_505530299544633_2068898410_nLots of opinions, plus the standard arguments we plan for. =) I don’t know if all families have those, but we have the same arguements every year, so now we plan for them! For example, my mom likes so much cinnamon in her pie, it could burn your tongue a bit, and I prefer cinnamon on the lighter side. I prefer thinner gravy made with cornstarch, and my mom and sister prefer it thicker and with milk and flour, the list goes on!

1480698_505530356211294_1919865205_nThere is always lots of smiles and fun though!

1465184_10200657273147445_607944344_nAnd the pictures through the steam off the potatoes.  (That was only one of the pots of potatoes)

1452149_505530382877958_989690046_n

 

We had lots of yummy snacks to hold people over throughout the day and night! Eggnog is really yummy in Oolong tea, by the way!

1459844_505530149544648_81953240_n 1463639_505530186211311_72929015_n These were two of our Thanksgiving hunters. M. was washing his hands after he and P. skinned and gutted a deer.

1457606_505530269544636_257147889_nThe children had fun playing bank in the basement, even though there was a full load of wood pellets down there!

58659_505530409544622_450914805_nThe two tables were not enough for everyone to sit around, but everyone had lots to be thankful for. We went around the room and said one word of something we were thankful for. It was very nice and fast!

It was a great Thanksgiving and in spite of having so many pies, we managed to give them away along with small bags of leftovers to everyone.

Hope you all had a good one!

 

 

 

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Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay

Dear Mr. Knightly

By Katherine Reay

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Book Description

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

My Review:

Are you a fan of old literature? You will likely relate to Samantha. All her life she has used books as a way to deflect her real life, which was not very picture perfect. Without realizing it, she put up walls that she didn’t even know were there, and through this book, which is written in a series of letters to Mr. Knightly, she breaks down some of them to a complete stranger. Her life is changed forever, by the letter writing, and as she grows in her own life, she never is knowing whom the strange benefactor is.

This book contains a measure of realistic topics, such as child abuse, abandonment, child welfare system among others, but also the romantic side of Jane Austen lovers everywhere. The Dear Mr. Knightly book should be on every Christmas list of any woman that love literature, especially, but also those that just love a good story! This one will be one that you will be talking about for awhile. It for sure topped my 2013 reads list! I will be recommending it to many people!

 

I got this book from Book Sneeze for review, but the opinions contained therein are solely my own!

I review for BookSneeze®

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Menu for the week/ Thoughts on simplicity in our diets

Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Lemon Chicken (made without the mustard), mashed potatoes, green beans
Tuesday: Pancakes, eggs, Oven fries, pie
Wednesday: Moms house
Thursday: Thanksgiving
Friday: Moms house
Saturday: Turkey Enchiladas, spanish rice, salad

When I was reading this week, I read a Beany Malone book, one of my favorite series! I love them because one thing, is the meal planning in the book. Johnny, in Meet the Malones, smashes into a car that is taking eggs  to market. Promising to pay for the  dented fender, he forgoes his new typewriter, pays for the eggs and the Malone family is left with dozens of damaged and cracked eggs to eat. Since all of them have things they need money for, the siblings decide to figure out ways to make good meals on a low budget and spend the rest of the food money on their needs. Eggs play a key role in their menus and  Johnny tries to conquer  a special cake that uses a lot of egg whites and seems to always fail, in one way or another. There is no way you can read a Malone family book and not fall in love!

I have thought about this a lot this past while. We as a country on the whole are a very interesting people when it comes to food. We seem to believe now, that we deserve certain things as a right. We are too good to eat cracked eggs as we know there could be danger there now. We don’t want dented cans and throw out more food  all the time. I was buying fruit at the fruit stand and the produce man recommended trying a cabbage sandwich. 2 slices of bread, mayonnaise and a thick slice of cabbage sprinkled with salt was all there was to it.  That would be so foreign to us to think of food like that. Teens cooking for the family? That is so old fashioned, making real food out of real food?

Baking has too much gluten in it. Potatoes are full of starch. Eggs may be contaminated. We focus on things like organic labels and forget that sometimes the best stuff comes from sticking to basic food. Sugar is not good for you, but a little sometimes will not hurt you. Honey even gets a bad rap. I read a list from a nutritionist recently that had such great info on it, but went on and on about how honey was just as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup. We have come really far in the way of extremes  and to what we believe is healthy and not healthy. The next person that tells me they are allergic to cucumbers and beans, I may just have a conniption fit. I truly believe there are people with real allergies out there, but I also believe that we have created a lot of them.

We are a people with a picky palate that believe we need and deserve more than we truly do. It is near Thanksgiving and the time for feasting is at hand, thanking God for providing us with choices in this country for being able to follow special diets. But it is also a time to reflect on whether or not we have carried it a little too far. Are we thankful for simple food that we have on our tables or would we turn up our noses at a dinner of boiled potatoes and cornmeal mush as it was not balanced? Sometimes, I think we forget the goal in serving our families meals is to fill our bellies and not flatter our tongues.

When you go to the grocery store next time, instead of buying things that we have to read the label, stick to whole foods, try some things you may not have tried before, and think about maybe using things for meals you didn’t think went together. Try to make meals based around a food you have a lot of in your house and cut down your budget, as a fun game or to give some of the extra to another family.

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Week 14 of school….

This was a fun week of school! We have really been enjoying our reading time and I am involving the boys in more and more of them reading aloud as well. This week, I had a couple of bad headaches, so we got to use that a little more.

We are reading and rereading James chapter 1, in an effort to somewhat memorize it. I am not sure if we will get there.

We studied Benjamin Franklin, George Whitefield (which in all my studies on him, I never knew they knew each other until this week), Jonathan Edwards, Japans Isolation, John Adams, and Abigail Adams.

My camera is full and I have been busy, so I don’t have many pictures!

We had some very busy basketball weeks, and this week was no exception. We had some games that have been going in our favor, but sometimes it seems the schools don’t like us as well then. I am not sure how to take that!

H. has been working hard on his math and L. on writing. L. was writing a story that was a news report from the perspective of a chicken and involved KFC. It was quite funny!

T. as stubborn as he is, read a couple of short books and words lists after some protest, but without hardly stumbling on anything and actually enjoyed the book!

I think we are going to finish the week out with more basketball, more reading, and I think I am getting the hang of this reading aloud thing! =)

P. is working hard on biology, algebra, humanities, history, writing and other things. He got really sick over the weekend, which set us behind, but we are trying to catch up! Thankfully no one else has gotten sick yet.

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The Preachers Wife by Brandi Boddie

My Review:

This story was about a young woman trapped in a lifestyle she did not want to be in, and what we would call she was trafficked into as a young girl, nowadays. However, she was judged very harshly by the town, treated badly and until the new minister came to town, no one really cared all that much about her.

This story reminded me of the story of Jesus and the woman that they tried to stone in the bible. She had done wrong, but Jesus gave her another chance. He didn’t judge her or condemn her, he helped her.

I really enjoyed this easy to read, historical novel. It was nothing fantastic, but more just an enjoyable read that you will enjoy and learn from as well!

