Some posts and sidebar widgets on this blog contain affiliate links.

Friday, December 6, 2013

MOVED!

Okay, so the big news is...we've moved.  I can't even remember if I blogged that that was going to happen, and I'm too lazy to open another page and check.  I'm fairly certain that somewhere between the plethora of reviews I might have mentioned a little thing like the fact that we were moving half way across the country...but maybe not.  Notice was fairly short, and the pace of life got super-fast almost the minute we found out.  My husband was self-employed in Fl, but a software company whose product that he used to manage his computer clients' computers offered him a job in NC, and we took it :-).

HUGE SHOUT OUT to everyone who helped in any way-from entertaining my kiddos and ensuring they had a few last playdates before the move, to packing boxes, to loading the truck- we couldn't have done it without you.

So here's the new (rental) abode:


If y'all could join us in praying that our existing house in FL sells quickly, that would be awesome.  We are selling "as is" (read that as "it needs a lot of work") but well below market value to allow for that.  Right now we are carrying both houses, and it's definitely a stretch.

I have been busier with unpacking boxes than with taking pics, and if you are my friend in FB, you've seen these already, but here are a few more.


Super tiny kitchen...still unpacking and trying to figure out where everything is going to go.

Anyway, gotta sign off for now.  We are currently a one car family, and my man needs to get to work :-).
Pin It!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Nativity Story App Review

About The Nativity Story:
Where will baby Jesus be born? At the market? At a restaurant? At the inn? Readers of this book app can follow Joseph and Mary on their search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Along the way they encounter a variety of colorful local people and animals. This is a fun and engaging way to share the original story of Christmas with the young generation and remind them what Christmas is all about.
Great for kids 2-10

This is an app for iPhone or iPad.  The iPhone app is a "mini" version of the iPad app, and the price reflects the difference- $1.99 for the iPhone app and $3.99 for the iPad app.  

OBM says:  This app has a wonderful old-fashioned feel to it.  My 8 year old daughter loves it.  She really enjoys that she can either read the story or have it read to her.  then she can swipe the screen and have more dialogue take place or have other characters move, etc.  She loves virtual pop-up books, and this one is no exception.  I would definitely recommend it!  


Pin It!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Four Blood Moons by John Hagee Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Worthy Publishing (October 8, 2013)

***Special thanks to Leeanna Case for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John Hagee is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, as well as Jerusalem Countdown, which itself has sold over 1 million copies. He is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a nondenominational evangelical church with more than 20,000 active members, as well as the founder and president of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his radio and television teachings throughout America and in 249 nations worldwide. Hagee is also the founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, a grassroots national association with over one million members to date.
http://worthypublishing.com/books/Four-Blood-Moons/


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


 Inspired by NASA projections and recorded history, Pastor John Hagee reveals direct connections between four upcoming blood-moon eclipses and what they portend for Israel and all of humankind.

Over the last 500 years, blood-red moons have fallen on the first day of Passover three separate times. These occurrences were connected to some of the most significant days in Jewish history: 1492 (the final year of the Spanish Inquisition when Jews were expelled from Spain), 1948 (statehood for Israel and the War of Independence) and 1967 (the Six-Day War). Every heavenly body is controlled by the unseen hand of God, which signals coming events to humanity. There are no solar or lunar accidents. The next series of four blood moons occurs at Passover and Sukkot in 2014 and 2015. In this riveting book, Hagee explores what these blood moons mean and why Christians must understand these signs and what they bode both for Israel and the world.

Joel 2 and Acts 2 both state: "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness [eclipse] and the moon into blood [eclipse] before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes."



Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Worthy Publishing (October 8, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1617952141
ISBN-13: 978-1617952142


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Signs in the Heavens




There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars. . . . Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.
—Luke 21:25, 27–28




As the jet plane gracefully circled over the majestic beauty of Puget Sound, I looked out of the window at the tall and perfectly shaped spruce trees that surrounded a series of glistening lakes. Along the shoreline stood elegant homes with boat ramps and fishing docks extending from beautifully








#bloodmoons




manicured lawns. It was the American paradise that is the gorgeous state of Washington.
The wheels of the jet touched down on the runway with their familiar screech, which is always music to my ears. Every safe landing is a great landing!
The jet rolled to a stop. I unbuckled my seat belt, climbed down the steps, and was refreshingly jolted by the cool breeze on my face. I knew then we were far from the sweltering Texas heat! I began to focus on the reason I was here and what I was to say to the thousands that were gathering for the statewide Night to Honor Israel rally that evening.
Six years earlier, on February 6, 2006, I had invited four hundred of America’s foremost evangelical leaders to join me at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, to form a na- tional organization called Christians United for Israel. The purpose of our organization is to bring Christians and Jews together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and brotherly love, in order to emphasize that what we have in common is far greater than the differences we have allowed to separate us over the centuries.
If you are not currently a member of Christians United for Israel and desire to stand with Israel and the Jewish people, I strongly encourage you to join us today by going to CUFI.org.
King David said, “You will arise and have compassion on
Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come” (Psalm 102:13 niv). . . . The appointed time is now!




4








Signs in the Heavens




why Should we Support iSrael?
If we are to correctly understand heavenly signs and wonders, it’s imperative we grasp the full scope of Scripture and history. The following are five biblical reasons why Christians should be grateful to, and show support for, the nation of Israel and the Jewish people:




1. god proMiSeS to BleSS thoSe who BleSS iSrael “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3). This is God’s pledge to Abraham and the Jewish people for all generations to come. God has promised to bless nations, churches, and individuals who do practical acts of kindness to bless Israel and the Jewish people.
Biblical evidence of God’s promised blessing is found in Luke 7, where a Roman centurion who had a sick servant wanted the Rabbi from Nazareth to come into his home and heal his servant. Jesus was an observant Jew; yet He would have to break the laws of Moses to enter the house of a Gen- tile, who was considered unclean.
The centurion—commander of a hundred soldiers—sent the Jewish elders to intercept Jesus. The elders begged Jesus earnestly, saying that the Roman centurion request was de- serving of Jesus’ healing, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5).
Jesus healed the sick servant because a Gentile had




