Monthly Archives: June 2014

Full Steam Ahead by Karen Whitmeyer

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko



Book Description:

When Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston from an eastern finishing school, she’s stunned to find her father in ill health. Though she loves him, he’s only ever focused on what she’s not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run their family business, Renard Shipping.

Vowing to secure a suitable marriage partner, Nicole sets out with the Renard family’s greatest treasure: a dagger personally gifted to Nicole’s father by the pirate Jean Lafitte. Many believe the legend that the dagger is the source of all Renard Shipping’s good fortune, though Nicole is sure her father’s work ethic and honorable business practices are the keys to their success. Before she can board the steamer to New Orleans, Nicole finds her father’s rivals–the Jenkins brothers–on either side of the gangplank, ready to grab her and steal the dagger. Quickly, she decides to instead travel north, to Liberty, Texas, where she can decide what to do next.

Darius Thornton needs a secretary–someone to help him get his notes in order. Ever since the boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana, Darius has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. The pretty young socialite who applies for the job baffles him with her knowledge of mathematics and steamships. He decides to take a risk and hire her, but he’s determined her attractive face and fancy clothes won’t distract him from his important research.

The job offer comes at exactly the right time for Nicole. With what Darius is paying her, she’ll be able to afford passage to New Orleans in mere weeks. But Mr. Thornton is so reclusive, so distant, so unusual. He can create complex scientific equations but can’t remember to comb his hair. And his experiments are growing more and more dangerous. Still, there are undeniable sparks of attraction between them. But Nicole is leaving soon, and if she marries, it must be to a man who can manage a shipping empire. Darius certainly doesn’t fit that description. And the Jenkins brothers have not given up on kidnapping Nicole and seizing the Lafitte dagger for themselves.

My Review: 

Are you looking for a light summer read? You found the book for you. Ms. Whitmeyer writes another light read, lacking a bit of the humor from previous books she has written perhaps, but light nonetheless.

The scientist and the daughter bent on proving her value to her father make an unlikely combination, but her brains attracts him to her, when nothing else could pull him out of his obsession to solve the mystery of exploding boilers. That part I found fascinating. We no longer have that issue, but it was amazing to see the dedication one person could have from guilt.

The author weaves a light, but historical tale, with simple historical facts throughout this romance. It would be a great beach read or relaxing read for anytime.

This book was given to me for review by Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.



Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Romance

Annie’s Stories by Cindy Thomson

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko



Book Description:

The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.


My Review:

This book was just a wonder to me as I saw the thirst for books and the written word portrayed in such a  unique way. It made me wish people were as hungry for good literature now. I often see a lot of hunger for fantasy and cheap literature instead. Int his book, you see how people longed for well written  books, and it was this time period many of the classics we love and cherish still today were written.

There were several hard topics covered in this sweet story with a very light romantic bent to it. It addresses some of the abuse that young women suffered at the hands of people that believed they were following the Lord. Women were blamed for rape, forced kisses and other indignities, and locked away like they committed a crime. One young woman was locked away for marrying a man of the wrong religion.

Annie is somewhat damaged, she lost her father, her uncle had her locked away and stole from her  and when she is making a new life in America, she is mistrustful and wary. The mystery that is skillfully woven throughout, involving immigrants, the Pinkerton’s, and the US Postal Service, I found especially fascinating.

While this book covers some hard topics, it is an easy read. It is not something that will depress you or be too much info for a mature teen. It will for sure give you some topics for discussion, that would be for sure!

This book was provided for me for review by NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Our week at camp

My boys and I spent this past week at a little camp nestled up in the mountains in East Glacier. It is so beautiful up there.

P1070768It doesn’t look like much from here, but it has plenty to make an impact on children’s lives.

P1070765 P1070766This was the view from the cabin where we stayed.  We were up fairly high. It is hard to see on these pictures, but that is the treeline, you see there.

One of the days, we all piled into vehicles and climbed our way up the road into Many Glacier. I had not been in the park since I was about 10 years old, even though I have lived here for a very long time, so it was about time. It was so pretty up there.

P1070699There was a lot of piggy back rides from the teen camp counselors.

P1070702It was a great group of kids! This is the whole group in front of the lodge with that mountain backdrop.

P1070697This is the row of children getting ready to hike up the mountain.

P1070705 This is the giant lodge on the lake. It was built in 1914.

P1070706We had to wait for the last bathroom users before heading off.

P1070707Here we go! I tried to stay back with my mom, as she is a slower walker, but gave up and went ahead. On the way back, I wised up and went ahead of everyone!

P1070713At the end of the hike, there was a lake that the children were jumping into. It was glacier fed, so not the warmest, but the beach had lovely flat rocks all over it.


P1070712 There was a boat that was practicing for boat tours while we were sitting there.