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:

Realms (October 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brandi holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a BA in political science from Youngstown State University. Her love of writing and research has led her to work that includes case management for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington DC and teaching assignments for elementary and secondary students. When she is not working on a story, Brandi enjoys hiking, fencing, and swing dancing. She loves spending time with her family, which includes a cocker spaniel who aspires to be a food critic.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

During the hot, windy summer of 1870 in the burgeoning prairie town of Assurance, Kansas, Marissa Pierce is fed up with her abusive boss. She longs to start a new life and is growing weary of convincing townsfolk that she is most certainly not a prostitute.

Civil War veteran and preacher Rowe Winford arrives in town intent on leaving the tragic memories of his deceased family behind. Although Rowe has no plans to fall in love anytime soon, the plans of God rarely match those of man.

Faced with adversity and rejection from the town and Rowe’s family, can Marissa overcome her past, renew her faith, and experience the life of love that God has planned for her?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Brides of Assurance (Book 1)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616388439
ISBN-13: 978-1616388430

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter 1

July 1870, Kansas Plains

What did I get myself into? Rowe Winford carried his three large valises from the passenger train to the station wait area. He had arrived in Claywalk, Kansas, sooner than he expected. Then again, he had been daydreaming the entire trip, from the carriage ride in Richmond, Virginia, all the way west on the tracks of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
So this was to be his new home, away from the war reformations, away from the bittersweet memories of his late wife, Josephine, and their stillborn son. The land seemed to engulf every living thing in its wide-ranging vastness. He felt like a tiny speck upon the face of the green, rolling earth.

“Over here, sir.” A tall, lean man in rugged canvas trousers, work shirt, and Stetson hat waved him over to the other side of the wait area. A small schooner and horse awaited him.

“Welcome to Kansas, Rev’ren.” The man’s white teeth flashed in his tanned face as he grinned. “We wouldn’t have expected you this early if you hadn’t sent that letter. I’m Dustin Sterling.” He stuck out his hand. “My friends call me Dusty. David Charlton sent me to come get you and take you to our lil’ town of Assurance down the road.”

Rowe shook his hand. It was rough with calluses. He guessed him to be a horseman or rancher of sorts. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dusty. My name is Rowe Winford, but how did you know I was the new minister?”

He pointed to Rowe’s overcoat and gray trousers. “Clothes don’t get that fancy in these parts. I knew you must be one of them city preachers back East.”

“Richmond.”

“Yep, I was right.” He picked up Rowe’s valises and hoisted them into the schooner. “Well, you’ll get used to this place soon enough, if you have the mind to.”

Dusty drove him away from the train station. The trip toward the “lil’ town of Assurance down the road” turned out to be more along the lines of sixty minutes. Rowe passed the time taking in the nearly treeless plains and the endless open sky. To his left and right he found himself surrounded in a sea of green grass.

“We just got rain last night, after a dry spell.” Dusty chatted amiably along the way about the land. “You have to watch out for the July wind.”

“Wind? There’s barely a breeze out.” As the words escaped Rowe’s lips, a sudden gust blew in his face. He grabbed hold of his hat before it flew from his head. “Where did that come from?” He coughed as the wind forced air down his throat.

Dusty chuckled. “Some say the devil’s in the wind. That’s how come it knocks you off your feet.”

“Well, as long as we can keep him in the wind and out of town, things should be alright.”

The wiry man cast him a wry glance. “’Fraid you might be getting here too late then, Rev’ren’. The devil’s come and set up shop in Assurance. And, sadly, business is sure boomin’.”

“What do you mean?”

Dusty shook his head. “There’s a saloon run by a businessman named Jason Garth. He can get a man to part with his wallet faster than a rattler strikes your heel. His girls help, with their short skirts and paid services.”

“You mean prostitution.”

Dusty shrugged. “I went to the dancehall before it got bad the last year or so. I haven’t been lately, but you’ll hear things. You’ll get your fill of gossip in Assurance.”

Rowe thought about the people who hired him. “What about the church? Haven’t they tried to put a stop to what the saloon is doing?”

“They grumble mostly. Folks here believe they shouldn’t sully their hands with the things of the world. Much easier to judge from a distance, I suspect, but I’m just a hired worker.”

“Aren’t you also a town citizen?”

He shook his head. “I’m all the way from San Antone. David Charlton hired me to tend his cattle, but I used to drive longhorns up here to the railroad.”

“Well, it sounds like the people of the church don’t want to confront corruption.”

The cowboy gave him another look. “Maybe that’s why they hired you.”

Rowe chewed on the inside of his jaw. His first position as head of a church. An apathetic one, from what Dusty implied. He could prove himself by going after the saloon and its seedy practices, but what would be harder, doing that or convincing the church to get their hands dirty along with him?

“Get thee clothed, heathen woman!” A man yelled down at her from the raised dais of the town square. “Thou art the scourge of this fine land, with your harlot’s garments!” He shook his fists.

“I’m not a harlot. I’m just a saloon and dancehall girl.” Words she had repeated all too often.

Marissa Pierce recognized the man as a traveling speaker, clutching his worn Bible to his chest. She hurried along the edge of the main road toward the bank, doing her best to hide her face from the disapproving looks from several of Assurance’s finest and upstanding populace.

They would be right to judge me if I was an evening lady, she thought. I wish they knew the truth.

She walked faster, adjusting her headpiece in a selfconscious attempt to push down the high feathers. Jason Garth, proprietor of the town’s only saloon, sent her out on a last-minute errand while she was getting dressed for the weekly Wednesday Night Revue. The money had to be deposited in the bank before it closed today, he stressed. Well, he could have let her know that earlier, before she changed into the tawdry costume!

More than a few men eyed her in her knee-length ruffled skirt and soft-soled dance boots peeking out from her coat. She knew a number of them as patrons. Those walking with wives, mothers, or another respectable woman had the presence of mind to avert their gazes.

“Have you no shame, lady of the night?” The orator cried in the profession’s flowery prose.

“More than you’ll ever know,” she muttered.

Marissa kept her back straight and face forward, tightly gripping the leather money satchel that held the saloon’s illbegotten earnings. Would that she could put a stop to the corruption and leave the shady establishment today, but soon she would be away from it all. Her saloon contract with Jason was about to end, and she had some money saved for room and board.

She considered her investment in a small share of the general goods store in Claywalk that was up for sale. If she received all the money due her, it would be enough to live off of until she found employment in the nearby town.

A rush of excitement surged through her as she contemplated a new life elsewhere. She would be free, in a respectable position where no one knew of her horrible past.

Marissa slowed her steps as a schooner rolled down the street. A dark-suited man seated atop peered about curiously, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun.

“That must be our new preacher.” Linda Walsh, the town’s young seamstress, walked up beside Marissa. Always eager for conversation, Linda would speak to anyone who stopped to listen, as Marissa had learned since coming back to Assurance a couple years ago. “We weren’t expecting him for another two weeks. I wonder what made him take off from home so fast.”