5








#bloodmoons




performed a practical act of kindness to bless Israel and the
Jewish people.
The Bible further supports God’s blessing on those who bless Israel with the evidence of Cornelius. Why were Cor- nelius and his household the first Gentiles to hear the gospel and to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? The answer is found in Acts 10:22, which describes Cornelius the centurion as “a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews.”
God performed a miracle to motivate the apostle Peter to go to the house of this unclean Gentile. Peter had a vision of a sheet (a prayer shawl) filled with unclean animals (Gentiles), and God commanded him not to call unclean what God had pronounced as clean (Acts 10:9–16). Peter obeyed the mes- sage of the vision and went, against religious tradition, to the house of a Gentile to present the gospel.
When Peter shared the gospel with the household of Cor- nelius, they all received salvation and were filled with the Holy Spirit, and then Peter commanded them to be baptized in wa- ter (Acts 10:44–48).
The Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius and his household because a Gentile did practical acts of kindness to bless the Jewish people, and true to His promise, God blessed him beyond measure.
I can testify personally that there is no human explana-
tion for the unprecedented blessing of God on Cornerstone




6








Signs in the Heavens




Church and John Hagee Ministries other than the fact that more than thirty years ago we decided to show practical acts of kindness for Israel and the Jewish people. Since that time, God has opened the windows of heaven and blessed us be- yond measure.
God’s promise is a fact: “I will bless those who bless you.”




2. we are coMManded to pray for the peace of JeruSaleM
Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is not a request—it’s a command! “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you” (Psalm 122:6).
From God’s perspective, Jerusalem is the center of the uni- verse. Jerusalem is the city David conquered from the Jebusi- tes three thousand years ago, and it became the capital of Isra- el forever. May it always be the eternal and undivided capital of Israel, and may peace be within her walls and prosperity within her palaces (Psalm 122:7).
Jerusalem is where Abraham offered Isaac on Mount Mo- riah. Jerusalem is where Jeremiah and Isaiah penned prin- ciples of righteousness that became the moral compass for Western civilization. And outside of its gates Jesus Christ, the Son of David, was crucified for the sins of the world.
According to biblical prophecy, Jerusalem is the past, present, and future of the world! From this city, Jesus will rule
planet earth with a rod of iron, and of His kingdom there shall




7








#bloodmoons




be no end (Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:33).
When you pray for Jerusalem, you are praying for world peace. History proves that when there is peace in Jerusalem, there is peace in the world. When there is war in Jerusalem, the blood flows on planet earth. The universe revolves around Jerusalem. I quote my friend Dr. Graham Lacey, “As long as there is Jerusalem there is God; and as long as there is God there is Jerusalem.”




3. we are coMManded to Be watchMen on the
wallS of iSrael
God commands us through the prophet Isaiah to be watch- men on the walls of Jerusalem (62:6). We are commanded by God, through the prophet Isaiah, to speak up and defend Is- rael and the Jewish people when they are slandered, attacked by their enemies, and are subjected to any callous act of anti- Semitism. Isaiah writes:




For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest. . . .
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent.


(62:1, 6)












8








Signs in the Heavens




4. we are coMManded to MiniSter to iSrael in
Material thingS
Another biblical reason we support Israel is given by the apostle Paul: “For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things [the Jewish people], their duty [the Gentiles] is also to minister to them [the Jewish people] in material things” (Romans 15:27).
What are the “spiritual things” Paul is referring to?




• The Jewish people have given to us the written Word of God.
• The Jewish people have given to us the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
• The Jewish people have given to us the Old Testament prophets: Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habak- kuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
• The Jewish people have given to us the first family of Christianity: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Take Jesus out of Christianity and there is no Christianity.
• The Jewish people have given to us the twelve disciples and the apostle Paul.


Consider the monumental contribution given to us by the seed of Abraham. For this reason Jesus said in John 4:22, “For salvation is of the Jews.”




9








#bloodmoons




If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there would be no Christianity. Judaism does not need Chris- tianity to explain its existence; Christianity, however, cannot explain its existence without Judaism.
When I refer to Christianity I am referencing the teach- ings of Christ, which were based on the principles of Juda- ism—not the deeds of polluted historic Christianity.
Historic Christianity has left an evil legacy. It is responsible for the Crusades, in which Jewish people from Europe to Je- rusalem were slaughtered in seven major pogroms (crusades). The first crusade was declared by Pope Urban II in 1095. The Crusaders were rapists and thieves, forgiven in advance by the reigning pope for any sins they might commit while on their holy campaign to liberate Jerusalem from the “infidels.”
Not one Christian in a hundred today can answer the ques- tion: “How is it that Christianity, born through the teachings of a Jewish rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth, could three hundred years later kill Jews in the name of God?”
There is a dramatic difference between historic Christian- ity and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I publicly state that I am not a follower of historic Christianity; I am a follower of Jesus Christ!




5. JeSuS entreated the church to Support iSrael We should support Israel and the Jewish people because it was Jesus’ final request to His church. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40:




10








Signs in the Heavens




Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren [the Jewish people], you did it to Me.




Jesus never called the Gentiles His brethren until after the cross. Before the cross we were, as described by the apostle Paul, outside the covenants of Israel, without God and with- out hope, of all men most miserable (Ephesians 2:12; 1 Cor- inthians 15:19).
Gentile Christians can look at the day of the cross and shout for joy. It was there we were grafted into the original olive tree (Romans 11:17). It was there our sins were forgiven, buried in the deepest sea, never to be remembered anymore (Jeremiah 31:34). It was there that our sicknesses and diseas- es were removed and we received divine health, for “by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
It was at the cross that Jesus took our poverty and gave to us the riches of Abraham. We who were “not a people” (1 Pe- ter 2:10) were adopted and became “kings and priests to His God” (Revelation 1:6), “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthi- ans 5:20), and have been taken from rags to royalty through the precious blood of the virgin-born, “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The curse of death, hell, and the grave was broken, and we were given eternal life; hallelujah for the cross!
God’s Gentile assignment toward the Jewish people is to
show them what they have not seen from historic Christianity




11








#bloodmoons




in two thousand years—the pure and unconditional love of
God!




Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works [practical acts of kindness] and glo- rify your Father in heaven.


(Matthew 5:16)




Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matthew
25:35–36).
Jesus makes it very clear that it’s not what you feel about the Jewish people that is the acid test, for Jesus didn’t say, “I was hungry and you felt sorry for Me; I was thirsty and you felt concern for Me; I was a stranger and you felt pity for Me.” I often hear pastors, evangelists, and Christians say, “I really like Israel” or “I like the Jewish people.” Jesus couldn’t care less what you like or don’t like; He’s looking for action. What will you do? What practical acts of kindness have you or your church done to demonstrate your love for Israel as mentioned in Matthew
25:40? What action have you taken to support Israel?
Stop talking about what you feel . . . and start taking action by showing practical acts of kindness toward God’s chosen people. Simply put, “Don’t tell me you love me. Show me!”




