Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Aloha Rose ~ a Quilts of Love story by Lisa Carter, ©2013 ~*every quilt has a story*~

More at Abingdon Press
Laney Carrigan has traveled to faraway places, writing war zone articles through a blog. This next trip will bring more than the travel articles she will be sending to her publisher. As an infant, Laney was left on the steps of a couple her birth mother met following the death of Laney's birth father. Wrapped in a Lokelani Rose baby quilt, the one tangible clue of her beginnings, Laney's father places its photo on a website seeking to reunite adoptive children with their biological families, after the death of his wife. Hawaii, our fiftieth state, is calling her home.

Kai Alexander Barnes, a former search and rescue pilot, flies helicopter tours over an active volcano. He is running the 100-acre Franklin Ranch of Laney's family. His dream is to have an equine center for wounded warriors. Having PTSD, Kai would like to have this restful therapy available for other veterans. Alana means "sky" and Kai means "sea." As the sky meets the sea, will their hearts truly meet? Kai was taken in as a foster child by Laney's family. He wants to protect them from this newcomer; or is he protecting his heart from exposure to all he has dreamed of? Family, home, love?

New beginnings. Laney's grandmother teaches her many things. Endurance, patience, music flowing through her soul. Decisions. Will she flee or will she stay? She has always flown alone. Self-containment submitted to all He has for her.

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.
  --Jeremiah 29:11

Lisa Carter is the author of Carolina Reckoning and Aloha Rose, and a writer and teacher whose articles have appeared in FamilyFun, Thriving Family, MomSense, and Christian Parenting Today. She is a frequent speaker and vocalist at women’s ministry events and has taught at the collegiate, high school, and middle school levels. Lisa is currently teaching music at a preschool and enjoying the enthusiasm and joy for life for which preschoolers are famous. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling, quilting, and researching her next romantic adventure. She and her husband have two daughters and make their home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Visit her online at
***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour and sending me a copy of Lisa Carter's Aloha Rose. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Quilts of Love KINDLE FIRE HDX Giveaway & “Christmas Bee” Facebook Party 12/10!

In honor of their new Quilts of Love releases, The Christmas Quilt and Aloha Rose, authors Vannetta Chapman and Lisa Carter are gearing up to ring in the Christmas season with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway and a "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th with fellow Quilts of Love author Lynette Sowell!

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman
  • Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 30th. Winner will be announced at the "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th. Connect with the authors from the Quilts of Love series, Vannetta Chapman, Lisa Carter, and Lynette Sowell, for an evening of book chat, quilt trivia, Christmas traditions and gifts, PLUS get an exclusive look at January's Quilts of Love book!

So grab your copies of The Christmas Quilt and Aloha Rose and join Vannetta, Lisa, and Lynette on the evening of December 10th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the books, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on December 10th!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The First Christmas Night ~ Children's Story by Keith Christopher, ©2013 ~ and giveaway copy

Comment with your contact ...[at]...[dot]com for the offering of one giveaway copy! Ends ten days after this posting.
Kornacki FirstChristmasNight

Just in time to read during family story time for the holidays! This book is written for ages 4-8, and the rhyming language can help them develop verbal language skills and learn to read! Written in the cadence of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas...."

The First Christmas Night
Written by: Keith Christopher
Illustrated by : Christine Kornacki
Publisher: Ideals Books
Hardcover: 32 pages

Christmas Christmas Jammies are on and ready for that bedtime favorite? As we settle in to read of Jesus' birth, a sweet telling for little ones will have them saying, "Read it again." In the back of the book are the Scriptures for the Biblical Story of the First Christmas: Luke 2:1, 4-16, 20 and Matthew 2:1-2, 9b-11.

Keith Christopher is a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and educator, and he has served as editor and producer for several major music publishers. In addition to writing and studio producing, Keith served on the faculty at the Blair School of Music of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with his wife and two children.

Christine Kornacki works as a Freelance Illustrator in Stamford, CT. Inspired by painters such as Normal Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, Christine is classically trained as a realistic oil painter. She uses this strong foundational background to bring her Illustrations to life.

***Thank you to FlyBy Promotions for sending me a copy of Keith Christopher's The First Christmas Night and for offering one copy to a reader of this review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel by Katherine Reay, ©2013

It’s a book lover’s book. The main character, Samantha Moore, grew up in foster care and to cope with her tough childhood, she “hides” behind the personas of some of literature’s most beloved characters—Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, Edmond Dantes . . . But she has to lay down these characters to find her own voice and her own story. And she gets true love too . . .
   --author Katherine Reay

June 29th, 2013. I was invited to the ALA conference in Chicago and held my first book signing.

Samantha Moore is living her life through experiences she has read in books to form her expression. She does not risk herself ~ she has no voice. I am reminded of  John Powell's "I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it's all that I have...” from his book, "Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?" Disclosures. Revealing self of whom she doesn't know herself to be?
   In literature analysis I hid behind the subject, and it made my papers come alive. I had a voice that mirrored, if not emboldened, the subject. When I write to you, I'm safe in your anonymity and your silence. For all I know, you may not even read these letters.
   --Dear Mr. Knightley, 54
I'm unused to hugs, so at the time I couldn't enjoy it. Several hours later, I loved that hug.
   --Ibid., 115
He was very kind and wanted to know everything, not to dissect it, but to share it.
   --Ibid., 149
   Changing, being real and becoming who you want to be, is hard work. Right now, I'd love a good chat with Jane Eyre. She never lost herself. Not once.
   --Ibid., 200
Being real.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
--The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

What if you were truly free to express yourself in your journaling ~ to foremost, being honest with yourself without writing in code? Would you avert and separate yourself from truth revealing itself for the first time? Samantha Moore does have this opportunity. As part of her scholarship, she is to reveal herself in writing to Mr. Knightley, her benefactor. Beyond a diary, Samantha is able to become aware of who she is and what is happening with people near her as she begins to let them in. This was phenomenal writing! Very excellent in introspection and the awareness of others seeping into her daily life beyond her books.

Highly recommend this debut novel by Katherine Reay and I look forward to her next writings.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a copy of Katherine Reay's debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay | Favorite Austen Moments KINDLE HDX Giveaway, Pinterest Contest and Facebook Party!

Debut author Katherine Reay is celebrating the release of her delightful novel, Dear Mr. Knightley with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway, a fun Favorite Austen Moments Pinterest contest, and an Austen-themed Facebook Party.

  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
  • Handmade Austen-themed items (scarf, mug, bracelet, and necklace) 
Two ways to win! Enter today by clicking one of the icons below or participating in the Pinterest contest (see banner below)—or BOTH! 

But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the "Dear Mr. Knightley" Austen-themed Facebook Author Chat Party on the 3rd. Join Katherine (and Austen fans) for an evening of book chat, prizes, and an exclusive look at Katherine's next book.

So grab your copy of  Dear Mr. Knightley and join Katherine on the evening of December 3rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST. Hope to see you on the 3rd!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman, ©2013 ~*Quilts of Love Series ~ Every Quilt Has a Story*~

Join in this wonderful series by different authors and genres. You will be glad you have! Quilts of warmth for the heart.

And, before we go any further, check this out! Free for you ~ Christmas at Pebble Creek by Vannetta Chapman. Now there's an early gift for you! Just in time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year dinner plans ~ also includes Amish homestyle recipes for chicken and dumplings, green beans, and fresh bread. Visit this Wisconsin Amish short-story and make it your own. Vannetta previously also offered the beginning still available preceding the Pebble Creek Amish series ~ both short-story eBooks are available at Barnes and Noble and at CBD.

I love this in the Author's Note in the front: "As with any work of fiction, I have taken license where needed in order to create the necessary conditions for my characters." Absolutely love that Vannetta takes good care of them!