Marissa groaned at the thought of meeting another preacher. Every preacher she came across had turned her away once they discovered her profession.

She watched the small schooner pull up to the local inn. She recognized the driver Dusty Sterling seated beside the other man. Dusty hopped down and tethered the horses. The man in black stepped onto the dusty curb. His recently polished boots gleamed.

“Fancy one, he is,” Linda continued. “I hear he comes from a city somewhere in Virginia.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“It was in the paper a month ago. Our advertisement for a new preacher was answered from a man back East.”

Marissa focused again on what was in front of her. The traveler indeed looked foreign to the prairie. Not a hint of travel dust stuck to his long, black frock coat and four-inhand necktie, probably changed into just before departing the train. His gray pants were new and expertly tailored. He removed his hat briefly to wipe his brow, and Marissa saw the dark, wavy hair cropped close to his head.

“He doesn’t have a wife or children with him. Such a shame.” Linda clucked her tongue. “He’s a handsome fellow, for certain.”

Marissa agreed with her on that. He must have stood over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a powerful build. The man’s profile was strong and rigid, his square jaw and straight nose a true delight for the eyes. Assurance’s former preacher, Reverend Thomas, did not look like this.

“Would having a wife and children make him a better preacher?”

Linda tossed her a look. “That’s got nothing to do with it. One ought to be settled down at a certain age, wouldn’t you say so? Instead of running wild with the barmen?”

Marissa absorbed the sting of emotional pain. Anything she said in response would not sway Linda or anyone else’s notion that she was just a beer-serving streetwalker. She put on a polite stoic face. “I’m sure the ladies of this town will clamor for his attention. Will you excuse me, Miss Linda? I should be going.”

She left the seamstress just as Dusty carried the new preacher’s valises inside the inn. The preacher moved to follow then stopped short, pausing for Marissa to walk past. Marissa saw his blue eyes widen and take in her entire form, from the feathered hat on her head to the dainty-heeled boots on her feet. By his expression she didn’t know whether he admired or disapproved.

His lips settled into a firm line of what looked to be distaste, and she got her answer.

The preacher hadn’t been there for an hour and already she drew out his scorn. Marissa returned the stare until her image of him blurred with beckoning tears.

He jolted from his perusal. His low, straight brows flicked. “Good day to you, ma’am.” He amiably tipped his hat to her.

She paused, not used to being addressed in that fashion. Kindness was in his greeting, not the sarcasm she normally heard from others. Marissa tilted her head to get a clear look at him. His eyes were friendly, calm deep pools. The rest of his face, with its strong, angular lines, remained cordial.

“Good day,” she replied, hoarse. Awkwardness seized her person. Marissa hastily continued on her way to the bank.

Rowe stared after the brightly costumed woman, not noticing Dusty come from the inn until he stood in front of him, blocking the view.

“Your cabin by the lake is still bein’ cleared. The Charltons will pay for your stay here since they don’t have room at the farmhouse.”

“That’s kind of them, Dusty. Who is that saloon woman? I hoped she didn’t think me impertinent for stepping in her path.”

Dusty squinted in the distance. “Oh, Arrow Missy? She’s a dancer down at Jason’s.”

Dancer. That explained the light-stepping gait. “Why do you call her that?”

“She’s got a sharp tongue and even sharper aim with the drinks. That is, before I stopped going there.” Dusty scratched his chin.

“I think I upset her. She looked sad.” Rowe studied her shrinking form as she went inside the bank. She was a lovely young woman, tall and raven-haired. Her features carried an exotic lilt. He guessed her to be in her early twenties.

If he wasn’t the one who caused her to be upset, then what made the tears brim in her eyes?

“You carrying that last bag in, or you want me to do it?”

Rowe picked up his valise. “I’ve got it, Dusty.” He went inside the inn, glancing one more time in the direction of the bank, his mind still on the melancholy woman with the dancing boots. 

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Menu for the week

Ahh, menu planning! The Bane of my life….and also what keeps me sane. If it was not for meal planning we would not eat!
Lots of crock pot usage this week!
Today I put a package of chicken legs on top of sliced potatoes with spices in the crock pot. That was a hit! I hit the grocery store to catch last weeks sales, and spent $16 so far on three trays of chicken legs, 2 bags of lemons, and 3 bags of apples that were in great shape. That was great and the produce guy thanked me for buying the mark downs when I walked by with them!

I wish I had time to make fresh bread, yummy baked goods, but mostly, I have been running hither and thither and it is good if we eat dinner.

Wednesday: Chicken Alfredo, salad
Thursday: Burritos(cooked meat and beans from freezer),  rice (made in rice cooker), cut up carrots
Friday: Tortilla soup, cornbread (maybe…if I get home in time)
Saturday: Quick Chinese Chicken and Cabbage Spaghetti, 
Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Chicken, broccoli rice with cheese (from freezer)
Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs, salad  (meatballs and sauce from freezer)

 

 

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Journeys End by Dora Hiers

My Review:

This book had some very interesting facets as the widow of a Law enforcement officer begins a shelter for hurting teens. Then the son of the man responsible for husbands murder finds his way to her shelter, in need, she unwittingly places herself and everyone else in danger. The Marshal assigned to protect her, struggles with developing feelings for her. There is hints of danger throughout the book with lots of bumps to the head!

I loved the story of how she used her hurt to help other hurting people! The rest of the book is somewhat predictable, but quite enjoyable to read still. ~ 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:

White Rose Publishing (May 20, 2011)
***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:

Devastated after the brutal murder of her husband, Chelsea Hammond vows never to love another lawman.Intent on rebuilding her shattered life, she turns her focus to helping troubled teens. But when an angry father bent on retaliation, threatens her, Chelsea must turn to the one man she never thought to trust: Deputy U.S. Marshal Trey Colten.

Trey wants only to protect Chelsea, but she blames him for her husband’s death. Trey can relate. He blames himself, also. As danger lurks, Trey begs Chelsea to heed his warnings. He let down one Hammond. He won’t let down another—especially one who now holds his heart.

When Chelsea is snatched from her home, can she put aside her fear, and trust Trey with her life? Can she forgive him for destroying her past and let him help to rebuild her future?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: White Rose Publishing (May 20, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611160804
ISBN-13: 978-1611160802

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The mystery man with haunted eyes was back.

Chelsea Hammond placed the lawn chairs next to the cooler in the trunk, but kept her eyes on the man. He stood alone, farther up the hill, tucked under some towering maple trees. Far enough away that she couldn’t make out all his features, but close enough for Chelsea to glimpse his pain. The slight slumping of his expansive shoulders; the hands clenched at his sides; the haunted eyes that stared out into the distance when he removed his sunglasses; the lips set in a straight, hard line.

And the words “Deputy U.S. Marshal” that blazed from the front of his polo shirt. It had taken her three years, but this year she determined to talk to him, to rid her dreams of those haunted eyes. To hear his story. To offer closure if his version somehow connected to hers.

Chelsea closed the trunk of the old Cadillac and turned to her in-laws. “There you go, Henry. You’re all set.”