12

OBM says:   A few months ago, my friend Cindy came up to me at church and asked me if I had read Four Blood Moons.  I told her no, in fact, I hadn't even heard of it.  And then I got an e-mail saying I had the opportunity to review it.  Believing there is no coincidence with God, I happily signed up!  Years ago, I had read another book that alluded to how we, as in humankind, had lost the art of reading the heavens for signs and not just for seasons.  That left a lasting impression with me, and so I was very interested to read what Four Blood Moons had to say.
John Hagee begins with his passion- support for Israel, and I am right there with him.  When He grafted us in, God never abandoned His chosen people, and we need to support them because He says so.  And it was this passion for Israel that led to him first being exposed to the idea that there were signs in the heavens that we are missing out on understanding.  Signs like the Four Blood Moons.  If it's important enough for God to mention multiple times in scripture, it's probably important enough for us to spend a little bit of time understanding!
Unfortunately, for the first time ever, I just didn't finish the book before the review post date, so I can't tell you about the whole thing.  It shipped a little later than I thought it would, and we are moving out of state in just a few weeks, so my reading time is minimal.  But I can't wait to finish it and learn more about the Four Blood Moons.  I'd definitely recommend it, as the person who recommended it to me is a trusted friend.
Pin It!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lilla Rose Free Shipping Promotion



Through tomorrow, you can get free shipping on your Lilla Rose order over $30.  They just released some new flexi clips and shorter u-pins, and are offering free shipping to celebrate!  Don't miss your chance for free shipping.
Pin It!

Monday, November 4, 2013

See The Light- Art Project DVD Review



If you've been a reader of my blog for a while, you may remember that I have reviewed See the Light before.  In that case, the DVD I was given was the same one anyone could request for free and was a sample of their Art Classes DVDs.  This time, See The Light offered us the chance to choose any of their 9 Art Projects DVD Volumes to review, so I encourage you to read on, even if you read the other review as well.

So what is See The Light?  See The Light DVDs are basically art classes taught by Master Artist Pat Knepley.  Each DVD, or volume, covers one particular topic and is divided into 4 lessons.  The Art Classes cover the fundamentals of art.  The Art Projects are "ideal for High School Fine Art credit" (although my 8 1/2 year old "tagged along" and only needed a little help-she just obviously didn't absorb a great amount of the teaching).  Since the Art Projects DVDs are what we received, that's what this review will cover.

Each Art Project DVD covers a specific artist and style:

  • Poppy Collage in the style of Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Pointillism Fruit in the style of Georges Seurat
  • Repeated Sweets in the style of Wayne Thiebaud
  • Dreams of Joseph in the style of Marc Chagall
  • Peaceful Seas in the style of Winslow Homer
  • Horsin' Around in the style of Edgar Degas
  • Sunflowers in the style of Van Gogh
  • Paper Jungle in the style of Henri Rousseau
  • Tiffany Window in the style of Louis Comfort Tiffany
The DVDs offers 120 minutes of instruction, and the project will take another 120 minutes.  If you were to do all 9 DVDs, plus their Cartooning Basics, and the Bible Stories DVDs that they offer, you would have more than enough legitimate credit hours for half a credit in Fine Arts.  If you augmented your DVDs with trips to museums and performances, researched each artist further and did a report on each, and maybe visiting with a local artist, etc. you could certainly find a way to develop a whole credit hour class in Fine Arts built around See The Light.  

We chose to review Peaceful Seas, as I felt like watercolor was one area of art that my 14 year old daughter had not explored much.  Here are a few pictures of her work in progress:

 So this was after lessons 1 and 2.  I took a picture after lesson one.  I pinky swear.  But it's gone missing.  The plastic bag in the picture above gave texture to the rock as seen in the picture below.

This was after lesson 3.  It's coming together more and more.  

 Above and below are the completed pictures.  Sadly, the girls did not use watercolor paper (did I mention my artsy girl isn't so detail oriented as to care about which paper she used?), so it's a little wrinkly.  The below picture is backlit, which I quite like.


The next ones are by my younger daughter:

8 1/2 year old's picture after lesson one.  Sorry it's sideways.  I can't seem to convince Blogger that it shouldn't be.

Here's hers after lesson 2.

And her finished work.  Not too shabby.  And certainly not markedly behind her older sibling's.  That one thing I really love about See The Light.  Kids at multiple age levels can all produce really remarkable art work.

The pros:  Pat's instruction is very easy to follow.  And she knows all about art, so I don't have to :-).  She talks the kids through each step of the process, and gives tons of background on the artist and what influenced them to created their work(s).  So it's really an in depth lesson.   I love that she weaves scripture into the lesson as well, as it pertains to the project. My 14 year old preferred to watch the whole video and then recreate the steps afterward.  My younger daughter painted with the video, although we would have to pause it.  That helped compensate for her shorter memory span.  Well, that and her sister or I helper her a bit.  But really, hers is turning out quite pretty as well. 



The cons:  None...there than the fact that I really would love to own the whole set, which just isn't do-able right now with moving, LOL.

The bottom line:  See The Light is solid art instruction.  While the students are taught how to complete one specific project, the skills they learn are applicable to all art in general. In Peaceful Seas, some of those skills involved the rule of thirds, foreground and background, color wash, loading the brush, fine details, and more.   And they are learning about the history of great artists too.  I'd definitely recommend See The Light DVDs to anyone looking for quality art instruction for their children, especially older children looking to satisfy high school credit.

Each See The Light Art Projects DVD can be purchased for $14.99, or there is a DVD of the month club that reduces the price to $12.50 each.  Or, for the best value, you can buy them as a boxed set of $99.99 for all 9 DVDs.  They are all available for purchase from See The Light.  Or you can find See the Light on Facebook.  

To see what other members of Mosaic Reviews had to say, go to the Mosaic reviews blog.


Pin It!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rain by Kathryn Hewitt Review

In the past, I had the opportunity to review Snow, Kathryn Hewitt's first book about Ruth and her struggles with her past and her relationships.  This time, I had the chance to read through the second book about Ruth's life called Rain.