~*love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control*~ Galatians 5

How gloriously our Lord comforts us. One thing I have never forgotten is a pastor saying, "The Lord has seen to the end of your life on earth and comes alongside to walk through each day with you." How this has comforted me through the years. Nothing, large or small, is surprising to Him.
   "... I think each year that passes, two hearts become more entwined, like two vines growing side by side. Eventually  it must become difficult to know where the beat of one stops and the beat of the other begins."
   --Samuel, The Christmas Quilt, 46
A gift to Annie, as her husband, Samuel, spoke his feelings openly. Oh, if only her brother, Adam, would be able to encourage his wife, Leah, as well. So much misunderstanding in what is not said.
   "I cannot help it if sometimes things don't go as planned, Leah. The engines, they don't always work once I put them back together, and you know we are barely making it with the money from the crops."
   --Ibid., 55
Both couples were wed on the same day. Soon Adam and Leah's twins would be born. Firstborns. Harbor of the heart. Worry, insecurity, and exhaustion with Leah; uncertainty that he can take care of them, plagues him. How often do we try to carry things ourselves, what we don't know how to explain? Adam and Leah learn in a different way what it means to trust all to the Lord in His divine care.
   I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.
   --Jeremiah 33:6b
Daily blessings.

This is a story of strength. Strength in growing and sharing together God's goodness. So many times as inadequacies surface, we are unable to see what we don't know. Then with comfort and longing, as we become transparent, what is revealed heals. Adam and Leah have a beautiful support in family and friends who surround them, leaving room for them to come together and see what they do have. Join them as they realize a love to last a lifetime. Enjoy the story that binds the quilt together in memories.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for inviting me on this book tour for Vannetta Chapman's The Christmas Quilt and for sending me a copy to review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

The Christmas Quilt follows a previous Christmas story ~ A Simple Amish Christmas ~ in Mifflin County, PA.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas by Jill Hardie ~*~ illlustrated by Christine Kornacki, ©2012, and one giveaway copy

more than a storygiving to others

A story to share and beginning your own tradition of The Sparkle Box ~ you may already be filling it. With bright illustrations and the zest of a child, Sam finds Christmas extra special this year as he looks forward to finding out what is inside. Filling others' lives with hope, giving from our hearts, fills this gift to Jesus.

~*Has your family been filling The Sparkle Box through the years?*~

Written by Jill Hardie, this story first appeared in Guideposts magazine
Sparkle Box

Sam can't wait for Christmas!
He's excited about the parties, the food, and of course, the presents. One gift has him especially curious―a sparkling silver box on the mantel. Sam's parents will only tell him that the Sparkle Box is a special gift they will open together, but that they need to fill it first.
Meanwhile, as Sam and his family give to people in need throughout the season, he starts to see how fortunate he really is. And on Christmas morning, when Sam finally opens the mysterious Sparkle Box, what he finds inside sheds light on the true meaning of Christmas.

One copy of this Christmas story for all year with a Sparkle Box included is being offered. With your comment below, include your contact ...[at]...[dot]com. Let your light shine! Giveaway open until ten days past posting.

***Thank you to FlyBy Promotions for offering a copy of this children's book, ages 4-8, as a giveaway to all ages, and for sending me a copy of The Sparkle Box for review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

For Love or Loyalty ~ The MacGregor Legacy series, Book 1 by Jennifer Hudson Taylor, ©2013

One conquest could destroy her, but avenge his family.
Scotland to Carolina, 1760

I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ―Jeremiah 29:11

My Review:

The Scottish Highlanders, 1760
Inverawe―home. Smoke swirls in the sky as Malcolm MacGregor and his brother, Thomas, reach the village. The Campbell men have come and burned their home and taken their mither and sister. Their father had been killed in the Jacobite rebellion fifteen years earlier. Duncan Campbell and his son, Scott, came with warriors ~ to collect the unpaid rents from the MacGregors' on his huts. Returning from selling the cattle at market to pay the rents, the Campbells have come a day early. They have taken Iona and Carleen MacGregor, possibly to a debtors' prison, as a warning to the rest of the village. The rents have been raised again, this time with interest ~ "legal robbery." They beat their youngest brother, Graham while trying to protect their mither and sister, and murdered his best friend. For two centuries, the Campbells have tried to wipe out the MacGregor Clansmen. Left in poverty, their furniture has been taken or left to burn before the huts.

Duncan Campbell's eldest daughter, Lauren, sets out to the Kilchurn Manor stables to ride to the ancient relic of Kilchurn Castle with her younger sister, Blair, to enjoy a day of picnicking together on their estate. The castle had passed to the Campbells through marriage. The lands were taken from the MacGregors when King James abolished their clan name generations earlier.

She has been intercepted.
   "Malcolm! Thomas!" Lauren's captor ignored them and banged on the worn wooden door. "Open up. I have Lauren Campbell."
   The door swung open and Malcolm's tall form emerged. He crossed his arms with a menacing scowl. "Colin, ye were supposed to find my mither an' sister, not bring back a hostage."
    --For Love or Loyalty, 18
With Lauren saying she knew her brother and father were collecting rents and then going to the harbor, she and Malcolm are on the way ~ to the colonies, should they not intercept the Campbells at the docks.

This is so beautiful. Approaching Taynuilt, the description is so vivid!
   Smoke from chimneys filled the air along with the aroma of mixed spices as they passed various cottages of all shapes and sizes. The sounds of a few rolling carts and carriages passed both directions. Most people had gone inside, but some lingered in the streets. It wasn't a large town, and before long the pleasant aromas and sights gave way to less pleasant odors and lurking shadows.
   --Ibid., 29
They reach the dock to check ship rosters for the two women. Given a ship roster from an elderly man, he says his son set sail that morn, The Loyal Adventure, for Charles Towne, South Carolina. Lauren sees her friends' names near the bottom ~ MacGregor. The women had long been sharing their faith together when Lauren came to visit the poor and bring food in her generosity to the villagers. Without a paid fare, his mother, Iona, and sister, Carleen, are now indentured servants to the captain to be sold in Carolina when they arrive. Malcolm asks of another ship going there. The next morn, The Sea Lady is set to sail there just after sunrise.

Lauren has been given things, and not parental love. As the oldest, Malcolm has been the family protector. He is taking her to exchange for his indentured family member, but will it be enough to keep generational feuds going? Reaching America brings other difficulties they would not have expected. For love or loyalty? You will enjoy this story of hope, caring and forgiveness that can change a heart.

***Thank you to author Jennifer Hudson Taylor and Upon the Rock Publicist for sending me this first novel in The MacGregor Legacy series, For Love or Loyalty. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself by Renee Swope, ©2013

Cover Art My Review:
As I read the first day [included at the bottom of this review] and see "When I say--God says," I am immediately reminded of Romans 12:2. ~Who am I following after? ~What I may hear others say? ~What I see others do that I would like to emulate? ~Who forms my opinion of me that I walk away with? Ready to join 60 days to stop doubting yourself? Romans 12:2, The Message: Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Because we are not cookie-cutters, God's Word applies to us specifically for His path for us ~ to walk alongside and follow Him. The opposite of "specific" is "vague." Beginning, the first step to seek God in the areas of my weakness and His strength as I read these daily devotions. When I say, "My life is too busy. I don't have time to spend with God." God says, "Come with Me to a quiet place and get some rest for your heart, mind, and soul." ~*Powerful Promises*~ Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31)

Back Cover:
Confident, strong, and free--it's closer than you think

We all have doubts, fears, and insecurities, even if we've convinced ourselves that other women don't share those struggles. If you're tired of feeling like you're not good enough, smart enough, or gifted enough, Renee Swope has a message for you: you already have something special to offer the world!
   Expanding on her popular "When I say--God says" statements, Renee offers you a daily thought-map to help exchange your most common self-doubts for God's transforming truths. Her authentic style and soul-stirring devotions include personal stories, powerful biblical teaching, and real-life application wrapped around one of God's promises each day to help you

· live confidently in your God-given roles, relationships, and responsibilities
· break free from people-pleasing and performance-based living
· trust the certainty of God's truth over your circumstances and emotions

Take a step toward the life of faith God designed for you and let this sixty-day journey to a confident heart be your guide.
Renee Swope
© In His Image Photography by Julie
Renee Swope is a popular national women's conference speaker, radio show co-host, and executive director of radio and social media at Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is the bestselling author of A Confident Heart, a 2012 Retailers Choice Award winner, and a contributing author to three books, including a Gold Medallion finalist and a People's Choice Award finalist. Renee is a featured writer for Encouragement for Today online devotions, which reach over half a million readers across the world each day. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children.