“Thank you, dear. We appreciate you lugging those lawn chairs for us.” Henry opened the door for his wife while she wrestled to get into the car, sweat beading on her upper lip. Henry and Stella always made a day of it when they visited their two sons.

“You’re welcome. You take it easy going home.” Chelsea peered overhead at the steely gray clouds, swirling into angry puffs. “Looks like a storm is brewing.”

Henry followed her gaze, then turned to look at her. “Oh, we will, dear. We don’t have far to go. Will we see you next year?”

Her stomach lurched. She couldn’t let Doug’s elderly parents face this day alone. Besides, where else would she be on the anniversary of her husband’s death? “Same time, same place, Henry.” Chelsea smiled and leaned into the car to give Stella a peck on her moist cheek. “Bye, Stella.”

Chelsea straightened and Henry wrapped his frail arms around her for a hug. “Glad to see you with a smile on your face this year.”

She slipped away from his embrace, blinking, until Henry started the engine. The giant sedan glided away, their hands flapping through the open windows. She lifted her hand in return, the smile still firmly planted across her lips. Henry was right. This was the first year she hadn’t cried on his shoulder.

Thunder rumbled across the sky, and she jumped, feeling the echo vibrate against the ground. Fat raindrops splashed against her bare legs.

She glanced up the hill. The mystery man was gone.

Disappointment sliced through her chest. Maybe next year.

Chelsea hurried toward her truck and dived in through the open door. Now she wished she’d taken the time to change from her sundress into jeans after the graduation ceremony this morning.

She exited the memorial gardens and headed south on the interstate toward Charlotte. Dark gray clouds dumped rain from the sky, but even the stormy skies couldn’t dampen her spirits. Her sunglasses and an unopened tissue box sat on the seat next to her. She dared a glance in the rear-view mirror. Nope. Not bloodshot. Wonder blossomed in her chest.

Life was turning around. Finally.

She hunched forward and strained to see, the windshield wipers swishing at their maximum speed, her white knuckles gripping the steering wheel. She slowed down to exit the interstate and released a pent-up breath.

She pulled to a stop in front of the barn and cut the engine. Two streaks of lightning pierced the sky, snapping into electrical balls a few feet away. She sucked in a deep breath and pulled the keys from the ignition, chuckling at her shaky hands.

Thunder couldn’t be too far behind.

One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three. A long crack of thunder boomed through the silence, the ground trembling in its wake.

Whew. That was close.

Chelsea waited, peering through the rain pelting the windshield, feeling the truck sway with the heavy winds. She didn’t want to go out in this, but she had to check on Molly. Kalyn, her live-in housekeeper, had fed the fawn earlier but Chelsea wanted to settle her in for the night. Besides, this rain didn’t appear to be lessening. She couldn’t stay in the truck all night.

She glanced to the passenger seat, deciding to leave her purse in the truck for now. She reached under the seat for the umbrella. She couldn’t use it now, but maybe the rain would dwindle enough where she could use it from the barn to the house. She slipped her sandals off. No need to ruin them.

Jerking the door open, she bolted for the barn, gripping her sundress, the wind all but whipping it over her head. Good thing it was just her and Kalyn out here.

She reached the barn and screeched to a halt, digging toes in the wet grass. The door stood slightly ajar. Alarm snaked up and down Chelsea’s spine. Hadn’t she closed it when she left this morning? She knew she had. She’d been worried about Molly roaming around, so she’d locked her up in a stall. A baby deer without a mama was easy prey.

Chelsea shook her head. Enough. Wondering wasn’t keeping her dry. She slid the barn door open the rest of the way and stepped inside. Mustiness and humidity slammed her in the face, along with the comfortable smells of leather and hay. Chelsea flipped on the light switch, but nothing happened.

She squeezed back the apprehension that rippled through her chest. The storm had clearly knocked out the power; she’d seen the fireballs.

Water rolled down the middle of her back. She shook her head, bouncing wet curls to get some of the water off, then gathered long hair in her hands and squeezed. That would have to do until she got inside where she had access to a dry towel. She shivered and rubbed her upper arms to generate some warmth.

Her eyes adjusted to the darkness. OK, so the barn smelled normal, but something didn’t feel right. Chelsea scanned the cool interior. The riding lawn mower and a few garden tools. Some extra straw for Molly’s stall. Looked about the same as it did every other day.

She was acting like a baby. She needed to get over it. Kalyn had probably come out to feed Molly, then left the door open. End of story.

Chelsea gritted her teeth and pushed shoulders back. She wasn’t scared. She couldn’t be. When Journey’s End opened next week, a bunch of teenagers would look to her as a role model for strength and courage. Teenagers could sense cowardice. They wouldn’t see it in her. No way.

Rain pummeled the barn roof. The wind howled, screaming through the open door of the barn and hurling straw pieces from one wall to the other. Another deafening crack of thunder boomed outside. She jumped, a nervous giggle escaping from her throat.

So, maybe she was just a little scared. She’d feel better if she were inside the house sipping a cup of coffee. Something to warm up her insides.

She would check on Molly. Get inside and dry off. Then whip up the latest recipe for apple pie that she’d been dying to try. Oh yeah. She grinned. Sounded good.

With quick steps, she headed toward Molly’s stall and pulled the latch to open the gate.

A streak of lightning flashed from the open door, lighting up the inside of the barn, and she turned to look outside. Blinded, Chelsea blinked and waited for her eyes to readjust, expecting to see Molly cowering in the corner.

But she didn’t. Molly snuggled comfortably next to something.

Someone?

Chelsea gasped, hearing the wild pounding of her pulse over the rain hammering on the roof.

A pencil-thin teenager scrambled to his knees, grabbing something from the straw next to him. Drool oozed from his open mouth, and straw poked out of his black hair. With sleepy brown eyes, he crouched on one knee and brandished a pitch fork at her like it was a rifle. “Don’t co-come any cl-closer.”

Chelsea did what any rational female would have done under the circumstances.

She screamed and threw hands in the air, the umbrella banging against her forearm.

He frowned and shook his head. “I…I’m not go-going to hurt you, lady.”  Squeaky Voice said. He brushed the lone tear sliding down one cheek with his shirt sleeve. “I wouldn’t.”

“I believe you.” Chelsea took a step closer. The umbrella zinged open. Whoosh.

Chelsea rolled her eyes to the open umbrella, then back to the teenager.

Surprise distorted Squeaky Voice’s face until he dropped the pitchfork to the straw and doubled over, laughing. He laughed like he couldn’t imagine a tomorrow, like he couldn’t bear to look at yesterday, like he didn’t want to face today. Tears streamed down his face.

She knew that laugh. Recognized the tears.

Shock.

She needed to get him inside and assess the situation. She lowered her hands, slow and easy, and tossed the umbrella into the corner of the stall. She held out a hand with more confidence than she felt. “I’m Chelsea Hammond. Welcome to Journey’s End.”

He waited a few beats before standing up to his full six foot plus height. In what seemed like slow motion, his hand slid into hers. “I’m Jacob Carpocelli.”