P1070715We made spots to sit in the sun and just observe the view. There was some snow up there, and a warning on the trail that if you went higher, the path was a mess from the snow.

P1070714 L. and H. with the lake in the background

P1070722 P1070721 Some more mountain pictures….

P1070716  P1070717 The trail of children coming up the path! They were so happy and well behaved. They called down the line all the way, counting “1!” “2!” etc.

P1070718Arnica along the path

P1070720 P1070719 I got ahead walking, and the boys said they were getting comments like “Your mom sure can walk fast, even though she is short.”

P1070723 Waiting for the rest of the group.

We had to make it home to cook dinner. Everyday, the woman in charge of the camp had a wonderfully organized menu to cook. She did so much work and we worked on helping her. We fixed three meals a day and two snacks generally. There is no electricity, but there is a generator that runs the water for showers and dishwashing, and lights when needed. There is the lodge, five cabins and a bath house, along with the generator shed. They also had a camper they used for sleeping in. It is all simple, but a very nice set up.

P1070689 P1070690 P1070691 This was music time! Almost everyone sang loudly, and the ones that didn’t at first, were joining in near the end.

P1070694 P1070693 P1070692 This was craft time. I think this one was making small baskets. They really enjoyed the crafts, especially T. He thought it was so much fun!



P1070725 The sunset from the view from our cabin where we slept.

It was rainy and cold on one of the days, so we decided to drive instead of swim and hike and visited another lodge near the park and had an ice cream snack.

P1070731L. trying on some bear gloves.

P1070733 P1070734 H. and T. next to the historical pictures, diaries, clothing etc. The history was so fascinating for the area, especially on one the price for a dentist removing a wisdom tooth was listed. She paid $2.50 for the tooth removal.

P1070727 P1070728 There was a large teepee outside, several of them….but we were trying to beat the rain to get inside. It was pouring down!

P1070729 L. and one of his friends at camp.

P1070736 P1070737

We had to keep everyone busy in the rain and there were lots of games made up with card etc. P1070738 P1070739

My mom was showing them music that my brothers and sisters had played this last year. P1070735

Game time!!!

P1070740 P1070741 P1070742 P1070743 P1070744They played a variety of games, but all had a great time laughing, guessing each other’s “names”.

It was wet and cold, but they got a little stir crazy after a bit and they went out to play, even though most of the counselors were fighting colds. They were taking every natural and unnatural remedy we were handing out. Grapefruit Seed extract, oregano oil, L-Lysine, Airborne etc. We kept filling the tea carafe and they kept draining it along with the honey bear. They rubbed essential oils on their chests as well.

P1070746 P1070747 P1070748 P1070749 P1070750 P1070751 P1070745 More singing time! They could get really energetic!

P1070752 P1070753 P1070754 P1070755 P1070756 Campfire time inside instead of in the wet! We are good at improvising here!

P1070757 P1070758

P1070759 P. with some of the small campers at the breakfast table.

P1070762 P1070763 P1070764They did a continuing skit throughout the week. This was a portion of the last one. One of the nights, the dinner was like a Medieval dinner. They had foil instead of plates and had to eat with their hands. We had Roast beef, roast chicken, bread, fruit, and roasted potato wedges. It turned out really good and they had a jousting match in the field while everyone was eating.

On Friday, we cleaned up the camp and all headed over the mountains for home. It was a really fun and satisfying week. If you would like to ever support a camp that ministers over on the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, consider donating some money, even food or time if you have it. It is worth it!


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke


Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Book Description: (From back of book)

Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany—in the summer of 1939—will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.

Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.

Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young—a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally—who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives—and asking others to do the same—for those they barely know but come to love.

My Review:

There are times you read a historical fiction book from this time period and you finish it and even though the main characters ended up happy, you feel the weight of what happened settling in on your shoulders. While Ms. Gohlke addresses really tough issues in this book, I did not end it feeling depressed. I felt like I had more of an idea about the very brave people that faced an enemy during a very dangerous time for those that were handicapped, too perfect, came from “flawed” parents, or were of the “wrong race”. The history that was involved in including Bonhoffer was very good. This would be really good to show a more mild way of some of the ways young people and older people were involved in saving others during this time. I was thinking as I see all the time how our World War veterans are passing away, our Holocaust survivors are leaving this earth and I realized if we do not teach our children how real and horrible the events of World War two were, we will have grandchildren that do not understand why it is even important to know about it. This book would be excellent for a teen in high school to read as part of their high school historical fiction and literature. While it speaks on the eugenics that were used, it does not go into the gruesome details in a way that would be graphic for a teen or sensitive reader. It is just enough to give you the picture, horrify you, but not scar you. I found I would have found the twists in the story  almost odd, had I not read other books on eugenics in Hitler’s Germany and realized that she barely scratched the surface, but gave enough for you.

