Friday, April 4, 2014

{Blog Tour} Hands of Darkness by Heather James

What if you could tell, simply be looking at someone, that they were evil? What if you could smell how off they were and could alert someone before anything happened? What if you had a supernatural ability to help fight evil?

In Heather James' first novel Unholy Hunger, her daughter is kidnapped and subsequently murdered. She goes it alone to find the killer and finds that she has the uncanny ability to spy evil when no one else can.

Now, Evelyn has a new lease on life. She's moving forward and trying to make a new life for herself. Until an old friend is the newest victim of a sadistic serial rapist and murderer. Then Evelyn begins a new hunt for evil.


I was able to read Heather James' first book and enjoyed it thoroughly. I was eager to see how the second book would come out. Hands of Darkness continues where the last left off, but is a stand alone book as well. She does an excellent job carrying the story forward but allowing it to stand on its own.

The book not only shares Evelyn's story, but it also shows us what the rapist is thinking and doing. I found that interesting and not distracting. In fact, it kept the story moving quickly, in my opinion.

We are able to meet Evelyn in a way I truly enjoyed. Her wit comes through with every thing she says. Oftentimes, even though this is a suspense novel, I found myself smiling over the comments she made. She's someone I would want to meet in real life.

Heather James does a great job of weaving her story and keeping the suspense building throughout. I enjoy a great page turner and especially one that will keep me thinking for days later...and looking over my shoulder.

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the book through the Kregel Publications Blog Tour program. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions stated above are mine alone.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What Makes a Boy Happy?

We are participating in a bi-monthly homeschool co-op. The two younger boys are taking a class on castles and knights. Last class I was asked to sign a permission form for them to make swords and shields. 

My middle son remembered this and was quite thrilled about class today. Sure enough, they brought home wooden shields. Next class they will be making the swords. 

These things are made out of thick plywood with duct tape covered straps riveted to the back. They are solid! And the boys loved them!

Of course, they needed to decorate them. After handing them a very large roll of silver duct tape (my own personal roll), I walked in a few minutes later to see them both hard at work. 

A dragon - of course.

Planes - of course.

This kept them busy and quiet for about thirty minutes. They worked hard on these. My youngest kept drawing his dragon on wrong and having to cover it up and re-do it. I was happy about how long they worked on this and how happy they were with the final product. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Snow Much Fun

Today there was the Spruce Mountain Sled-In in the next town over from where we live. My hubby is the coordinator of the event. Aside from the vintage snow machines that came to do radar runs, there was a HUGE sliding hill with three runs down it, sleigh rides pulled by more snow machines, a snow shoe race, and a snow sculpture contest. There were food vendors, raffles, and a huge bonfire as well. And it was sunny! We've had very few sunny days it seems this winter. 

My 4-H Club entered the snow sculpture contest. Last year was the first year for this event and no one entered the contest. There were cash prizes! This year I was happy when my 4-H club agreed to enter. We had no idea until today how many other people we would be competing against. For the first hour we worked, we thought we were the only ones! However, eventually three other groups showed up. Everyone worked hard on their sculptures and the above photo was our final entry.

We made the 4-H four leaf clover and a GPS unit since that is our focus this year. The name of our club is the 4-H Adventure Seekers. This year we are focusing on a GPS/GIS project. We'll see what the following years bring. 

Our snowy GPS unit

I was extremely impressed by all the work the kids did. We had about a foot of powdery snow on the ground. We had to create our own mounds of snow to make our sculpture. The kids hauled a ton of it and packed it down and created a 3-D model of the 4-H clover. I'm beyond bursting at all the help we had and all the work that was put in. I had hoped it would only take a couple hours, but it took almost three full hours to make the above. 

This photo just shows the shear size of our sculpture. I took this on full zoom on my phone from the top of the hill near the center of activities. The 4-wheeler on tracks was hauling kids back up to the top of the sliding hill. 