Her stomach threatened to give up the hamburger she had devoured on the drive home. The stall started to spin. She reached out with a hand to steady herself against the door. Maybe she was the one who would need medical attention. “Did you say Jacob Carpocelli?”

He nodded while his face blanched, almost like he didn’t want to be known by his last name. She could understand that. Jacob tugged his hand away from her wet, slimy one and stepped back. “Jacob’s my real name, but I just go by Jake.”

“Jake?” Was that harsh whisper her voice?

Tony Carpocelli’s son?

God, why would you do this to me?

OK. Maybe she wasn’t so ready for closure after all.

****

It wasn’t too late to turn around.

Yeah, well, maybe it wasn’t too late to turn around, but he wouldn’t have a job to turn around to. His boss had made that clear.

Trey Colten spotted the end of the snaking road and blew out a long breath. “Looks like we’re here. I don’t see any signs for the shelter, but this is the right address.”

Renner Crossman, his partner, glanced up from studying the case file and looked at him, sympathy oozing from his face. “Sorry about what happened with the chief, buddy.”

“Yeah.” Trey’s hands clenched the steering wheel. He turned into the clearing used for parking, pulling the Suburban to a stop in front of a house tucked deep in the middle of a forest. Hundreds of chirping birds drowned out any noise that might otherwise have filtered through the trees, like the neighbor’s dog from two miles back that ran back and forth barking at their car. Good ol’ Nowhere, USA.

The chugging of a lawn mower sounded nearby although they couldn’t see it.

Hammond’s widow?

Trey’s gut churned, and he reached in the center console for his roll of antacids, popping one into his mouth with a loud sigh. “Tell me again how Carpocelli’s kid found this place.”

“Chelsea Hammond’s brother.”

“Her brother?”

“Yeah, indirectly. It says here that”—Renner flipped the page in the folder to read the notes—“Chelsea’s brother is the resource officer at Jake’s school.”

“Chelsea’s brother sent him here?” Trey frowned. What kind of brother would send trouble to his sister in the form of Jake Carpocelli? Trey might go looking for her brother when he got back to Raleigh. Sit down and have a friendly little chat with him. Instruct him on the do’s and don’ts of brotherhood. Do not send a kid related to the mob to your sister’s house.

“No. Her brother didn’t send him here.”

Trey rolled his eyes and opened his door, his legs not cooperating. “So if Chelsea’s brother didn’t send Jake…”

“Jake was chatting with the resource officer in his office. The officer was called out for a fight.”

“Let me guess. He left Jake sitting in his office while he took care of business?”

“Yep. Chelsea’s advertising fliers were on his desk.”

“Ah. Pretty slick kid.” Trey still wanted that chat with the brother. It was due to his negligence that Carpocelli’s kid had landed here. That burned his gut. He popped another antacid in his mouth before stuffing the roll in his pocket.

Renner grinned and opened his door wide. “Let’s go, cowboy. Home sweet home.”

Trey glared at his partner. Renner’s joking manner only set him further on edge. Didn’t he know who they were up against? Tony Carpocelli? He wouldn’t put anything past that scum. His drug money would buy anything. Or anybody. Trey knew not to trust Carpocelli, even if Carpocelli was locked up, but nobody else seemed inclined to take Trey seriously.

“Maybe it’s time for a new partner.”

Renner scoffed. “Yeah, right. Nobody else will put up with you like I do.”

“I think it’s the other way around.”

Renner threw his head back and laughed. “Could be. But after your conversation with the chief this morning, I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon.”

Trey gritted his teeth and forced his legs out of the car. “Don’t remind me. I should have tendered my resignation. While I still had a job.”

Renner walked around the car to join him, his dark eyebrows raised. “Meaning you won’t have one after this is over?”

“You never know.” Trey mumbled, looking away from the troubled eyes of his partner to scan the yard.

Two other agents were staged at vantage points around the perimeter, but this area was his worry. He wanted to make sure he knew what he was up against before trouble came knocking. And he was fairly sure it would. It was just a matter of time.

His eyes settled on the wrap-around front porch. Water gurgled softly down the side of a ceramic pot. Giant green ferns swayed gently in the breeze. Rocking chairs, Adirondacks and a swinging bench beckoned visitors to step onto the porch, to relax and embrace the solitude, the serenity.

He took a deep breath, appreciating the scent of freshly mowed grass.

This place whispered peace, quiet, and tranquility. He could see how it would be a beacon to a troubled soul. His lips twisted in a grimace. Too bad it had to attract the likes of Carpocelli’s son.

Most of the time Trey liked kids. But this was Carpocelli’s son. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that the chief had given him responsibility for the widow.

Trey licked his dry lips.

“Nervous, buddy?” Renner said.

Trey shot him another annoyed glance. “Shove it, Renner.”

His gaze jerked back to the front door. Their trip from Raleigh had taken a little over two hours, but now it didn’t seem nearly long enough. With his eyes focused on the front door, he took the first step and willed his mind to cooperate. His boots felt weighted down with mud. Renner’s movement from behind forced him forward.

He licked his lips again. The widow Hammond would be standing in front of him in about four minutes.

Three years and he still wasn’t ready for this. How could he explain the knot in his stomach that grew tighter every time he heard the name Hammond? Like a sucker punch to the belly that produced more pain with every blow.

He had considered quitting after the chief refused to take him off this assignment, even up until he got in the car today. Days like this, he didn’t like his job. Where was the justice in all this?

He blinked and shook his head, hoping to clear his thoughts, to shake off this pathetic attitude. An attitude that could get him killed if he wasn’t careful.

He slowed his steps further, glanced back at Renner. How could he explain to his partner the sudden, urgent desire to…uh, take an extended vacation? Trey reached the end of the sidewalk and started up the steps. It wasn’t too late. They could be in the Suburban and out of here before anybody knew different. But where would they—?

“Looking for Journey’s End, gentlemen?”

That wasn’t good. She already caught him off guard, and he hadn’t even rung the doorbell. How was he ever going to focus on this assignment? He took a deep breath before turning around, hands fisted at his sides.

Renner pushed his back and propelled him forward, but Trey dug his heels in the ground a few feet away from the widow. He’d never seen her this close.

Chelsea Hammond’s simple beauty knocked the breath out of his lungs. Curly auburn locks cascaded gently onto a cream-colored shirt, and faded jeans graced gentle curves. Her lips formed a slight smile, and freckles peeked out from under a hint of makeup. A fawn nestled at her side, enhancing her sweetness and gentle aura.

Panic rippled through his chest at the war going on between guilt and attraction. His memories—and he hated to admit—his dreams hadn’t captured her essence. He wasn’t sure what he expected, but it definitely wasn’t the beauty standing in front of him.

Trey tipped his head forward in a slight nod. “Ma’am.”

“Good afternoon, gentlemen. I’m Chelsea Hammond. Welcome to Journey’s End.” She extended her hand, graceful, poised.