Here is a little bit about the book:
For every decision made there is a consequence that is certain to follow. Whether the consequence is beneficial or distressing, it must exist.
Rain continues the story of Ruth three and a half years after the miraculous event that changed her life forever. Now a mother of a toddler, Ruth is found moving herself back in to the college dormitory for the second year.
Feeling as though she isn’t worth the love of a good man, Ruth sabotages her relationship with James; the man she believes is her one true soul mate. Unable to accept his love and grace, she sends him away believing it is the right thing to do. But Ruth has much to learn about love and grace. Like she felt with James, so she feels about her faith; undeserved and unworthy.
Lost in a state of depression and feeling the effects of a raging storm, Ruth is desperate to find something of solidity to grasp ahold. After a traumatic sexual assault, she finds herself in a depression much deeper than she’d ever imagine. Feeling as though only bad things happen to bad people, she sets course a path of self destruction, determined to drown herself in the shame she believes she deserves.
It’s been said, When it rains, it pours. And for Ruth, that statement couldn’t ring more true. When storm after storm brings pelting rain and raging winds into Ruth’s life, she gives up on ever regaining the innocence she’d once had. Blinded by depression and desperation Ruth can’t see the shelters continuously being provided for her. Though she turned her back on her faith, the One who extends mercy, gives Ruth the grace she desperately needs. Now, Ruth must find her way back and cling to the faith that saved her once before.  



About the author:

 Kathryn Hewitt was born and raised in the small town of Camden, South Carolina. Breaking away from becoming a stereotype, she was an Honors Graduate and went on to study British Literature and Sociology at Charleston Southern University, inspiring to be a High School English teacher.Kathryn has a passion for teaching teenagers and reaching out to those who seem as though the world has closed the door. Because of her own experiences, including becoming a teenage mother at fifteen, Kathryn knows the value of life and the blessings it contains. Understanding the importance of making wise decisions, Kathryn passionately seeks to instill that wisdom into the minds of every young lady she encounters. The inspiration for Kathryn's writings comes from her own experiences, and she is never afraid to speak the truth that others refuse to acknowledge.Kathryn married in 2005 and is a stay at home mom with her four sons. She and her family currently live in the same town she grew up.

OBM says:  Not every book can be a favorite for every reader, and in truth, I found that I preferred the first book in this series over this one.  Poor Ruth is very self destructive, and that's maybe just heavier subject matter than I was looking for right now.  And I found the story hard to follow sometimes as it would flash back to past events without any notice.   A few little dots or a squiggly line or something to separate the time line would have been helpful, but then I was reading the e-version, so it's possible the print version supplies those.  I did enjoy continuing Ruth's story, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to read and review Rain, even if it wasn't my favorite.  God does work things out in ways we don't expect and always for our good according to His plan for us, but we have to learn to fully trust and depend on Him, which is definitely a prevailing theme in Rain, and a good reminder for us all.
Pin It!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Origami Owl and my Friend Lisa- and a GIVEAWAY

I want to introduce you all to my friend Lisa:

Lisa and I go WAY back- to the same high school (although we traveled in different crowds and had over 600 students in our "class", so we didn't really know each other then).  We really "met" for the first time in a praise choir we both have sung in called United in Praise.  When I met Lisa, she was not the person she is today.  She was melancholy, she didn't like herself much, and she was struggling to find her worth as a wife and stay-at-home mom.  She had had breast cancer and survived, but she was not living victorious....

And then she found Origami Owl.  Origami Owl has literally changed her life.  She started with them December 29, 2011.  She is now a Senior Director with 11,000 people on her team.  11 THOUSAND.  Just little 'ole Lisa.  My bud.  Who I have poured out my heart to on more than one occasion.  She picked a gem of a company with a super cool product, and she's done fantastic with it because it sells itself.  Have you SEEN these lockets???




They are glass, and open with a magnetic clasp.  You can totally customize them with any of the gazillion charms that they carry- everything from sports to initials to birthstones to almost anything you can think of.  Next to the locket in the picture above are their new "window plates" that go inside the locket like one big charm.  I got the cross one.  LOVE IT!


There are these other plates too that say different things.  I have one that says "blessed".


Depending on the chain you get, you can wear little tags with your locket- or just wear the tags.


You can also add dangles, as seen above. I LOVE dangles!

Here's my daughter buying her first locket- a mini with a bow and arrow charm (she's a little Merida obsessed).  She has always loved my locket and is thrilled to have her own.

 Here's mine on my favorite chain-it's super long and I can clip fun dangles on it.  LOVE my new cross window plate.
Their boxes say, "You tell stories with words, we tell stories with jewelry."

And now, you have the chance to tell YOUR story with jewelry. One lucky reader will win a medium sized silver locket with one charm. Just enter the giveaway below:
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pin It!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Katie's Forever Promise by Jerry Eicher- Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In book 3 of author Jerry Eicher’s Emma Raber’s Daughter series, Katie puts her life together after Ben Stoll's betrayal of her love. When she is baptized into the church, she receives a surprising offer that will keep her close to her Amish community—much to her mother’s delight.



Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Series: Emma Raber's Daughter (Book 3)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736952551
ISBN-13: 978-0736952552


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Katie Raber sat on the tall, swivel chair with a smile on her face. She was now mistress and queen of this one-room Amish schoolhouse for the term. Her hiring had been reaffirmed this morning by Enos Kuntz himself, the chairman of the school board. Enos had paid her a special visit, leaving with a friendly nod and a quick comment. “I think you’ll do just fine with your new job, Katie. Let us know if you have any problems.”

Katie swept the top of her teacher’s desk clean with a shaky hand, pausing to replace the small plastic pencil holder she’d knocked over. On the other side of the room, pushed up against the window, sat a table loaded with the year’s supply of schoolbooks. She was a little scared, but she told herself there was nothing to worry about. This world of learning called her, just as she was certain it would also beckon eager young students once school began next week. And then, in less than two months, she would be twenty-one, considered an adult in her Amish community. Her wages would be her own to spend how she chose instead of sharing them with her parents—Mamm and her new husband, Jesse Mast. How blessed Katie felt. It was still hard to comprehend all the changes that had occurred in the last few years.

Katie stood and looked out the window. Enos was driving away in his buggy, his bearded face still visible through the open door. Calm was flooding over Katie now. There could be only one reason he would take the time to drive all the way over here this morning, the week before school officially begins. And it wasn’t because he harbored any doubts about her teaching abilities. The vote to hire her had been unanimous and given with pleased smiles on the faces of all three school board members.