We did place second which means we finally have some much needed funds for our club. The kids worked hard - super hard - and I'm very proud of the club I'm involved with. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

{Book Review} The Vicar's Wife by Katharine Swartz

The Vicar's Wife by Katharine Swartz opens with the reader meeting Jane Hatton, a die-hard New Yorker, born and raised who loves the energy of the city but seems to spend more time working at the charity she loves than raising her family. Her husband, an British ex-pat, convinces Jane to move the family back to his native land after their fourteen-year-old daughter, Natalie, begins hanging with the wrong crowd at school and making poor choices about life. Jane reluctantly agrees never dreaming how much she would be giving up in the process.

Once on the coast of England in the small town of Cumbria, Jane begins to face the realization that she didn't really want this move. She begins to catalog all the sacrifices she made and slowly begins to resent it all. While cleaning out a pantry to paint, she discovers a slip of paper with a shopping list on it. Thus begin her journey to find out about the previous occupants of the old vicarage she finds her and her family now living in.

The shopping list belonged to Alice James, the wife of the vicar who lived in Cumbria in the late 1930s into the early 1940s, as World War II is beginning. Jane feels a kinship to Alice as she begins to research who might have written the list and what her life might have been like in the house.

I loved this book. While I've never been a city girl, I remember well when my husband and I made the decision to move from the suburbs of one of Maine's larger cities to the very small town he grew up in. I had three small children. I left behind a wide support and social network. It was hard adjusting to the new rural lifestyle I found myself living, even though I had grown up in a similar fashion. However, soon I loved it and found it just as difficult to leave that quiet life for a slightly busier small town life just a year or so ago. It's all in the perspective.

The book bounces between Jane's point of view and Alice's. There are some similarities with both women as they each struggle in their own way to make the vicarage their home. It also gives us look at what life was like in England during World War II, albeit in the countryside.

I found myself trying to talk some sense in to Jane about the decisions she felt justified in making. I also found myself completely caught up in Alice's life. The author did a great job making me feel like I knew both women well. I read this book in only a couple of days and continue thinking about the characters. To me, that's the mark of an excellent book.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday Hodgepodge


1. Are we always responsible for our actions? Are there any exceptions? Absolutely we are responsible. That is one of the biggest things I'm working to teach my children. Nothing gets me more annoyed than people who give every excuse they can think of for why they did something. I'm going to stop before I get up on my soapbox. LOL

2. Has anyone from your home town become famous? Not that I know of.

3. January was National Slow Cooker month. Do you own a slow cooker/crock pot? Did you use it last month? What's a favorite dish you make using a slow cooker or crock pot? Funnily enough, I used it today! I made one of my favorite meals in it, pot roast. Last month I made beef stew.

4. How do you feel about private companies collecting data about you? Resigned. Sadly, I think it's the price we have to pay for all the technology we use. Although, I do my best to hide as much as I can all the same.

5. The Games of the 2014 Winter Olympics kick off with their opening ceremony this coming Friday....will you be watching? Which Winter Olympic event would you most like to see in person? Have you ever been to Russia? Any desire to go, Olympics or otherwise? Let's see...yes, we'll be watching. My boys are very excited since the last time the Olympics were on we did not have network TV. We'll be doing a medal count. I think I'd like to see ice-skating most in person. I've never been to Russia. I'm not sure how much I'd want to see that country. I actually have no desire to ever see the Olympics in person.

6. Share a good or bad sports related memory from your childhood or teen years. Let's go with good. :-) I played basketball in eighth grade and did a "Hail Mary" shot from half court at the buzzer and it went in. That was very cool.

7. What's a must have song for you on a work out play list? If you don't work out, run, swim, bike, walk, or anything else that could be construed as 'exercise', then what's a song that movtivates you to at least get up off the couch? I do Zumba three times a week so I don't pick my play list so I don't have a play list per se. I like any song that has a good beat and makes you want to dance.

8. Insert your own random thought here. I'm finding it hard to believe that January is already over and we've begun February. Life continues to move at a brisk pace. Over half of our family is now taking martial arts at the local dojo. My youngest son started last August. My hubby joined around November and my middle son just began this week. He's still reserving judgement as to how long he'll continue. We've asked him to give us a month as it really wasn't something he asked to do, but my hubby and I felt it would be good for him. He's still pretty sore from the push-ups and sit-ups he had to do on Tuesday. I'm praying the soreness fades fast and he comes to enjoy the classes.

My youngest son just attended his second tournament and he placed fourth in kata (forms). His first tournament medal!