And him? He needed to get his act together before he lost his job. Reaching out to shake her hand required all of Trey’s willpower. “Trey Colten. Deputy U.S. Marshal.” Trey flashed his badge briefly, as he always did.

She tugged her hand from his grasp. Heart racing, he studied her through hooded lids, not wanting his eyes to mirror his own thoughts but wanting, no, needing, to know hers.

Trey tilted his head sideways to introduce Renner, never taking his eyes off Chelsea’s face. “And this is my partner, Renner Crossman.”

Renner shook hands with Chelsea and flashed his badge.

“Please forgive me, but may I take a closer look at your badges?”

“Sure.” Trey reached for Renner’s badge and handed both to Chelsea for closer identification. “We appreciate your caution. You’re tucked out here in the wilderness pretty far.” An understatement for sure. Two miles from her nearest neighbor? The chief had mentioned Chelsea installed a security system specifically designed for the shelter. He made a mental note to ask her about that later.

“Not so far out that Jake couldn’t find me, I guess.”

She had a point there. He caught her biting her lower lip while she studied the badges, and his stomach clenched. Did she recognize him from her husband’s graveside? He visited Hammond’s grave every year, around the same time as her, but he always stayed far enough away where she couldn’t recognize him.

Or maybe she recognized his name from the newspaper? He’d scoured the newspaper for weeks after Hammond’s death, relieved that the Marshal’s office hadn’t coughed up his name to the press.

She couldn’t possibly know him, could she?

Trey stuffed an antacid in his mouth, almost swallowed it whole.

She handed back their badges without a word, and he released the pressure that had been building in his lungs. “I believe you spoke with Joshua Hamilton, our Deputy Supervisor from the Raleigh office who worked out the details of our visit?”

Chelsea nodded.

“Would you mind if we continued this conversation inside?” The hair on the back of Trey’s neck stood on end. Standing outside, exposed, made him feel like a sitting duck. A big, open target, screaming, “Shoot me.”

Chelsea blinked and her eyes grew wide. “Oh, sure. I’m sorry. Come on in. Do you need me to call Jake in?”

“Let me guess. Jake’s the one mowing the lawn?” Renner’s voice expressed the disbelief that threatened to clog Trey’s arteries.

Jake, their key witness, was outside mowing the lawn? In broad daylight?

“Is there anything sweeter than a teenager mowing the lawn?” Summer and sunshine sparkled in Chelsea’s smile. She scooted passed him to wave at Jake, leaving the fawn lazing in the grass. The light scent of jasmine floated around Trey’s head.

Trey had anticipated other emotions from Chelsea. Like coldness. Anger. Contempt. Even had prepared himself for hatred. Those he could deal with, would actually make his job easier. But this sweetness and sugar? It would kill him. If one of Carpocelli’s thugs didn’t get to him first.

Trey waited while their witness, the one they were supposed to be protecting, rumbled over to Chelsea and cut the motor, casting a furtive glance in their direction. Chelsea spoke quietly to Jake before he hopped off the lawn mower. Trey didn’t miss the look that passed between them or the way she placed her hand protectively on Jake’s back while she led the way indoors.

Trey caught Renner’s raised eyebrows and his cocky grin before following Chelsea inside. Once inside the reception area, he allowed his eyes to wander. In the connecting room, sofas and recliners arranged in different settings throughout the massive area beckoned them to relax, and a 52-inch flat screen television played softly over a beautiful stone fireplace. He could imagine the flames frolicking quietly in the fireplace during the winter, adding a touch of warmth to the large room. Balls were racked on a nearby pool table, set and ready, inviting them to play.

Chelsea, still with her hand against Jake’s back, propelled them around, her quiet spirit a healing balm. No wonder Jake had found his way to Journey’s End.

Maybe there were some perks to staying here after all.

Something about Jake’s profile blasted through Trey’s consciousness, reminding him of Carpocelli. Did Chelsea know who this kid was? Did she know that Jake’s last name was Carpocelli? As in Tony Carpocelli’s son? Tony Carpocelli, the murderer who killed her husband? Why hadn’t they thought of asking the chief that important detail?

OK, go with the flow. No sense in giving away Jake’s last name or trying to fabricate one at the last minute. He would never be able to keep up with the lie. All the lies.

He could hardly live with the truth.

Trey stuck out his hand. “I’m Trey Colten, and this is Renner Crossman. We’re from the U.S. Marshal’s office. You must be Jake.”

“Yeah.” The kid squawked, sliding his sweaty palm into Trey’s. Dressed in slim-fitting jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt, Jake didn’t come across as a wealthy fourteen year old. All the money in the world couldn’t help the kid now. He was scared to death. Scared of them? Or retaliation from his father?

Trey would find out eventually. “Jake, I’m sorry about your mother.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” The kid swiped at his eyes with the back of his arm.

Trey turned his head away to give Jake a chance to pull himself together. “We’ll need to sit down and talk with you for a few minutes. Ask you a few questions about what happened and discuss the schedule for the next few weeks.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Another squawk.

“You guys can make yourselves comfortable in here.” Chelsea led them to the seating area in front of the fireplace and then disappeared. Trey sank down into one of the leather recliners and closed his eyes for a moment.

He opened his eyes to see Jake settle on the couch, his white knuckles gripping the arm, while Renner plunked down in the other recliner.

Trey leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He didn’t want to be too comfortable. He had a job to do. “You’ll be spending most of your time with Agent Crossman.”

Renner grinned at the kid. “Just call me plain old Renner.”

“And you can call me Trey.”

“OK.”

So far so good. “Do you have any specific questions we might be able to answer right now?”

“Do you guys know when my mom’s funeral is?”

O-K. That didn’t take long to go south. Trey glanced at Renner, hoping he might want to field that question.

Renner took the bait. “It’s planned for Monday at two.”

“Will I be able to go?” Hopeful brown eyes flicked warily from him to Renner, scanning the two of them for the response he wanted.

Trey measured his answer. Let the kid think about the danger in going to the funeral. “Do you think that would be a wise thing to do?”

Jake’s eyes narrowed and filled. “I don’t care if it’s the wise thing to do. She’s my mom.”

Trey settled back in the recliner at Jake’s sudden hostility and reached for his roll of antacids. He popped one in his mouth.

Chelsea walked into the great room carrying a tray of glasses filled with ice and a full pitcher. She placed the tray on the coffee table and sat down on the couch next to Jake, glancing at the three of them as she poured. “Iced tea?”

“Sure, thanks.” Trey reached to take hold of the glass she offered, then watched Renner and Jake do the same.

Trey took a sip. Sweet, with just the right amount of sugar. Good stuff.

No one said anything. Chelsea looked up, an uncomfortable expression settling on her face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude on this conversation.” She started to stand.

Jake stopped her with his free hand. He coughed and seemed to fight to keep control of his emotions. He wasn’t winning. “They’re trying to tell me that I can’t go to my mom’s funeral.” His voice faltered, then exploded, sorrow making his words sound angry. “My own mother’s funeral.”

Chelsea’s censure flitted from Trey to Renner, leaving both of them aware of how she felt. Mama bear.