No, Enos had stopped by to emphasize his approval one last time. Likely he thought she needed it—this being her first year teaching. But it was more than that. Enos knew the details of her past, as did all the Amish community. And they wished her well as she continued to put her life back together after the awful situation with Ben Stoll. Even now Ben was sitting in jail, serving out the last few days of his sentence.

Katie had survived that disastrous time because Da Hah had been with her, just as He’d been with Mamm and her after Katie’s daett died. And just as Da Hah had been with the two while Emma Raber raised Katie alone. Katie’s mamm had an awful reputation for a long time. After a love gone wrong in her teen years, a marriage to a man she learned to love, and then being widowed at an early age, Emma had chosen to remain a single mamm, raising her daughter on the land her husband had left her. She’d gone against usual Amish practice by refusing offers of marriage until, by Da Hah’s grace, she’d accepted a marriage proposal by a local farmer named Jesse Mast. That marriage had created a new atmosphere of change and acceptance, and Katie’s reputation had improved along with her mamm’s. After Katie fell in love with Ben and he’d turned out to be involved in the drug trade, part of her acceptance in the community came from how much she was admired for the way she’d handled herself since Ben Stoll’s arrest and imprisonment.

She’d loved Ben with all of her heart. And he had broken and smashed her trust beyond repair. Now he was no longer part of her life. That had all happened over a year ago, when the news of Ben’s arrest had reached Katie while she was in Europe with her Mennonite friends Margaret Kargel, Sharon Watson, and Nancy Keim. Only Da Hah’s healing touch a few days later had kept her from spending years in bitterness and sorrow. The miracle had happened the morning they’d gone up in a cable car high in the Alps to Schilthorn, where she’d seen the mighty works of Da Hah’s hands displayed in the mountain range around her. The tears had flowed freely that morning, washing the deepest pain from her heart. Afterward, she’d returned home and continued mourning her loss for a time, but without the crushing hopelessness that had first gripped her heart. Then last fall she’d made application to join the instruction class to officially join the Amish church, and this spring the wunderbah day had arrived. She’d been baptized by Bishop Jonas Miller himself! She was now a member of the church.

If anyone had entertained doubts about her, they’d been answered in how Katie had lived her life the past year. She still stayed in touch with her Mennonite friends Margaret and Sharon, but she saw them infrequently. The invitation to Margaret’s wedding had arrived in the mail yesterday, and Katie would certainly attend. Beyond that, Sharon and Margaret understood that Katie had made the best choice for her—to stay within the Amish faith. And it was, Katie told herself. Her heart was settled on the matter. The Amish were her people, and this was her home. She’d seen the land of the church fathers in Switzerland, and now she’d chosen this faith for herself. This community in Delaware was the place where her heart could rest for whatever time Da Hah had for her on this earth.

Enos’s buggy was already a black speck just before disappearing around the curve in the road. In addition to his interest in her success in the classroom, there was the suspicion on Katie’s part that Enos had hopes she would be his next daughter-in-law. She could tell by the light that sprang up in his eyes when he spoke to her of his son Norman.

Norman Kuntz, though, wasn’t like his daett at all. He was shy and withdrawn for the most part. The boy was handsome enough and came from an excellent family, so he ought to bubble with confidence, but he didn’t. So far he’d lacked the courage to take Katie home from the Sunday-night hymn singing—although he did spend considerable time stealing glances at her in the meetings. He’d mustered up enough courage lately to send a few tentative smiles her way.

There was nothing in Norman that set Katie’s heart pounding so far. Not like Ben Stoll had done. That had been another matter entirely. But Katie knew she shouldn’t be comparing Norman with Ben. Her life had changed for the better now, and she wasn’t going back to the past. Ben had been a terrible misjudgment, and she didn’t plan to repeat the error.

This time whoever the man was who drove her home, Katie wanted Mamm’s full support. And hopefully Jesse’s too, although he’d mostly care about whether the young man was a gut church member and knew how to work hard. Norman met both of those standards quite well. It helped, of course, that he would be a gut provider for his family, but that paled in comparison to the really important matter to Katie. Her main concern was that Norman would never do what Ben had done—break her heart.

Katie sighed, pushing the dark thoughts aside. Things were coming together well for her. This offer of a teaching job had been another blessing from Da Hah. One of the many she’d been given since Ben’s betrayal.

Katie sighed again, allowing her mind to wander into the past. For years she’d dreamed of capturing Ben Stoll’s attention. Mamm had warned her that such handsome boys were above her, and she shouldn’t dream that way. And that was long before Ben even knew Katie existed. But Mamm had been drawing from her own experience of rejection, and the young man she’d loved had never even asked her home. So Katie had rejected Mamm’s counsel and hadn’t drawn back when Ben finally noticed her at a Mennonite Youth Gathering. She’d ridden in Ben’s buggy and held his hand. They’d even kissed—often and with great joy. How could she have been so wrong about him? Katie pondered the question and managed a faint smile. Even in this situation she could be thankful. The pain of that question no longer stung as much. She’d given the pain and hard questions over to Da Hah. He knew the answers, and He would forgive her where she’d been wrong.

Now she was being given a wunderbah opportunity by the community. They were entrusting her with the care of their children for a whole school year. This honor had been held by Ruth Troyer for the past few years. After chasing Jesse Mast before he’d married Katie’s mamm, Ruth had finally found a man who asked to wed her—Albert Gingerich. He was an older farmer in the community whose wife had passed away last year.

Ruth had stepped down from consideration as a teacher this summer in preparation for her wedding, although she probably hadn’t imagined in her wildest dreams that Katie Raber would be offered her job. Ruth might have hung on for another year if she’d known that. After all, she’d been rebuffed by Jesse in favor of Katie’s mamm, Emma Raber, and the sting of the rejection and community talk surely still rankled in Ruth’s mind.

Katie smiled at the memory of Mamm and Jesse’s courtship. The two widows—Emma and Ruth—had faced each other down, and Mamm had won! The strange thing was that Mamm hadn’t put up much of a fight—at least not out in the open. But maybe that was the allure that drew Jesse in. Katie decided she needed to allow that Mamm had more wisdom than she let on at times. Ruth had had all of Jesse’s children on her side at first, and she put her best moves on Jesse by baking the pecan pies he loved. Mamm, on the other hand, had turned down Jesse’s advances the first few times he came calling, which seemed to make him all the more determined. And when she finally came around, Emma offered nothing but herself. In the end, all of Jesse’s children except Mabel, the eldest, had come over to Mamm’s side.