Just as she did with her other historical fiction, Ms. Gohlke hits the nail on the head and knocks this down in one blow. I hope it will speak to you as it did me.


1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Romance, Homeschooling, MFW

Menu Planning for the week


B: Cold cereal

L: Sandwiches, tortilla chips and salsa

D: Pork Chops, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob.


B: Cold Cereal or Oatmeal

L: Leftovers from Saturday

D: Pizza, Popcorn, Banana bread, Cantaloupe


B: Oatmeal with flax seeds, scrambled eggs

L: Sandwiches, baby carrots

D: Shepherd’s Pie, salad


B: French Toast, canned fruit

L:  Bean Taquitos, salsa

D: Taco salad


B: Cold Cereal and scrambled egg

L: Grilled Cheese sandwiches, Tomato soup

D: Spaghetti, meatballs and salad


B: Oatmeal with fruit and toast

L: Bean Taquitos, salsa and sour cream

D:  BBQ meatballs, Creamy Mac and cheese, green beans


B: Muffins and scrambled eggs

L:  Homemade energy bites, Corn tortilla quesadillas with meat and cheese

D: Enchiladas, spanish rice, salad


Leave a comment

Filed under Bargain Dinners, Recipes

A Jane Austen Encounter by Donna F. Crow

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


English professors Elizabeth and Richard are celebrating twenty years of marriage with their dream vacation—visiting all Jane Austen’s homes in England. But not even the overpowering personality of their Oxford guide or the careful attentions of their new friends can keep the tour free from lurking alarms. When a box of old documents is donated to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Richard volunteers to help sort through it. Later that night, however, he finds the Centre’s director bleeding on her office floor. Could the valuable letter that has gone missing really lead them to new revelations about Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript The Watsons?

Encounter Jane Austen with Elizabeth and Richard on their tour. Visit all the sites so redolent of Jane Austen and her characters in the beautiful city of Bath. Stay in the Chawton House Library and visit the charming Chawton cottage where Jane’s writing flowered, and the nearby Steventon church where her father was rector and her own faith developed. Stand by her grave in Winchester Cathedral and enjoy your time at the lovely country estate of Godmersham. But don’t let your guard down. Evil lurks even in the genteel world of Jane Austen.

My Review:
A mystery in the world of Jane Austen? Step through time with the professors as they think they are only going on a romantic, historical tour, but find themselves immersed in mystery and murder. This book will appeal to mystery and Jane Austen lovers alike. It is full of tidbits of history surrounding Jane’s family, writing and fascinating glimpses of the area where she lived and wrote. It is not one of the annoying spin offs of Jane’s books, but instead a book about those of us that enjoy her writing and some of the obsessed fans that could even resort to murder. The mystery is intriguing, making you want to keep turning the pages.

I thought this would be a fun book to give to people that are thinking of taking a trip to the U.K or wishing to visit the Jane Austen historical sites.
This is book three of a series about Elizabeth and Richard, and I intend to look into finding the others in the series!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

A Table by the Window by Hilary Lodge

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


About the Book: (From the back cover)
The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, food writer Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life negotiating her skill with words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn—does she really have what it takes? Should she risk leaving her journalism career?

After the death of her grandmother, Juliette discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and dark secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery away from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story.

Inspired by her grandmother’s evolving story, Juliette resolves to explore the world of online dating. To her surprise, she finds a kindred spirit in Neil McLaren, a handsome immunologist based in Memphis, Tennessee. With a long-distance relationship simmering, Juliette faces life-shifting decisions. How can she possibly choose between a promising culinary life and Neil, a man a world away in more ways than one? And is it possible her Grandmother’s story can help show the way?

My Review:
There are times you want a fast paced romantic story, and other times you want one that digs deeper. This is one of those books that digs a little deeper. Juliette seemed so down to earth to me, I could relate to her family as well. I loved how it showed her love for her family, yet her frustration with them at the same time.
The details in here on the old family recipes was one of the best parts of this book. It might have been the recipes that made the book slower to read and digest, but throughly enjoyable. The food descriptions were so well done, you felt you could almost smell and taste them through the page.

The family mystery was understated, but woven through the story, in an effort to keep that question always coming up. You always know that families have secrets, but this one was not as dramatically done, but done well. It is for sure not suspense.

The book is more a woven book of word pictures, of a close family that loves cooking for people. I think this was one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much. While our family does not own a restaurant, we have always spent time cooking for others, large groups and really enjoyed it as a whole. I am looking forward to trying some of the recipes in the book.

One of the other things I honestly enjoyed about this, was Juliette loved to write about food as well, and she was good at it. That sparked all kinds of ideas for me.

This book was given to me for review from Blogging For Books. The opinions contained herein are solely my own.


1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Recipes

Saving others….at the risk of our own safety?