Visit to download free resources and watch videos to enhance your personal study, share with your small group or contribute to your book club. You can also see Renee's speaking schedule or join the next A Confident Heart Online Study. ~*A Confident Heart available as paperback, DVD-ROM Audiobook, Kindle Edition, and NOOK Book*~

***Thank you to Revell Blog Tour Network for inviting me to review A Confident Heart Devotional by Renee Swope, and sending me a copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

~*Enjoy Day 1 of the 60 Days Devotions*~

A Confident Heart Devotional 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself

Turning Points
You are a chosen [woman], a royal [priest], a holy [daughter], God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
—1 Peter 2:9
I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, getting ready to travel to a large event while begging God to zap me with confidence—or send Jesus back before it was time for me to speak. I had been struggling with paralyzing self-doubt that week and it was making me question everything.
   When I turned to put something in my suitcase, which was behind me, I noticed a huge nine-foot shadow on the wall. I was surprised how big the shadow was and how much it distorted the image of my five-foot-two-inch frame.
   In that moment, I realized my uncertainty had also created a huge shadow—a shadow of doubt that was distorting my thoughts and overpowering my emotions.
   As I stood there looking at that humongous shadow, I sensed God telling me I could only see the shadow because I had turned away from the light.
   Slowly I turned back toward the light above the mirror, and I was no longer standing in the shadow. But the fact that I had created the shadow by blocking the light taught me a powerful lesson—a truth that became a turning point for me.
   Shadows are created all around us whenever something blocks the light. And so it is with the shadow of doubt. When we focus on how inadequate we feel, or what others are thinking about us, we cast a shadow of doubt in our minds by blocking the light of God’s truth in our hearts.
   Yet we were not designed to block the light or to be the light. We were created to live in the light, by finding our confidence in what God thinks about us.
   Before that day in my bathroom with God and my shadow, I saw doubt as an annoying weakness, a lapse of faith, a dip in my self-confidence. And I just wanted God to take it away. But through my doubt, God led me to dependence on Him and taught me a powerful lesson that became a turning point in my life.
   A shadow of self-doubt had been cast over my thoughts and emotions when I turned my attention away from God’s perspective and promises. By taking my eyes o/ the light of God’s truth, I ended up paralyzed by the darkness of defeat.
   How about you? How often do you agree with the whispers of doubt and find yourself living in discouragement and uncertainty?
   That day in my bathroom was a turning point where God equipped me with a powerful way to process and conquer selfdoubts. And, as we take this sixty-day journey together, I want each day to be a turning point for you . . .
   • As you turn toward God, so you can know who He is and His heart toward you.
   • As you turn toward His truth, so you can listen to what God says about you and what He can do through you as you learn to depend more on Him.
   • As you turn toward the light of God’s promises as a woman, a friend, a leader, and a follower of Jesus—so your life can be about living, loving, and leading others to the light of God’s truth as you walk it out in your everyday life.

When we turn our focus away from feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty and intentionally turn our thoughts toward God’s promises of all-su]ciency, we create a turning point and we begin to replace our wavering self-confidence with lasting God-confidence. In doing so, our lives become a response to the One who has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9).
   So, are you ready to start turning?

Lord, I want to take Your hand and trust Your heart as You lead me on this sixty-day journey of overcoming self-doubt and living in the power of Your promises! You say I am a chosen woman and a holy daughter who belongs to You. If doubt overshadows my thoughts today, help me turn back to the light of Your truth, so I can focus on all I have in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When I say: My doubts won’t go away.
    God says: I am calling you out of the darkness. Turn toward the light and truth of what I say about you.
You are a chosen [woman], a royal [priest], a holy [daughter], God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet. 2:9)
Renee Swope, A Confident Heart Devotional Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2013. Used by permission.

a million little ways by emily p. freeman ~ uncover the art you were made to live ©2013

He comes into us, then comes out of us in a million little ways.
          pp27-28 ~ We are colanders filled with glory-water. Our best efforts are spent trying to cover the seeping holes with not enough fingers. God's glory demands display. Yet sometimes when we get a glimpse of it, when we taste something we come alive doing, when we feel that sense of purpose wake up within us, we become terrified. And so instead, we spend our time looking for plastic bags to catch it before it pours out, wasted.
   We want to be something more sensible, more practical. Something like a jar with a lid. No holes. No glory leaks.
   Let's control it, contain it. Let's be reasonable.
   In this action, we have forgotten who we are.
   Surely God has another way to display his glory. Surely he doesn't intend to do it through me.
   Is there anyone else in all of Scripture who can declare glory like a living, breathing poem? There is only one other place this exact word poiema, or workmanship, is used.
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made [poiema], they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
(Rom. 1:20)
Cover Art
Beautiful book! I would need to write all of it out for you to express God's glory in us. He has redeemed us and called us His own. No greater glory ~ He is all of it!!
2 Cor 4:6-11,16-18 (NIV) For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ... Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Open up into God's potential for you... for me. We are indeed His workmanship made for His glory. To express Him through our syrofoam cups given over to the Potter of our souls. How glorious He is!!!

~*expressing ourselves for His glory*~
***Thank you to Revell Blog Tour Network for inviting me on this blog tour for Emily P. Freeman's A Million Little Ways: uncover the art you were made to live.... This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy Chapter One!