Mabel hadn’t been the easiest person to live with after the wedding, but since Katie’s return from Europe they were on decent terms. Mabel’s heart had been softened last year by seeing the great heartache Ben’s betrayal had caused Katie.

A rattle of buggy wheels in the schoolyard interrupted her thoughts. Katie walked to the window again. She gasped as Ruth Troyer climbed out of her buggy. What did she want? Had she forgotten some of her personal possessions? If so, she could have come in the evening after I’d gone home, Katie thought. But, there was no sense avoiding Ruth, so she might as well put on a brave front.

“Gut morning,” Ruth said with a forced smile when Katie opened the door.

“Gut morning,” Katie replied as she held the door and invited Ruth in.

“I thought I might catch you here this morning.”

“Yah,” Katie managed to get out, her smile gone now. “There’s much to do before school starts.”

Ruth pushed past her and bustled inside. “I thought I’d drive over in case you might want some advice, seeing this is your first term and all. And remember, I did teach here for three years so I know many of the students and the material. If you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer them.”

Katie swallowed hard. “Did the school board send you?”

Ruth laughed. “Nee, I’m here on my own. Don’t tell me you’re too high and mighty to accept help? Just because you’re a schoolteacher now doesn’t mean we don’t all remember where you came from, Katie Raber. After all, that man of yours is still sitting in jail.”

“I have no connection with Ben Stoll anymore,” Katie countered. “I haven’t seen him since before he was arrested.”

“Well, that doesn’t matter now.” Ruth breezed around the room, speaking over her shoulder. “I guess we all make our mistakes. But I, for one, would have seen that one coming. And I suspect your mamm did, but she was too busy stealing Jesse from me to warn you.”

Katie turned and watched Ruth. This was after all her schoolhouse now, and she’d better act like it was. Katie kept her voice even. “Mamm did have reservations about Ben—just to set the record straight. And she didn’t steal Jesse from you. Jesse made up his own mind.”

Ruth turned around. “Things do turn out for the best now, don’t they? Thank Da Hah Jesse didn’t decide on me. Then I never would have been available for Albert’s proposal. Did you know he farms more than 100 acres northwest of Dover? Some of the best black soil in the area. It’s worth a fortune. He’ll have a mighty gut heritage to hand down to his children.”

Katie forced a smile. “I’m glad for you, Ruth. And Mamm has fallen deeply in love with Jesse, so everything did turn out for the best.”

“It always does.” Ruth glared at Katie. “And I guess you know gut and well why you got this job. Enos is expecting quite a lot out of his investment, if you ask me.”

“I don’t expect you know what you’re speaking of,” Katie said. She tried to still her pounding heart. How this woman could get under her skin! Enos might hope she’d date his son, but he hadn’t made any requirement or suggestion for her to do so while hiring her.

Ruth laughed. “I don’t think you’re that blind, Katie. Enos is a man of high standards. And your past hasn’t gone away, believe me. He’s just overlooking it right now. But if you turn down the advances of his youngest son, I doubt if things will stay that way for long.”

Katie almost sputtered a denial, but she pressed her lips together instead. Nothing would persuade Ruth’s mind. Not once she’d made it up. And there likely was some truth to the woman’s statements.

Ruth smiled, apparently taking Katie’s silence as victory. “Let me show you the books then, and I’ll get out of here. I have a ton of things that need doing for the wedding preparations, but I told myself this morning that I owe you at least one visit since I was the former teacher. I’m aware you know nothing about teaching. I do hate to see you thrown into this situation and making a total mess out of it—to say nothing about all the decent learning from the past few years that could be lost. Let’s look at the books for this term.”

Katie walked toward the table by the window. Two of the books had fallen to the floor while she’d been going through them, but she hadn’t noticed until Ruth’s criticizing presence entered the room.

Ruth marched over and bent down to pick up the books. “This is no way to treat new books! I always told myself, if I don’t respect the school’s property, how can I expect ‘my’ children to? Because they do, after all, learn more by example than by any lecture. But how would you know such a thing? Your mamm probably never taught you much.”

Katie choked back her response. Ruth was trying to goad her into saying something she might regret. And Enos had just been here, and he’d said nothing about books lying on the floor. Everyone knew such things happened during unpacking. But Katie knew Ruth would only see more of Enos’s scheming and favor in his silence, so she might as well keep quiet about that too.

Ruth’s voice continued in lecture mode. “These are your first-grade reading books, Katie. Be sure to spend plenty of time with that age group. The children need to learn quickly because everything else is at a standstill until they learn how to read.”

Katie nodded, forcing herself to listen. Ruth was telling her some
gut things, and she did have much to learn. She even managed to keep a smile on her face as the former teacher droned on far longer than Katie had hoped. Over an hour later, Katie was more than ready to see Ruth leave. She summoned up her best manners as Ruth finally prepared to go. “Thank you for your time, Ruth. I do appreciate it.”

“It’s gut that you can listen,” Ruth remarked. “I guess your mamm taught you something after all. Now, will you come out and hold my horse for me? He gets a little skittish when I take off. Albert promised me a decent horse when I move into his house after the wedding. Now that’s a decent man, if you ask me.”

Katie held her tongue as she walked outside. She held the bridle of Ruth’s horse as the former teacher climbed inside the buggy.

“I hope you remember everything I told you,” Ruth said as she took off with a slap of the reins.

Grinding her teeth, Katie watched Ruth go. That woman was the limit and then some. But Ruth was also a creature Da Hah had made, and her elder besides. And the woman had given her some useful advice.



OBM says: After having read the other two books in this series, I thought this was a very satisfying end to Katie's story.  It's a story that explores true forgiveness and redemption and while it does afford a happy ending, it is definitely hard won.  I'd whole-heartedly recommend it to fans of Amish fiction, particularly if you have read the other two books in the series.
Pin It!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

iTooch App Review



eduPad, a French company, is leading the way in using tablets, computers, and smart phones to bridge the gap between school and home and play and study.  Their iTooch apps offer educational but fun lessons in core subjects for grades 3-SAT prep.  Lessons are aligned with the Common Core, and each app features thousands of questions on a given subject at a given grade level.  The apps are designated under elementary, middle school, and SAT prep.  Some of the subjects they offer are language arts, math, health and science.  For upper grades, they also have music and French, as well as SAT prep.  And, if you happen to be French, they offer most of these apps in French as well.  Apps are available for IOS, Windows 8, and now Android devices.