“How could there be a problem with Jake attending his mother’s funeral?”

A problem? Couldn’t she see that attending the funeral would create just a tiny little problem? As in ambush? “You do realize Jake’s dad doesn’t work by himself? There’s probably six or seven guys waiting for word from him, happy to do his dirty work.”

He heard her soft intake of breath. So he scared her. Good. Now if he could only scare Jake. “Have either of you considered that Jake’s mom’s funeral would be the first place one—”

“Maybe you guys would like to freshen up? Give Jake a chance to catch his breath. I believe your rooms are ready.” Chelsea interrupted. She stood, pointing toward the stairwell. “If you’ll follow me—”

“We have a lot to go over and not much time—” Renner stopped her mid-sentence.

Chelsea flashed her teeth, something between a smile and a warning. “You’re at Journey’s End now. In our little corner of the world we have all the time we need. Right, Jake?”

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My Hope is Found By Joanne Bischof

cover

My Hope is Found

By Joanne Bischof

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

From Back Cover:

Gideon O’Riley has been given another chance at a life with Lonnie. But will the fight for her heart risk it all over again?

After finally finding love with his sweet bride Lonnie, Gideon’s heart was torn when a woman from his past claimed to be his true and rightful wife, forcing him away from his family. God’s merciful hand saw Gideon through the heartache, and with Cassie’s blessing, he is able to return home. But his journey back through the Blue Ridge Mountains will hold a trial he never anticipated.

Meanwhile, Lonnie determines to seal off her heart from Gideon, convinced he is lost to her forever. Strengthening her resolve to move on is her growing fondness for the handsome Scotsman, Toby McKee—the young reverend she has come to care for deeply. His proposal of marriage offers a bright future for her and her young son.

Yearning to allow joy back into her life, Lonnie must put aside the broken pieces of her heart that still love Gideon. When he returns to find her betrothed to another, he has to place his hope in God, trusting that the One who redeemed their love once can do it again.

My Review:

Gideon really messed up. He was a playboy, a flirt and ended up somehow, married to two women at the same time. Stuck in the marriage he didn’t want, he has lost the woman he loved.

Lonnie, seeking to move on with her life, cannot forget her husband. She seeks to put her heart into her son, her life and maybe finding love again, but it is hard.

Everyone just seems to want her to forget and move forward and she is not ready for that or is she?

This conclusion to Gideon’s and Lonnie’s story is filled with frustration. This is for everyone, not just one person that was involved in the story. To me, the little things that were frustrating often did not make sense to me. It may have been because of the culture at that time, but everything took so long, there was a lack of communication, lack of understanding and constant fighting. How many fistfights can you have in a book?

This book is one of those that you cannot wait to read, because you really want to see what happens to the characters, it is well written and engaging, but maddening at the same time. This book will draw you into the absolute reality of the Ozark way of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It will teach you about patience, love and forgiveness. It also shows you how forgiveness is earned often, even though it is freely given at times. The ending will have your heart smiling, which makes this a worthwhile read! ~ Martha

This book was provided to me by Blogging For Books for review. The opinions contained therein are my own and I was not paid for this review.

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Homeschool~ weeks 10, 11 and 12

The last few weeks feel like they have been a blur. It does not seem like I have done three weeks of school since I last blogged about school!

T. and I took a trip to Iowa. I had wanted to stop at Mt. Rushmore, but when we went through there, it was still closed down for the shutdown and the weather was horrible there.
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The adventure in the snowstorm was interesting.P1060545

P1060560 P1060559 P1060558 P1060557 P1060556 P1060554Some of our car pictures and motel.

P1060596T. got to sleep in and do very little school this week!

P1060776We attended a wedding and came on home!

P1060896 P1060898We got to stop and give our amazing friend a hug and made it to Miles City that first day, which was amazing! T. crawled into bed and was out.

Once we made it home, we were back and running on the schedule. However, since I filled my camera with wedding pictures, I haven’t been taking as many of our school days. Here are a few that I did take!

 

Going bowling with the family..

P1060902Dont cry!!!

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That is better

P1060900 P1060899Having fun with family!

P1060911Math games

P1060910Matching up cards with the answers

P1060909Reading science…we have learned about all sorts of things these last couple of weeks!

P1060908 P1060907 P1060906

Basketball games

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Lots and lots of basketball games! Practices, and games, between school, cooking and cleaning…

P1060912P. science experiment for biology labs. Moldy bread and moldy fruit…

We are now, I believe either completed or in the middle of week 12. I still have a few things to catch P. up on his high school history and we need to work on a few more writing projects. I am trying to work it out so we can take off half a week for Thanksgiving!

I will try to get more pictures taken, but for now….this is it!

 

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Big Sky Bachelor by Lesley Ann McDaniel

My Review:
This cute, short story is set in the state of Montana, which makes it fun for me. Our land may not be like this book presents it as, but it is fun none the less.
I enjoyed the story as it was about two wonderful people that had some issues to deal with. Janessa (which was just such a pretty and different name) and Micah clash in the beginning. It doesn’t help that the whole town thinks he is the cats pajamas.

I found that even though this book was short, it was one of those heartwarming and stories that make you just feel happy when you are done! If you need something like that, look this up!
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:

Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Lesley Ann McDaniel for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

LESLEY ANN MCDANIEL is a lifelong lover of words, and theatre. While earning a degree in acting, she fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God’s guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of women’s fiction. She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and of a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Janessa Greene is leaving Thornton Springs

All she’s ever wanted is to attend cooking school in Seattle. But when a big-shot rodeo rider comes to work on her family’s Montana ranch, Janessa’s determined not to let the cowboy distract her from her goal no matter how charming he is.

Micah was a rodeo star, but he’s been trampled by one bull too many. While he’s deciding his next move, he gets sidetracked by a pretty cowgirl who’s headed out of town. Can Micah convince her to take a chance on a cowboy ready to put down roots?

Product Details:
List Price: $4.99
Series: Heartsong Presents (Book 1068)
Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0373486790
ISBN-13: 978-0373486793:

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

Chapter 1

Janessa Greene could have sworn her old hatchback lost a little more oomph with each passing day. As she pulled off the highway and through the Bar-G Ranch gate, she sent up a prayer. No way could she spend money on her car right now—not with all the expenses she had coming up. Both she and her car would have to go the extra mile for just a while longer.

As she gunned down the long stretch toward the house, the sight of twenty or so impatient-looking parents standing outside their horse trailers made her stomach buckle. She checked the clock on the dash and grimaced. Why did they all have to be so prompt on the days when she was running behind?

She clattered to a halt between the house and the barn, then gathered up her work bag and purse. Leaping out of the car, she gave the parents a quick wave. “I’ll only be a sec!”

A grating mixture of grumbles and moans followed her as she ran toward the front porch steps. She winced. Those folks had paid good money to have her teach their kids to ride this summer, and they had every right to expect her to deliver her best. She had tried to get there on time. If only the restaurant would stop being so busy on her class days.