a million little ways uncover the art you were made to live emily p. freeman

Art is when we do work that matters in a creative way, in a way that touches [people] and changes them for the better.
—Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur
She was twenty when I first saw her, old enough to look up to but not so old I couldn’t relate. I walked into the youth room of Highland Park Baptist Church late that night so the program had already started. Michigan winters didn’t lend themselves to much inspiration, so when I saw her sitting up front leaning against a stool, her deep-set, mysterious eyes holding more stories than she ought to know at so young an age, I knew something was about to happen. Her generosity was palpable. She picked up her guitar, her small frame nearly disappearing behind it.
   And she began to sing.
   Her lyrics dripped heavy with questions and faith and love and longing. She didn’t just sing notes, she sang story.
   I came undone.
   Listening to Sarah Masen sing that night, the winter before I turned eighteen, I thought it was her voice and her talent that touched me so deeply. I was aware of a mysterious movement within me, but I was unable to define it.
   And so, I did what most people do. I believed it was her skill that moved me. That night I wished more than anything to have a talent like hers. I grieved the fact that my singing voice was average, my painting skills didn’t exist, and my dancing was limited to jerky, stiff cheerleading moves.
   I had heard talented musicians before. But this time was different. She offered herself honestly and beautifully, sharing something from within her laced with courage and hope. She showed me beauty and woke up a longing in me to take part in it. The beauty she shared was, quite simply, herself. And in sharing herself, she showed me a glimpse of the glory of God.
   Decades later, I’m circling around that winter night in Michigan, realizing what was stirred up in me and knowing it matters. Technicians don’t move us. Artists do. Skill may be impressive and even necessary, but skill alone doesn’t touch the soul. The profound gift Sarah gave me was the recognition that it wasn’t her skill that moved me, it was her art.
   Sarah introduced me to a shadow of my true self, touched something in me that was there but sleeping. That’s what artists do. They pull back the covering on our inner life, allowing us to see things beneath the surface, things that, without their compassion, creativity, and generosity, we may have missed.
   The song lyric.
   The exchange between actors on the screen.
   The image of Paris in the snow.
   The tuning of the strings before the show.
   Art coming from honest hands shows us beauty, stirs up longing, and touches us deeply.
   But what about this:
   The extra care the cashier takes with your order, the way she looks you in the eye, asks how you are, if you need help or a price check, as if her work is important and she knows it.
   The teacher who makes history come alive, telling stories filled with facts and truth and background, while students learn without even realizing it.
   How many times have we been rushing through the day, weary from the world, grieving a loss we didn’t even know we were grieving, and all it takes is for a stranger to offer to carry our bags from the baggage carousel to the curb and we break down as if they offered to buy us a house or bring our loved ones back from the dead?
   Cashiers and cellists are capable of making art because they both have the power to influence, to be fully awake to their Maker, and fully aware of his making of them.
   I can’t imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are.
   Maybe you have in your mind a moment in time when you have been moved by the heart of an artist—you remember a second grade teacher who woke up in you a love for reading, a best friend who supported you in the midst of college drama, a musician who offered himself so fully to his audience that you couldn’t shake the feeling for days after the concert.
   It’s easy to point out the influence in others, to see them as images of the Divine Artist, to be liberal with our admiration, compliments, or even our criticism.
   But what of your own influence? What about the conviction of your true self, pointed out, accepted, and poured out as an offering?
   Maybe you are a person who thinks art is for other people. Maybe you can’t imagine God having art in mind when he made you. Maybe you doubt the connection between the work you do with your hands and the story you are telling with your life.
   All of that has a particular time and place, right? Art is for a certain type of person doing a certain type of thing.
   Art isn’t for you.
   Is it?
   Could it be true that you, too, are an artist?
   And if it could be true, wouldn’t you want to find out what that might mean?
   You don’t need a test or an expert evaluation or an extensive and professional analysis to find out what kind of art you might have to offer.
   You don’t need to gear up for a long journey or take time off work.
   Instead, I hope to do for you what Sarah did for me—pull back the layers suffocating the truth of who you really are.
   Maybe you have a dream or a desire to move into the world, something you’re always talking yourself out of. Or maybe you wish you had a way to influence others but you don’t think you do.
   It is my intention to introduce practices to help you uncover the art already alive within you.
   You were born to make art.
   But that’s not all.
   It is also my intention to walk with you as you begin to release your art into the world, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
   Because you were also made to live art.
   It’s time to rescue our beautiful design from the dark grip of doubt and discouragement.
   It’s time to remember the Spirit of power and love and a sound mind who lives within us.
   It’s time to live as though we believe we have something to offer.
   It’s time to release our authentic selves into the world.
   Because it isn’t only the painters who are allowed to be expressive, it isn’t only the musicians who can touch our souls, it isn’t only the novelists who can inspire us to dream.
   Have you noticed how God does things?
   Have you considered the way he colors the sky? Or the smallest details in the blades of grass or grains of sand beneath your feet?
   Is he only a God of right answers and right angles and acceptable behavior? Have we exalted the will of God and the plans of God above God himself?
   He does not manage us, to-do list us, or bullet-point us. He loves us. Is with us. And believing him feels impossible, until we do, like a miracle, like lukewarm water turning merlot red right there in the cup. And hope sprouts new, because God doesn’t give us a list. He invites us into the story.
   God is not a technician. God is an Artist.
   This is the God who made you. The same God who lives inside you.
   He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways.
   That’s why there’s freedom, even in the blah.
   Hope, even in the dark.
   Love, even in the fear.
   Trust, even as we face our critics.
   And believing in the midst of all that? It feels like strength and depth and wildflower spinning; it feels risky and brave and underdog winning.
   It feels like redemption.
   It feels like art.
Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2013. Used by permission.

Friday, November 15, 2013

DVD Review ~*Veggie Tales® Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas*~, ©2013

Giving a gift card for a new winter coat
Letting the True Light of Christmas shine through
Helping those who don't have it so good

Veggie Tales finds that not all that glitters is what is important at Spring Valley Mall. They are decorating the empty mall to get shoppers into the Christmas shopping with sparkling lights and music.

A learning experience and a good message. Helping others and hearing the True Christmas Story. As the Spring Valley Mall waits for the king of the mall to come and check out their decorations, he says they have got it with the focus on The King of Them All!

Christmas lights make things bright, but there's more than one way to shine at Christmas. Discuss how your family can give the love God gave to you. Larry sings a "Not-so-Silly" song, Wrapped Myself Up for Christmas. Think of ways to give yourself ―your time, your care, your talents―to others. As Acts 20:35 says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Can you find a way to help the community all year long?

Have the biggest and brightest Christmas ever! Free downloads, game and activities at ~ check either or for your family to fill An Operation Christmas Child shoebox to be sent to a child in need. Jesus said in John 13:34, "Love one another, just as I have loved you." Those near and dear to you would love cookies or a homemade card. Remember service members in need of remembrance by those they serve. For a thoughtful mail-order gift, sharing of Clubhouse Jr. magazine for 3 to 7-year-olds shows how to serve others, and has fun activities, educational puzzles, and creatively told Bible stories.

Two examples this True Light of Christmas brought to me is a sweet neighbor family bring their little children to our home to bring their homemade cookies and sing a Christmas song to us each year. That is a highlight of receiving their sharing at Christmas for us. One year, I told the older little boy there was something under the tree for them. He reached in and took one of his mommy's cookies where I had placed them under the tree by their presents we had for them. The other fond memory is one blustery winter on the East coast and my son wanted to shovel the walkway for an older woman across the street near us. She kept shooing him away ~ shouting she didn't have money to pay him. He came home twice in tears. I knocked on her door to tell her he wanted to do this for her and not for money. He happy was allowed to shovel her walk and came home with home-baked cookies she had made just for him. What a double-blessing gift to her to not fall on the ice, and to have a wonderful cookie smell in her little home.

May each of you be blessed each day of the year and enjoy your very own Veggie Tales® Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas, featuring Si Robertson from Duck Commander as "Silas" the Narrator.

***Thank you to Finn Partners for Big Idea Entertainment McFaith Division of DreamWorks Animation for sending me a DVD of this year's VeggieTales® Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

To Know You by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel, ©2013

In To Know You, Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel explore how the past creates the present . . .
and how even the most shattered lives can be redeemed.
Matthew and Julia Whittaker have decisions to make to further attempt to save their son from imminent death if a type O blood donor isn't found and a match cannot be made. Their friends and acquaintances have been typed. Although some have matching type O blood, for other ailments, they are not cleared to be donors for Dillon.

Back to square one. Julia must go into her past and search to find her two daughters she released for adoption before meeting her husband, Matt. Both are young women now and although they were each told they were adopted by their family, they have not been in contact with their birth mother. Julia must try to see if Dillon's half-sisters are a match to be a liver donor for him.

With a private jet and pilot at her disposal, Julia and Matt track down the sisters and she goes to them individually. Both daughters have lives of their own that are in turmoil. They are unaware of each other. They agree to be tested a-f-t-e-r meeting their birth fathers. Lives that are unsuspecting.

It is a little difficult in the beginning to travel back and forth in time periods, between now and her reminiscence of her time with the birth fathers ~ one influenced by Julia's mother that his life needed to go on, and the other does not know she was expecting.