Here are a few screen shots of how the apps work.

With over 100 apps, iTooch has some free apps, and some paid versions.  They are available through iTunes App Store, Google Play, or the Windows Store.  Because my Android tablet is dead in the water, I was only able to review iTooch's offerings via computer, but some members of Mosaic Reviews actually got the chance to try the app out.  To see what they had to say, go to the Mosaic Reviews Blog.



Pin It!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Grace Unplugged and Own It- a Review and Giveaway

Today, I'm excited to be able to bring you a review and giveaway for not one, but two different books, both linked to an upcoming movie that will be released October 4th.



About Grace Unplugged:
Grace Trey is an 18 year old singer as passionate about her Christian faith as she is her phenomenal, God-given musical talent. Both traits come from her father, one hit wonder Johnny Trey who found Jesus after losing his chart success two decades ago.
 When Grace encounters her own music break of a lifetime, the sudden dive into the "real world" puts her deeper beliefs to the test. Pop superstardom is just within reach but appears to require some spiritual compromise. Will Grace reject her faith, or will she own it?
 Grace Unplugged is based on the motion picture of the same name starring AJ Michalka (Super 8) and Kevin Pollak (A Few Good Men) with performances by award-winning artists Chris Tomlin and Jamie Grace. 
OBM says:  Okay, so for about 95% of the book, Grace is NOT the child you want your daughter to grow up and become...she's more like the child every parent fears their child will turn out to be- self centered, determined to get her will no matter how ill advised it is, and convinced her parents are either dumb, or out of touch, or super controlling.   Her dad struggles with her rejection of him, her family, and all she has been taught, but comes to realize that Grace is really God's, and it's as her dad lets go that he experiences some healing of his own.  And as Grace sees that her dream life really is way more of a sham, and much closer to a nightmare, she comes to realize that the fame she thought she wanted really means selling out every value she holds dear, and in the end she makes the right choice, and God blesses her for it.  One of the pivotal things that helps Grace see the truth is a book called Own It.  In Grace Unplugged, Own It is credited to Grace's pastor, but Own It is a real book written by Michael and Hayley DiMarco.


Here's the official blurb about Own It:
The movie Grace Unplugged tells the story of Grace Trey, an ideal Christian teenager who is also a phenomenal singer. But when she is pushed into the “real world” at the tender age of eighteen after getting the music break of a lifetime, her faith is put to the test.
Own It mirrors the film by asking what it means to really “own” your personal faith rather than just automatically following in the footsteps of parents, friends, or other influencers. Best-selling authors Hayley and Michael DiMarco help readers understand what to do when faith meets real world challenges.
Without solid beliefs, poor choices are likely to follow. You must take the time to really know who you are, who you are becoming, and who God made you to be. It's your personal faith . . . own it! 

OBM says:  I think that owning your faith is a supremely important point in the lives of most young adults, and especially those raised in the church.  There is a critical time where you have to take all the head knowledge of being raised in the church, and all the innocent emotion of childhood, and really decide to own your own faith.  To be responsible for your own personal relationship with Jesus, and not ride the coat tails of your parents or teachers at church.  I know my oldest 2 children are personally at that place now of having to own their faith and let their personal relationship with their Savior dictate their choices even when it means going against the mainstream.  So I loved having this book as a resource for them to be able to read through and glean information from.


Grace Unplugged will be released as a motion picture on October 4th, but you can own your own copy of the book for $15.99, or you can win one below.  Own It is available for $14.99, or again, you can win a copy of it below.

Wanna learn more about Grace Unplugged?
Grace Unplugged Movie Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/graceunplugged
Grace Unpluggled Movie Twitter: @GraceMovie
Grace Unplugged Website: www.graceunplugged.com
B&H Twitter: @BHpub

And remember to check out the Grace Unplugged movie trailer





a Rafflecopter giveaway
Pin It!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Machine by Bill Myers

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:

B&H Kids (September 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bill Myers is an accomplished writer and film director whose work has won more than sixty national and international awards including the C. S. Lewis Honor Award. Among his best-selling
releases for kids are The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle and The Forbidden Door. He has sold more than eight million books and videos and lives with two cats, two kids, one dog, and one
wife near Hollywood, California.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

For ages 10 to 14, Truth Seekers is a fast-paced, thoughtful, and funny new series using a 21st century approach to sharing ancient Bible truths.

In book one, The Machine, twin siblings Jake and Jennifer have just lost their mother and are not thrilled about moving to Israel to stay with their seldom seen archaeologist dad. They don't yet understand how "all things work together for good to those who love God." But they will when a machine their father invented points them to the Truth.


Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Age Range: 10 - 14 years
Series: Truth Seekers
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: B&H Kids (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433690802
ISBN-13: 978-1433690808


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

It was like a dream, but not really. I mean it was a dream but there were parts that seemed so real—besides the parts where Mom had actually died in real life. Does that make sense? I get those every once in a while, dreams that are more real than real, ever since I was a kid.



Anyway, in the dream Mom was driving our SUV up the steep, winding road to our home in Malibu Canyon.



Jake and I were in the back, sitting in our clearly designated seating areas . . .



Jake in his WARNING: Biological Hazard Zone, complete with empty Cheetos bags, crumpled McDonald wrappers (which had last seen action months ago), his wadded up T-shirt and crusty socks (which had last seen a washer longer than that), and don’t even get me started on the last time he shampooed his hair.



I, on the other hand, sat in the WELCOME: This is How Normal People Live Zone, complete with breathable air and a place to sit without catching some deadly disease. (Jake accuses me of being a Neat Freak. Maybe, but it’s better than being a toxic waste site.)



And where was our dear father in all of this? To be honest, he seldom shows up in my dreams—just like he seldom shows up in our real lives. Oh, he says he loves us and all, but what’s the saying? Actions are louder than words. Anyway, I’ll get to him a little later.



It was the same dream I’d had a hundred times before . . .



I was busy doing homework when I glanced up to see a monster truck coming around the corner in our lane.



“Mom!” I shouted. “Look out!”