She scurried inside, slowing only to push the door shut and to gather up the mail from the table next to it. Flipping through the stack as she bounded across the foyer, she held her breath. Today had to be the day.

“Argh!” She tossed the pile of pure disappointment onto the bench at the base of the staircase, gripped the bannister, and charged up. It was July already. Shouldn’t she have heard by now?

Reaching the top step in record time, she darted across the hall and into her room. She kicked the door closed, dropped her bags on the bed, and tore off her grease-splattered tee, then grabbed a plaid cotton western shirt from the back of her desk chair. As she yanked it on, a rap on the door gave her a jolt.

“Ness, it’s Courtney.”

Her fingers found the shirt buttons as she searched the floor for a pair of jeans. “I’ll be right out.”

“I can go down and get the kids started if you want.”

“Really?” Relief surged as she retrieved some decently-clean Levis off the window seat. “That would make you my favorite sister-in-law.”

Courtney’s laugh sounded through the door. “I’m your only sister-in-law. Besides, you know I love those kids.”

Janessa breathed a little easier. The parents would feel better seeing Courtney, but she’d still have to hustle.

As she fumbled with her cuff button, her focus fixed on the poster over the desk. A plain chef’s jacket hung on a fancy wire hanger with the words ‘Le Cordon Bleu—L’Art Culinaire’ above, and the logo of the school below.

Leaving her second cuff undone, she tugged at the laces on her white SlipGrips—great for the kitchen but definitely not for the arena—and allowed her thoughts to stray. Le Cordon Bleu had been her dream ever since she’d realized she wanted to be a chef. Not only was it a great school, but they had a location in Seattle, not far from Thornton Springs. She bit her lip and yanked at the second lace. Okay, not too far to drive home for holidays and an occasional weekend, anyway. Montana only seemed like a million miles away from everything truly exciting in the world.

She kicked off the shoes. For as long as she could remember, all she’d wanted was to get out of Thornton Springs. Now that she had finally graduated from high school and worked for a year to save up money, her plans were just about to jell.

Flinging herself onto the bed, she quickly replaced her white Dockers with the jeans. She rolled onto her belly to reach under the bed, pulling out one boot, then a second.

She maneuvered into a sitting position, then yanked on the boots and scanned the immediate vicinity for her belt. Her eyes flicked across the framed photo that sat on her bedside table, momentarily sidetracking her with the familiar combination of comfort and sorrow that always accompanied it. Absentmindedly fingering the ever-present heart-shaped diamond necklace at her throat, she wondered for the zillionth time how different her life would be if her dad was still here. He had her heart, even after being gone for so many years.

Forcing her thoughts back to the task at hand, she plucked up her floral-shammed pillow from the head of the bed and let out a mini-cry of victory. She dove for a large gold buckle that peeked out from under her sloppily-placed duvet, then swung her legs around and clamored to her feet. She quickly looped the belt into her jeans and grabbed a hair band off her bedside table, then dug through the pile of hats on the chair next to the door. She paused, running her hand over her Le Cordon Bleu ball cap. Her mind latched onto the one problem with her plan, the magnitude of which grew with each passing day.

What if the school didn’t accept her?

Shoving away the thought, she snapped up her favorite white cowgirl hat and plunked it onto her head. She just couldn’t let herself think that way. It was only July. There was still plenty of time for her to hear from them. Besides, if she didn’t get in, they’d send a rejection letter. No news didn’t necessarily mean bad news.

She darted back out into the hallway and took the stairs two at a time, awkwardly yanking her hair into a ponytail as she flew.

Making her way across the drive, she saw that Courtney had gotten the class started preparing their horses. A few parents lingered along the outside of the fence, but most of them had left, probably furious at her for cutting short their hour to go get things done.

Rushing into the barn, she grabbed a curry comb off its hook on the wall and greeted her horse. “Hey, Miss Molly.” As she ran the comb quickly across Molly’s back, she mumbled to herself. She’d have to do a better job of grooming her later on.

Tossing down the comb, she took up the brush. “Sorry, baby. You deserve better than this.” Moving around to the horse’s other side, she realized she’d left her second cuff undone. She fumbled with the button as she continued to brush Molly, but since she actually needed both hands to accomplish each task, she succeeded only in scratching her wrist with the bristles.

“Youch!” She jumped back, pulling up her sleeve to examine the scratch.

“Works better if you use the brush on the horse.”

The confident baritone behind her nearly startled her out of her skin. She whipped around to see a guy hoisting a saddle up onto the rack on the wall, glancing over his shoulder and smirking like the feline friend of the recently departed canary.

“What in the…?” Her tone came out a little more venomous than she’d intended, but he looked like a guy who could handle it. She’d been standing there talking to her horse. Why hadn’t he made his presence known?

“Hey, I noticed that mare has some weeds stuck in her mane.” Speaking without even looking at her now, he secured the saddle. “You know, if you don’t have time to groom your horse correctly, you don’t have time to own a horse.”

Her jaw went slack. She’d been riding her whole life. This was her horse and her barn, and this guy—whoever he was—had no right to admonish her. Questions swirled in her brain, and she spit out the first one she could latch onto. “Who are you?”

Chuckling lightly as he finally turned to face her, he radiated an air of belonging that implied she was the outsider here, not him. His lack of a swift answer to her question gave the impression that he thought she should somehow already know who he was—like he was some kind of celebrity or something.

“Well…?” She seethed. Not only had he made her even later by springing up behind her like that, but he had implied that she wasn’t properly caring for her horse. And now he wouldn’t even identify himself.

Flashing a gleaming white smile that dented a dimple in his cheek, he ambled toward her. He pushed up the brim of his well-worn tan Stetson, revealing tousled blond hair and a pair of eyes so clear and blue they conjured an instant image of Flathead Lake on a hot summer day.

She gulped. As much as she hated to admit it, this guy was the best looking thing to hit Thornton Springs since Jeffrey Mark Caulfield came to town to make that movie last year.

“Name’s Micah.” Stepping confidently close to her, he held out a hand. “I started work here this morning.”

Oh. Of course. She’d forgotten all about the new ranch hand her brother Adam had hired.

Twisting her mouth in irritation at his obvious lack of first day self-consciousness, she reached out for a quick shake. “I’m Janessa.” Hoping to convey a lack of interest in further conversation, she returned to brushing Molly. Time was wasting.

“Pleasure to meet you, Janessa.” After a long moment of studying her the way you would an auction horse you were considering bidding on, he dipped the brim of his hat and strode out of the barn.

Her hand slowed on Molly’s back as she furtively witnessed his exit. She gave herself a mental shake. What was the matter with her? Standing there gawking like a schoolgirl when she needed to get to her class.

Irritation swelled in her gut. Just what she didn’t need, another pointless distraction from what really mattered—making the money to escape Thornton Springs and get her life off the ground.

As she hurried over to fetch her tack, her gaze again drifted to the doorway, but he had moved out of view. Guys. That was one thing she just couldn’t waste time thinking about right now.

She clicked her tongue. Of course, not thinking about them would be a whole lot easier if God didn’t make some of them so all-fired nice to look at.

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