All lives are touched as they meet yesterday, clearing the way to live freely and openly today in what once was hidden. It is reminiscent of Lamentations 2:14 ~ my paraphrase ~ It is necessary for your iniquity to be exposed so as to release you from captivity; and Luke 8:17, "There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light." They are strengthened as they are honest to face, however hard it seems. Exposure has freed them to receive God's grace and forgiveness. By forgiving others we are no longer held captive. By forgiving ourselves, we are able to receive what He has already provided for us. Freedom from what entraps us releases the full life intended for us.

At the back of the book is an overview of The Fantasy Fallacy, by Shannon Ethridge, which goes further into sexual and emotional fantasies as an avenue to fulfillment, to recognize and heal emotional pain from unresolved tragedies and traumas. In this story one of the daughters was held in bondage to what she felt she couldn't express in her known life. She resorted to on-line chat that ended almost in a tragic outcome.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a copy of To Know You to review. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

TO KNOW YOU | Win a Personal Coaching Session with Shannon Ethridge and $100 to Lisa Leonard Designs!

Shannon Ethridge is celebrating the release of  To Know You (co-written by Kathryn Mackel), by giving away a $100 gift certificate to Lisa Leonard Designs and a personal coaching session, as well as throwing a Facebook Author Chat Party!


One winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 19th. Winner will be announced at the "To Know You" Facebook Author Chat Party on the 19th. Connect with Shannon and friends for an encouraging evening of fun chat, book club discussion, giveaways, and a chance to win a PERSONAL COACHING SESSION WITH SHANNON!

So grab your copy of To Know You and join Shannon on the evening of November 19th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)
Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER or Pinterest and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on 11/19!

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher, ©2013

Where the Heart Lives series, Book 3


In 1881, the three Brennan children—Hugh, Felicia, and Diana—are sent West from Chicago. This third book in the Where the Heart Lives series, is Diana's story, the youngest sister adopted from the orphan train at age six. The story begins when she is now twenty-five at the eve of her engagement announcement. She is saved from this scoundrel, when an uninvited guest comes through the door ~ her husband who was to be declared dead the following day.

Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders charged up Cuba’s San Juan Hill and captured it on July 1, 1898.

A newspaper headline reported he was missing on the battlefields of Cuba two years previously, his body never found. Tyson Applegate had married her to receive his inheritance. Brook Calhoun wished to marry her for her inheritance.

And where is Diana Applegate in all of this? She originally remained living with Tyson's parents when he left, quite unexpectedly, on the eve of their arrival when she was introduced to them as his wife. Fortunately, his mother welcomed her graciously, as she was "left on their doorstep."

Not a very good reacquaintance. He had heard of the reason for the dinner and has returned to claim her before she did anything foolish. Her? Tyson is going to be running for office and needs his wife by his side for vote-getters. She agrees to move into his newly purchased home, now that she and her mother are unsettled, with the agreement she will stay during his election campaign, but then leave. Tyson wants to show her that he has changed. But where has he been for seven years?

Diana holds up her end of the agreement in accompanying him in political circles, but has a more lax home as she brings in an orphan boy and stray animals that liven up the household. There are additional twists and turns as people from their past enter in. Very well written, standing for truth, the darkness is driven away. The pace of the story is good and results in discoveries neither of them expected. They have both developed stronger character and there are changes in more than their lives. As they realize their true inheritance, they truly are the Beloved.

***Thank you to Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a copy of Robin Lee Hatcher's Beloved. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

get to know robin
author, Robin Lee Hatcher

“Beloved” iPad Mini Giveaway from Robin Lee Hatcher! Robin Lee Hatcher is celebrating the release of her latest novel, Belovedwith an iPad Mini giveaway!

  One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 15th. Winner will be announced November 16th at Robin's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Robin's blog on the 16th to see if you won. (Or, better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox!)!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Miner's Lady by Tracie Peterson, ©2013

When Chantel’s sister falls in love with a sworn enemy in their 1890s iron-mining community, will Chantel’s attempts to aid the couple result in a romance of her own?
Cover Art

Land of Shining Water, Book 3

Ely, Minnesota, 1890

The feuding of the Panettas and the Calarcos families is about to come to a close ~ that is, as far as younger sister Isabella Panetta believes. She is certain of marriage to Orlando Calarco and subsequent children being the power to break this torrent of bad blood between them. Her older sister, Chantel, is home from Nonna and Nonno's in Italy. Isabella has waited to tell her sister before revealing her plans and desires to their Mama and Papa.

   Their parents had a tradition of sending each of their children to stay with their grandparents in Italy. Upon turning twenty-one, the siblings, if unmarried, would leave home for a year to learn about the old country and their ancestors. Marco and Alfredo had each had their turn, and now Chantel had experienced the same.
   --The Miner's Lady, 10

How could it be? Long ago, had there been a love like this? So endearing that every storm of life could be reconciled; by a smile, by a tear? Isabella is seventeen and eager to forgo her trip until a later time. Especially, since the feud happened in the old country before even coming to America. How could it affect her and Orlando?

This was a strong story of family. How will they choose; from the heart or from tradition? They live in the present with expectations from yesteryear. "We always have done it this way." Families feeling they disrespect and betray their ancestors by changing actions today. How much are "perceived" truths from the past that are leaned upon? I liked the three generations and their input. It wasn't always the oldest that resisted change.

The writing was excellent and so was the pace. Many opportunities for reconciliation. My favorite character was Nonna Barbato. She made the story come alive in that she spoke her mind and shared hidden things that could have made a difference if listened to correctly. She gave up her individual life to come from Italy to the Americas to care for her family when her daughter died. How humbling and resourceful, with a clear heart. She drew them all together by her consistency and love. Respect.

Tracie Peterson
Mark Dixon, Bongophoto Photography

Tracie Peterson is the award-winning author of more than ninety novels, both historical and contemporary. Her avid research resonates in her stories, as seen in her bestselling Land of the Lone Star and Heirs of Montana series. Tracie and her family make their
home in Montana. To learn more, visit Tracie’s website at

Land of Shining Water series ~ independent stories

***Thank you to Tracie Peterson and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with this review copy of The Miner's Lady. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Excerpt Chapters 1 and 2, The Miner's Lady by Tracie Peterson