“What’s that?” She reached over to turn down the radio—one of her silly Country-Western songs about some girl breaking some guy’s heart.



“Up ahead! Look out!”



But she didn’t look out. And, just like all the other times, I saw the truck heading towards us, blasting its horn. I’m guessing his brakes had failed by the way he was scraping along the mountainside to slow himself. A good idea, except the mountainside was on our side!



Mom had nowhere to go. She swerved to the outer lane then tried to turn back, but she’d run out of road. We crashed through the guardrail and sailed out over the can- yon floor, which was a good two hundred feet below. There was no sound. I could see Mom screaming but heard only silence—except for that Country-Western singer going on about his broken heart.



I spun to Jake but he didn’t even glance up. He was too busy playing his stupid computer game. Then, just when the singer reached the line, Why you stompin’ on my achin’ heart with your high heel boots, we hit the water with a huge splash.



And this is where things get interesting . . .

In the real world, on the day Mom died, there was no water at the bottom of the canyon. It was September and the stream had dried up. And while we’re doing a reality check, Jake and I weren’t even in the car that day. Jake had been at the beach being Mr. Cool with a bunch of girls, and I was at home doing my algebra. (I know I’m only seventh grade, but besides being a neat freak, I’m kind of a workaholic.)



But in the dream there was plenty of water and the SUV kept sinking deeper and deeper with all three of us inside. Well, actually four, if you count the Country- Western singer who was now sitting in the front passenger seat, strumming his guitar!



Water poured in and quickly rose.  Mom tried opening her door, but it wouldn’t budge. She hit it with her shoulder over and over again, but the pressure of the water outside was too much. It began swirling around our waists and rising to our chests.



“Jenny,” Mom shouted, “roll down your window!”  “It’ll flood us worse!” I yelled.



“It’s the only way. Roll down your window and swim out!”



“But—”



“Hurry!”



I threw a look to Jake who had conveniently disappeared. (Even in my dreams, he’s a slacker.)

“Hurry!”



I rolled down the window. More water roared in, pounding against my chest and face. I had to turn my head just to breathe. Then I grabbed the sides of the open window with my hands, turned my head away for another quick breath, and pulled myself out into the water.



I kicked and swam until I grabbed the SUV and pulled myself over to Mom’s door. By now the car was completely filled. Our faces were inches apart, separated only by her window.  I yanked at the door handle.  It didn’t budge. I tried again. Nothing. My lungs started aching for air, but I kept pulling and tugging as Mom kept pushing and banging.



Still, nothing.



My heart pounded in my ears. My lungs felt like they were on fire. The outside edges of my vision started going white. Mom pounded on the glass. I joined in and hit the window with my fists.  When that didn’t work, I tucked in my feet, raised my legs and kicked it. Still nothing. My lungs were screaming for air. My vision grew whiter. I had to get a breath. I pointed to the surface and shouted, “I’ll be back!”



She nodded and I pushed off, my lungs ready to explode. Sparkly lights danced through my head. I was losing consciousness, I was going to pass out, I was—



Then I broke through the surface, coughing and gasping. Cool air soothed my lungs as I gulped in two, three, maybe four breaths. I forced my head to clear, then took one more breath and ducked back down into the water.



It was dark and murky but I could follow the bubbles. The SUV had settled to the bottom of the river. When I reached the roof, I pulled myself over to Mom’s side. She wasn’t moving.



“MOM!”



I yanked at the door. I slammed it. I kicked it. I had to get her out. The door gave, ever so slightly. I pulled harder. It moved some more, then it opened with a groaning CREAK.



I grabbed Mom’s arm and pulled, but she was stuck. I spotted her seat belt and reached down to unbuckle it. My lungs were crying out for air again as I pulled her from the car. But we’d barely started before we were jerked to a stop. I  turned  and  saw  that  something  like  a  shadow  had grabbed  her  other  arm.  At first I thought it was the Country-Western singer.  I pulled but it held her tight.  It was like a tug of war game, me on one arm, the shadow man on the other. And the harder I pulled—this was even weirder—but  the  harder  I  pulled,  the  more  he  started turning into this shadowy creature that kept growing bigger and bigger with huge, bat-like wings.



This is a dream, I kept telling myself, this is only a dream!



But my lungs were on fire. My vision was going all white again. This time I would not leave. I’d stay here and die with her if I had to, but I would not leave.



The pounding in my ears grew louder, filling my head . . . along with the song. That’s right, the singer or shadow or whatever it was, had begun singing again. Maybe it had never stopped:



I’ll never let you go . . . you will always be mine . . . always be mine . . . always be mine.



Well, Mr. Shadow could guess again. Dream or no dream, he could not have her.



Always be mine . . . always be mine . . .



My vision was totally white now. My mind shutting down. I could no longer feel my hands or my legs. I knew I was dying, but I would not let go. I loved her too much, I would never let go. The shadow thing may have won, but—



And then I heard a shout. “Augh!”



It sounded like Jake. But that was impossible. What would Jake be doing down here? I heard him again, even louder.



“AUGH!”


OBM says: This is the first book review I've done that I actually handed off to one of my kids to read.  Of course, I read it too, but I wanted to get my son's take on it, so I let him read it first.  So this was his take:  "It was good.  I definitely want to read the next one."  Verbose, that kid, no?  So my take on it is that it does a great job of reaching the target age group with an engaging story that also discusses Biblical events/history in a way that they enjoy reading about.  My son was able to recount most of the story to me, which is impressive in and of itself since he has Aspergers and doesn't recall things well.  I liked that the story was from a trusted author and that it was "cool" enough to draw him it.  I would definitely recommend it, and look forward to the next installment in the series.
Pin It!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Beyond These Hills Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

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



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


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Cades Cove, Tennessee

June, 1935

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Willie, for the last time…”

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

The truck slowed to a crawl. “Willie…”

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

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

“Okay, okay. I’m sittin’.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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











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

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

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

Andrew smiled. “Virginia. Up near Washington.”

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

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

“How long you been here, Andrew?”

“I arrived Thursday.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Goodbye.” He slowly backed toward the door.

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

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

Exquisite? The word didn’t do her justice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


OBM says:  This is a delightful book that really opened my eyes to what it must have been like, and what it must still be like, when the government decides it has a better way to use your land than you do.  While 1900's historical fiction is a little out of my usual eras, I very much enjoyed it.  Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book for review- it was a great read.

Pin It!