I have always thought that it is better to be self sacrificing than to makes others suffer. It just feels better you know. Sometimes I have seen though, when I extend that to my own family. I tell myself “It is okay, they can handle it, this other person just really needs help right now. I can make dinner for someone else, and we can eat simple tonight. Those kids look like they really need a pair of shoes, ours don’t have as many holes.”


It sounds great. It looks holy. It feels better sometimes that doing the same mundane job of dinner, working, cleaning, homeschooling, taking children to school, breastfeeding, whatever it is you do on a daily basis. We can always find a worthy cause to make ourselves “feel” better. But the questions we should ask ourselves before we do anything are these.

  1. Is this a healthy thing for the whole family?
  2. Am I taking care of my responsibilities before looking to extra ones that I was not given to be responsible for?
  3. Am I taking the pleasure away from someone else that may need a chance to volunteer, but I always step up and do it, so they never have a chance?
  4. Is this really the place I am supposed to be spending my time?


I know I have seen families that have different ways that they are part of valuable ministries. They are all different. One person might be a foster parent, while another helps with Teen MOPS. One young women may encourage homeschooling mom’s by helping with teaching abilities, while another pursues shelving at the library.

But there are times when those pursuits are not healthy for the family. I have seen people put their love for children and desire to foster children above the needs of the family they already have. I have seen mothers that place the health of their children over their own among other things. I have seen families that place family togetherness over looking outside their own 4 walls at times as well. It all about balance and reason.


But I have seen how sometimes we can focus on the right of something, and forget about what we were already called to do. We can look at the over all picture and learn that sometimes it is a no for us at times. Also, sometimes, there is a yes when we really didn’t want to do it.


The next time you choose an activity, think about your days or weeks you have in the moment. If you were to only have one year to live, is this how you feel you would the greatest impact on those that matter the most to you? Or would you just be another face of a volunteer? Do you know without a shadow of a doubt you will not be sorry you spent time this way, have at it! It is likely worthwhile.

But sometimes realize, it is okay to take a break and let others do the volunteering, the serving and spend time with your family. If you have been spending a lot of time with your family, it might be time to take up some volunteering! Remember balance!

Don’t let serving others put your own safety and health at risk, but let it enrich your life and make you a healthier person.


1 Comment

Filed under Daily Happenings

The Heart’s Pursuit by Robin Lee Hatcher

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko


Book Description

A Colorado beauty abandoned at the altar. A rugged bounty hunter haunted by his past.

In this dramatic historical novel by best-selling author Robin Lee Hatcher, two wounded hearts join forces in a pursuit across the Old West. Silver Matlock is a Colorado beauty in search of revenge against the man who stranded her at the altar and fled with the remnant of her family’s fortune. She is determined to find the man who betrayed her trust. Jared Newman, rugged as the West itself, is relentless in his pursuit of lawless men—but unable to escape his own tragic past. Hardened by his life as a bounty hunter, he must learn to forgive before he loses his soul. Joining forces, the two set out in search of Silver’s betrayer. The handsome but embittered Jared finds himself powerfully drawn to the beautiful woman whose drive for justice equals his own. But lack of honesty keeps Silver and Jared from fully trusting each other, even as a shocking revelation intensifies their pursuit of the cunning – and deadly – quarry.


My Review:

Robin Lee Hatcher has been writing books for awhile, and some of her earlier books are ones that stay in memory as touching my heart and mind. This book was more of a lighter read, which is not to say that it didn’t touch on some harder topics. The bride, left at the altar, the feelings of betrayal just from that, to say nothing about her family losing everything because of it. Jared has his own demons to fight, which he faces by pretending to be hard and cold.

The one thing I struggled with about this story, was the fact that no one seemed to really push the issue of them being a man and woman alone together in that time period. It was mentioned, but glossed over. I don’t know that this was completely accurate for that time period, but she was or felt as though her reputation was so bad already, it couldn’t get any worse, maybe?

As the two of them battled out their own demons, the search for the Western serial killer continues, along with the hunt for the missing money/fiancé. The detailed account of the bounty hunters, even though they were not called that then, were fascinating.

Robin ties the story together very well, with a satisfying ending for a good, predictable storyline, but with some twists and turns along the way. This is one that you might enjoy taking along on a vacation, it will keep your interest, but not require a ton of attention!

This book was given to me for review by BookLook Bloggers. The opinions contained herein are my own.



I review for BookLook Bloggers

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Romance

Menu Plan

Wednesday: Biscuits, gravy, green beans

Thursday: Stir fry, rice

Friday: Dinner with Family- Pesto pasta, chicken and caesar salad.

Saturday: Pasta

Sunday: Leftovers…clean out the fridge…

Monday: Gone

Tuesday: Gone


Now, all I have to do is get all the food, keep it around for the meals and clean out the fridge.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bargain Dinners