Chapter 1


“A Calarco?” Chantelly Panetta looked at her sister in disbelief. “You want to marry a Calarco?”
   Seventeen-year-old Isabella shook her head. “Not just any Calarco. Orlando Calarco. We’re in love, Chantel. I can’t tell my heart not to love him. You haven’t been here this last year, so you don’t know him like I do.”
   “I may have been gone, but I do know that the Calarcos and Panettas have been at odds for over fifty years.”
   Isabella flipped long honey-brown hair over her shoulder. “The feud means nothing to Orlando and me.”
   Scrutinizing her younger sister’s womanly figure and full lips, Chantel shook her head. Isabella looked years beyond her seventeen. She seemed just a child when Chantel had left, but now she spoke of marriage and love.
   “Have you told Mama or Papa?”
   “No, of course not.” Isabella threw herself across the bed. “I wanted to wait until you returned from Italy.”
   Chantel sat on the edge of her sister’s bed and carefully considered her words. “You know they’ll never approve.”
   Isabella reared up like a cat about to attack its prey. “They’ll have to. Orlando and I plan to marry. This feud is ridiculous, and I don’t care if I’m disowned. I love him.”
   “But how did this happen?” Chantel questioned. “Surely Marco and Alfredo would never allow you to be alone with a Calarco.”
   “Our brothers can’t be everywhere. They went with Papa to the iron mine every day to work, and sometimes I slipped away—alone— to meet Orlando there.”
   “You went to the mine?” Chantel realized she was nearly shouting, and hurried to lower her voice. “You can’t be serious. You know we’re not supposed to go unless we’re with other women—it’s dangerous there. The men have no reason to treat you like a lady if you show up at the mines. Only a loose woman would do that.”
   “You know full well there are exceptions, even in our family. I seem to remember more than once when we delivered food to our menfolk. Anyway, it’s not like I made a public spectacle,” Isabella said, easing into a sitting position. “I kept myself hidden and disguised. Only Orlando saw me. Even his brother and father have no idea.”
   The very thought of her sister risking her innocence, even her life, to visit a man she knew her parents would never approve of, gave Chantel a shiver. If spending the last year in Italy visiting their grandparents had taught Chantel anything, it was just how possessive family could be. In the old country young ladies didn’t so much as speak to a man without their father’s permission.
   “Stop frowning like that,” Isabella declared. “It’s not the end of the world. You’ll see. Orlando and I figure this is exactly what’s needed to put an end to the feud.”
   Chantel wished she could be as sure as her sister. “You know that this problem between the families won’t go away easily. It’s more likely that your marriage would only cause further division.”
   “Nonsense.” Isabella twisted a long strand of hair between her fingers. “If we’re married and produce children, they will belong to both the Calarco and the Panetta families. Think of it, Chantel. It’s really an answer to Mama’s prayers.”
   Their mother had long wished for an end to the on going feud. As Chantel understood it, the entire affair had occurred in Italy and was over some dispute that no one would speak about. Frankly, Chantel wondered if anyone even knew for sure what had started the matter. She did know that it ended in the killing of a mule, which threatened the livelihood of the Calarco family. Mama said the mule’s death was an accident, but that because there was already bad blood between the two families, it could not be forgiven or seen as anything but a purposeful attack. Chantel had tried to get her Nonna Panetta to speak on the matter, but her grandmother was even more closemouthed about it than Mama.
   With a sigh, Chantel forced a smile. “Well, it’s good to see you again, nevertheless. I can’t say the same for this filthy, depressing town. The past year in Italy has only made me realize just how awful this place truly is.”
   “It’s a mining town. You know what Mama says about them.” Isabella scooted to the edge of the bed.
   “It’s the last stop before the gates of hell,” the girls said in unison and laughed.
   Chantel looked around the room she’d shared with her sister since the family had moved to Ely three years earlier. Her father’s years of iron mining work had taken them from back east to Michigan, and now to Minnesota. They had lived for a short time in Duluth near their mother’s sister Marilla. But even that larger town failed to shine in light of Chantel’s memories of the Italian countryside.
   “So was your trip as wonderful as your letters implied?” Isabella questioned. “I’d always looked forward to going there myself, but now I suppose I won’t have the opportunity. At least not for a time.”
   Their parents had a tradition of sending each of their children to stay with their grandparents in Italy. Upon turning twenty-one, the siblings, if unmarried, would leave home for a year to learn about the old country and their ancestors. Marco and Alfredo had each had their turn, and now Chantel had experienced the same.
   “It is truly unlike anything I could have anticipated,” she said. “Nonna and Nonno have such a beautiful home,” Chantel continued. “And the scenery is incredible. You can see the vineyards and orchards for miles and miles. And Nonna and I had great fun tatting and making bobbin lace. I brought a crateful home with me and made more on the ship.”
   “You wrote about the family dinners,” Isabella interjected with a wistful look on her face. “They sounded so wonderful. All those people and the music and dancing.”
   “They were,” Chantel admitted. “Every Sunday relatives would come from all over, and we would feast. Nonna’s tables would practically bow from the weight of the food. Oh, and such food! You think Mama is a good cook; well, let me tell you there’s nothing quite so wonderful as Nonna’s dishes made with fresh ingredients.” She put her thumb and middle finger to her lips and kissed. “With all that good food, it was hard to wait for the prayer. Nonno would practically preach a sermon when he stood to bless the food. It was amazing. His faith in God is so strong.”
   “Yet he allows for this stupid feud between families. And all because some mule was accidentally killed,” Isabella muttered. “I don’t understand how that’s godly.”
   Chantel shook her head. “No, I don’t suppose it is. Forgiveness is something that people in the old country seem reluctant to give, and I don’t know why it should follow us here. Old traditions die hard, I suppose, but America is a land for new traditions and opportunities. It seems to me that such grudges should be set aside.”
   Just then their mother burst into the room carrying a huge stack of clean linens. “Buon giorno.
   “Good morning, Mama.” Chantel crossed the room to help her mother with the laundry.
   “It’s so good to have you home,” their mother said, beaming from ear to ear. She rattled away in rapid-fire Italian, proclaiming how much she’d missed Chantel and how empty the house seemed without her, before slowing down to return again to English. “Your papa is so happy you have returned.”
   Chantel placed the linens atop an empty chair. “I’m glad to see you all again, but I cannot say I’m happy to be in Ely.”
   “E-lee is no so beautiful as Italy,” her mother declared. Although she was half French, her accent was decidedly Italian.
   “No, it’s not,” Chantel agreed.
   The mining town sported twenty-six saloons, compared to only five churches. There were a variety of other businesses: general stores, banks, doctors and lawyers, jewelers and dressmakers. But it was what happened in the backrooms and upper floors of the saloons and brothels that was most distressing. Prostitution, gambling, and all manner of vice went on, and there were almost daily reports of someone having been killed in a fight or of drinking themselves into such a stupor that they fell on the railroad tracks to be run over by the morning freight. The latter was so common, in fact, that the marshal had taken to checking the tracks before the train was due in. Of course, it was rumored that many of the bodies discovered on the tracks had been placed there purposefully to disguise murders.
   Mother bustled around the room, tidying things as she went. “And did you find a special boy?” Mother asked. “An Italiano boy?”
   There had been a bevy of nice-looking young men who paid court to Chantel, but none that drew more than momentary interest. Chantel knew her mother had hoped that romance would blossom and that perhaps her daughter would return to America a married woman bringing yet another Italian to settle the country.
   “No, no one special, Mama.”
   “Oh, it’s too bad. You’re such a pretty girl. You need to find a good husband.” Mama stopped cleaning and looked at her daughters. “But God will provide. Non è forse così?
   “Yes, it is so, Mama.” Just don’t go trying to do God’s work for Him. Chantel could tell by the look on her mother’s face that the idea had crossed her mind.
   Isabella forced herself up off the bed. “I’m going to take Chantel to the new dressmaker’s shop, Mama. I want to introduce her to the Miller sisters.”
   “, and show her the new meat market,” their mother suggested. “Such good meats to be had there. They make a wonderful sausage.”
   Mama loved her sausage. Chantel smiled and moved toward the door. “Let me get my walking shoes on.”
   “Better to wear boots,” Mama countered. “The rains, they make the streets like-a mud pit.”
   The girls nodded in unison and went to the mud porch to retrieve their boots. Chantel took up a woolen shawl and wrapped it around her head and shoulders. The damp October air chilled her to the bone as they began the walk. For several blocks Chantel said nothing.
   It looked a little better than it did last year. At least they’d removed a good many tree stumps. Many of the trees that had been cut down for mining use had once littered the area with stumps. But now in their place new buildings were erected. It was a vast improvement.
   “It’s colder than I expected.”
   Isabella shrugged, doing up the buttons on her brown wool coat. “It is nearly November. In another week or two we’ll be ice skating on the lake.”
   Chantel nodded. “I suppose it’s to be expected, but even so, I shall miss the summer warmth of Italy.”
   “Winter must come. It can’t stay summer forever,” her sister replied. “Summer here is quite lovely, as you must remember.”
   She did. Summer picnics at Lake Shagawa and picking blueberries on some of the small lake islands.
   “You’ve missed a great deal around here.” Isabella waved her hand toward the town’s buildings. “The Reverend Freeman left his position at the Presbyterian Church to resume his studies in Chicago. Oh, and we have a brand-new church building for St. Anthony’s. Soon we’ll be holding services there instead of the boardinghouse. Father Buh raised the money and oversaw the building. It’s going to be quite wonderful.”
   Chantel considered many of the new structures. “It’s almost like the town grew up overnight.”
   Isabella continued. “We have a new drugstore and a new hotel. The Oliver Hotel is quite modern and is said to be just the thing to bring in tourists for fishing and hunting.”
   “I’m impressed, I must admit,” Chantel declared. “I even heard some men talking on the train about ice fishing this winter. Of course there were also a fair number of men who were coming to find work.”
   “Papa says that with the new iron mines being established, we’ll soon have hundreds more people. Maybe thousands.”
   “As if the Chandler Mine wasn’t enough of a destruction to this land.”
   Isabella didn’t seem to hear. “Oh, remember Sara Norman? Well, she married Mr. Ellefesen. You know he’s a member of the Ely Fire Department, so the other firemen went together and gave them a sofa and armchair. Mama said it came all the way from Chicago.”
   “No doubt that cost a pretty penny,” Chantel replied. She looked around the town, trying to imagine spending the rest of her life here. She doubted that she could be happy even with a new sofa and armchair from Chicago. The dirt and noise, damp cold and unpainted buildings made her long for Italy. As homesick as she’d been at times while abroad, Chantel suddenly felt completely displaced.
   “You should have been here for the Firemen’s Ball,” Isabella continued, not noticing her sister’s mood. “The entire department ordered special suits and looked quite grand. They wore black pants, red flannel shirts with blue collar, cuffs, and breastplate. Whiteside Hall has never held such a spectacular affair. We all dressed in our finest and went to celebrate.”
   “Celebrate what?” Chantel asked.
   Isabella threw her a look of amusement. “Something different. We were just happy to have a diversion. We danced and ate and made merry.”
   Chantel could well understand that. As they crossed Chapman Street, Chantel felt her boots sink in the muddy ruts of the road. She hurried to regain solid footing on the boardwalk, carrying what felt like five pounds of muck on each foot. Wiping her boots against the edge of the walk, she shook her head.
   Isabella was unfazed. “See over there? We’ve been told that a fruit and candy store will open there in January. I, for one, am quite excited.”
   Chantel smiled, knowing her sister’s penchant for sweets. “Nonna taught me to make some wonderful family recipes, including some candy that Mama used to make when she was a little girl.” To her surprise Isabella gave her an impromptu hug.
   “It’s so good to have you home. I missed you so much.” Chantel returned the embrace. “I’m glad to be home.” It wasn’t exactly a lie, but neither was it the truth.

Chapter 2

“It’s got to stop,” Dante Calarco told his younger brother Orlando. “You can’t go on sneaking around to meet that Panetta tramp.”
   “She’s no tramp!” Orlando shot up to stand nose to nose with his brother. “I love her and intend for her to be my wife.”
   Dante rolled his eyes heavenward. “You’re nineteen and have no business even thinking about marriage. You’ve only been working the mine for the last year. You have nothing to your name and certainly cannot afford a wife. Not only that, but you know our father will never allow you to marry a Panetta. And for good reason.”
   “Reason, good or otherwise, never has figured into this ridiculous feud.” Orlando pushed back thick black hair and reclaimed his seat at the dining room table. “Am I the only one bothered by the fact that our families are at odds over a stupid mule? I mean, think about it. Two families hate each other because a mule accidentally got killed.”
   “Our grandfather apparently didn’t believe it to be an accident. Besides, you know as well as I do there were already problems between the two families.”
   “But I don’t have any problem with the Panettas, and I don’t see why I should.”
   Dante wanted very much to get his brother to acknowledge the truth. “It matters little whether or not you agree with the two families being at odds. The fact is, Father believes in loyalty to our family.”
   “What about loyalty to his sons? What about learning to live in peace like the Good Book says? What about that?”
   Dante had never been much for religious nonsense. He believed in God. He even believed that He had a Son named Jesus who died on the cross in some sort of sacrifice for all of mankind. What he didn’t believe in was the nonsense that took place in the church. As far as he’d ever been able to tell, church was useful for one thing and one thing only: heaping guilt upon the weak-minded.
   “I’m not going to argue with you about religion. I’m not even going to challenge you on the whole concept of trying to be at peace in a world filled with warring people.” Dante took the seat opposite his brother while their grandmother scurried around to put supper on the table. “But you know how our father feels regarding family. Family is everything. For you to sneak around with her is like putting a knife in his back.”
   “That has never been my intention.” Orlando met Dante’s gaze. “You know that. I love my family, but I love Isabella, too.”
   “Ora ragazzi,” said their Nonna Barbato in her native Italian. Il papá sarà qui presto.
   Dante squared his shoulders. She was right. Their father would be here any moment, and it wouldn’t serve either of them well to have him question their discussion.
    “I’m sorry, Orlando. I’m sorry that you love her, and I’m sorry that nothing can ever come of it.”
    Just then they could hear their father scraping his boots outside the back door. Both young men straightened in their chairs as if they were boys awaiting parental inspection. Nonna put the last of the food on the table and took her seat.
   Vittorio Calarco rubbed his hands together and entered the kitchen. “The wind has a bite to it. Hopefully we’ll get a hard freeze and that muck they call a road will harden up.”
   Dante couldn’t help but smile. His father stood bootless in his dirty socks. He took orders from the mining captain and no one else . . . except his mother-in-law. Nonna Barbato insisted the men take their boots off before entering the house, and even Vittorio Calarco was obedient. Of course, Dante knew his father had been dependent upon the older woman since losing his wife in childbirth. Nonna had been newly widowed, and the trip to America to care for her daughter’s newborn and eight-year-old sons gave her a new lease on life. Dante’s father had struggled to find the money for such a trip, but with the help of family he had managed to bring Nonna to America only weeks after he’d buried Dante and Orlando’s mother.
   Their father took a seat at the table and reached for his bowl of zuppa de zucca, his favorite pumpkin soup. Nonna waggled a finger and admonished him. “First we pray,” she said as she always did.
   His father gave a nod. When Nonna said they would pray first, they prayed.
   Nonna offered grace for the food, then poured her heart out in prayers for the family. She asked forgiveness for each of her men, pleading with God for their protection. Dante knew this never boded well with his father, but he found it somewhat comforting. Even if he wasn’t given to praying himself, it was nice to know that someone else was offering up prayers on his behalf.
   “Amen,” said Nonna.
   Dante and Orlando murmured the word in return, but their father only grunted and reached again for the soup.
   Supper was always a time for Nonna to share the latest information from family or the ongoing affairs of neighbors. Dante’s father would chime in on politics and matters of the town, while Dante and Orlando picked up the conversation when they had something to add. And always, it was in Italian. Nonna could speak English, though not well. She considered it a vulgar language. It was a rare occasion when Anna Teresa Barbato spoke what she called “that American garble.”
   Ely was a town of many nationalities, but the far east side was predominantly settled by Slavic-Austrians and Italians. Nonna knew every man, woman, and child in their neighborhood and thought it her duty to keep up on the details of their lives. Often the women washed clothes or sewed together, and while they did they told news from the old country or spoke of problems with their families. Nonna had become something of a matriarch among the women, and she held the position with the authority of a queen.
   “The Dicellos have a new baby,” Nonna announced. “A fat, healthy boy.” She extended a rose-colored glass serving bowl to Dante. “You should marry and have children, Dante. Goodness, but you are twenty-seven years old. Well past the time a man should settle down. You need children of your own to carry on the family name.”
   Orlando opened his mouth as if to comment on that, but Dante quickly silenced him. “Nonna, you always said that marriage was the hardest work a man and woman would ever do. Frankly, the mine exhausts me. I don’t have the energy to marry.”
   She laughed and motioned to the bowl he’d just taken. “Eat up and you’ll have energy aplenty. This is your favorite agnolotti.”
   Dante smiled and began to spoon himself a healthy portion of the ravioli. Each little pasta pocket was filled with tender roast beef and seasoned vegetables. His grandmother had such a way with the dish that he had to admit he’d rather eat extra helpings of this than have dessert.
   The table talk continued with Nonna telling of her visit to the meat market with several other women. She spoke of new families moving to the area to accommodate the growing mine industry. At this Dante’s father joined in.
   “Papers have already been drawn up to make Ely an incorporated town,” he told them. “Once this officially happens, we will see many more changes. There are plans to put in sewer and water lines, as well as better streets.”
   “That is good,” Nonna said, nodding. She tore off a piece of bread from a large round loaf. “The streets here are terrible.”
   Dante paid only a token interest to the conversation. His mind was focused on Orlando’s interest in Isabella Panetta. Dante had had suspicions for some time that his brother was sneaking off to meet with a young lady, but never could he have imagined it would be a Panetta.
   The boy was insane. He had to know the relationship would never be allowed, and if Orlando insisted, their father would simply disown him. And then what? Would the two marry and move in with her family? The shame of it would cause their father no end of grief, and that in turn would trickle down to affect Dante and Nonna.
   As he ate, Dante tried to reason how he might best deal with the situation. There was always the chance that Isabella’s family didn’t realize what was going on. Perhaps if Dante cornered one of her brothers at the mine, he could explain what was happening and get their help on the matter. Of course, it wasn’t likely that a Panetta would give him the time of day, much less listen to him.
   “They say the Pioneer Mine will deliver the same quality Bessemer ore that the Chandler has,” Dante heard his father declare. “And there are other mines opening, as well. If they’re all Bessemer quality, we’ll be making the owners quite wealthy.”
   Bessemer ore held the richest iron content. The problem with some iron ore was a high percentage of phosphorus. Henry Bessemer, an English iron master, had created a way to burn away the impurities from iron to make steel. Because of this wondrous contribution, the finest ore had been named after him.
   One benefit of the Chandler Mine and the rich Bessemer ore was that it didn’t require a great deal of processing in order to make it useful. Not only that, but the vein of ore had endured a massive folding during its creation. This resulted in the ore breaking naturally into pieces very nearly the right size for the mills, which eliminated the need to run it through a crusher first. This, along with the fact that the ore was readily available and not at all laborious to mine—at least not in the early pit mining years—proved very valuable to the stockholders. It was said that the mine paid out $100,000 a month net profit. Of course, Dante found that hard to believe, but if the growth of the city and digging of new mines was any indication, it must be true.
   “Dr. Shipman intends to see those terrible houses of ill repute closed,” Nonna declared. “He makes a good village president, even if he isn’t Italiano.”
   “He is a good man,” Father replied, “but if they close down the brothels, how will they fund the town?” He gave a laugh. “It’s only the fines brought in by the marshal that pay Ely’s bills.” It was a well-known fact that the marshal visited the brothels on a monthly basis to “arrest” the madams. They simply paid a large fine and returned to business. It served to give the pretense of law and order, make money for the town, and keep the miners happy.
   “Bah!” Nonna said, waving him away with her hand. “We will be a better city without them.”
   “Well, if they have their way and incorporate the mines into the city limits,” Father said, reaching for the bread, “they will have money enough. The state may receive a penny a ton on what is shipped out of the mines, but the city gets nothing. That will change soon enough if the incorporation goes through.”
   Dante tired of the politics and again found himself thinking about Orlando’s situation. His brother had crossed a line that would not easily be forgotten if their father learned the truth. So the trick would be to find a way to get Orlando back on the right side before he could be found out.
   I could just threaten him, Dante thought, then very nearly smiled. His brother was not easily intimidated. They had endured many a brawl in their younger days, and Orlando could put up quite a fight. He was strong and muscular like Dante, although he was shorter by two or three inches. If anything, that only served to give his brother an advantage in maneuvering around Dante’s attacks.
   I could bribe him to let her go. But Dante knew that wouldn’t work, either. He knew his brother couldn’t be bought off. Not when he fancied himself truly in love.
   He was still lost in thought well after Nonna had served dessert. When his brother and father got up from the table, Dante continued to pick at the pear tart his grandmother had put in front of him.
   “You no like?” she asked in English.
   Dante, surprised by her change of language, glanced around the room. Seeing his father and brother gone, he shook his head. “I’m just worried about Orlando.”
   Nonna waggled a finger at him. “You worry too much.” She switched back into Italian and began clearing the table. “Your brother will be fine.”
   Lowering his voice to a whisper, Dante replied, “Not if he keeps thinking with his heart instead of his head.”
   His grandmother straightened for a moment and shook her head. “Ah, Dante, the heart it cannot be controlled by anyone save God. It will choose whom it will choose. It’s amore.”
   “It’s dangerous,” Dante said, getting to his feet. “And it’s foolish.”
   At seven the next morning, Dante, Orlando, and their father were back to work at the mine. The shifts ran in ten-hour segments, two shifts a day, every day but Sunday. Vittorio Calarco and his sons were contract miners. They handled dynamite and nitroglycerin—blasting holes in the iron ore to sink shafts or create the horizontal drifts. This dangerous job allowed them additional pay, for it required steady hands and even stronger nerves. Vittorio Calarco preferred it this way. He answered only to the mine’s captain, as they called the big boss, but paid nominal heed to the instructions of the shift foreman. Luckily Dante’s father liked the man whom he called “Mr. Foreman” in a sort of mock salute to the position.
   What Dante’s father did not like was the fact that Panettas worked in the same mine. Dante fervently hoped that their enemies might transfer to another mine. At best they were often working in one of the other four shafts. But even with five separate areas to work, their paths would cross and words would be exchanged. The latter was usually only between the two patriarchs, while their sons silently observed, watching and waiting lest one man or the other decide to do more than talk.
   As Father stood instructing Orlando, Dante couldn’t help but study his brother. He seemed so carefree, so unconcerned with his deception. Would he truly risk being ostracized from the family for the love of a woman?
   “Are you going to help us or just stand there?”
   Dante met his father’s stern expression. “Tell me what you want done.”
   “We will drill blasting points here and here,” his father said, pointing. The iron deposits were removed in a stoping system that was well suited to the area’s formations. Segments of ore were taken out parallel to the drift or horizontal shaft, creating a sort of stepped appearance at the top of the stope— the ever-expanding hollow created by the mining work. Underground iron miners always tried to let gravity work for them, using the overhand or upward method. This allowed the ore to fall to the bottom of the stope, and from there it would be scraped into chutes and loaded into the ore cars located below the floor of the work area. It was tedious work, often referred to as caving. Eventually all of the ore would be mined in that area, and the Calarcos would blast the surrounding rock to fill in the stope. The process went on and on in order to recover as much ore as possible.
   Dante tried not to give much thought to the dangers they faced, though they were many. Walls of the stopes often collapsed without warning. Blasts could go off prematurely, although the Calarcos had not been victim of that due to their father’s vigilant care in everything he did. Of course, just because they were careful didn’t mean everyone else was. There were plenty of new muckers who had no idea of the risk.
   Fires were always feared in the mines, but it was often accidents with the machinery or tram cars that caused injury and death. Dante had seen men lose fingers and feet because of being less than aware of their surroundings.
   “This is no place to daydream,” his father admonished.
   A knot of fear and embarrassment sat in his gut at his father’s words. He knew better. “Sorry,” Dante said.
   Father handed him a twisted roll of fuse. “Sorry will get you blown up, son.”
   Dante met his brother’s curious gaze. With a quick grin Orlando went back to work, mindless of what was truly bothering his older brother. They would simply have to settle this later, Dante determined, and pushed the problem to the back of his mind.
Tracie Peterson, The Miner's Lady; Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2013. Used by permission.