Where She Belongs

Where She Belongs (Misty Willow, #1)Where She Belongs by Johnnie Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is a contemporary romance that centers on the past? An interesting story! Johnnie Alexander does a wonderful job of combining the present with the past to create a complex and heartwarming tale.

Shelby Kincaid is a young widow drawn to her past to recreate an idyllic life for her two daughters. Determined to make her dreams come true, she works out the details of buying her grandparents home from the grandson of her family’s nemisis, another Sullivan.

A.J. Sullivan may carry his grandfather’s name and bear his looks, but he couldn’t be more different than his namesake. Turning his back on the lucrative career his grandfather had planned for him, he’s content to be known as “coach” and teacher at the local high school.

When Shelby buys the old Lassiter farm, he’s more than happy to be rid of it and it’s unpleasant reminders. What he doesn’t expect, is to fall for a woman who equates his name with everything evil in her life.

But it isn’t his name that casts a shadow over Misty Willow. Truths long buried insist on coming to light decades after they’d been buried. Can Shelby and A.J. survive their resurrection?

A well-written story with likable characters, and a charming romance suitable for any age.

Merchant of Alyss

Merchant of Alyss (Legends of the Realm, #2)Merchant of Alyss by Thomas Locke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the “Legends of the Realm” series by Thomas Locke. The first one – “The Emissary” – came out over a year ago. I wish I had re-read that book before reading this one. As is the case with all good fantasy stories, the world created by the author is distinct and special. And well defined in the first book. It took me 3 or 4 chapters to get back into that world in this book.

Hyam is back with his wife, Joelle, and many of the cast from the first book. In “Merchant of Alyss” we meet several new characters – including a dragon! – as Hyam continues his quest. Hyam is now more seasoned, slightly more comfortable in his role as hero, and wonderfully devoted to Joelle. I like the relationship between those two. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next. I just hope book 3 comes out sooner than another year, because the ending is … begging for answers.

Recommended for readers from teens on up. There are dangers with ensuing violence, but then, what would a quest be without that? Good moral undertones here about loyalty and service to others. Good stuff for teens to read anyway.

Thin Ice

Thin Ice (Men of Valor #2)Thin Ice by Irene Hannon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was different than most of my reads. The underlying romance is wonderful. Just the type of hero who grabs your imagination. Just the type of heroine who grabs your sympathy. The suspense in the story is page-turning, no doubt.

Christy Reed has lost her whole family in the space of a few months. Now, out of the blue, she gets a letter – addressed in her dead sister’s handwriting – from a kidnapper. He tells her not to go to the police. She doesn’t. She goes right to the FBI. Lance McGregor is everything an former Delta Force operator should be. His first case as an FBI agent is a kidnapping that doesn’t fit any of the normal parameters. Including the person receiving the letters. A woman who changes his view on a lot of things.

The take-away from this story I found a little disturbing. It has nothing to do with the romance or the characters, those are wonderful. But the underlying issue that caused the perpetrator to hunt down the heroine and her family, goes against what you hope will be the outcome of your actions. I don’t want to give away a spoiler here, so I’ll leave it at that.

There are lots of good reasons to read this story and – who knows – maybe nobody else will be bothered by what struck me as unsettling.

A Worthy Heart

A Worthy Heart (Courage to Dream, #2)A Worthy Heart by Susan Anne Mason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d been anticipating this book since finishing the first in the series, Irish Meadows. Susan Anne Mason did not disappoint! She picked up where the first book left off and expanded the saga of this Irish family in early 1900s New York.

Adam O’Leary wasn’t the hero in the first book, far from it. But he’s paid his dues, done his time, and he’s back to put his life together. Maggie Montgomery and her brother, Gabe, are fresh off the boat from Ireland to visit their other brother, Rylan. Aurora Hastings is back, still hurting from Gilbert Whelan’s stunt in the first book. She’s grown through that experience and now has backbone enough to stand up to her father. While everything may seem straightforward, an element of evil lurks in the shadows.

The reader should take these stories in order. While either could be enjoyed as a stand alone, many of the nuances of the story and the characters themselves would be missed. I highly recommend these stories to anyone who enjoys history, the Irish immigration to America, and a stirring romance … or two!

Killing Reagan

Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a PresidencyKilling Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency by Bill O’Reilly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was disappointed in this book. Perhaps because I’ve read several biographies on Ronald Reagan, or perhaps because I’d read O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus” and thought it was an interesting and well laid out book. This one was neither. It bothered me that it jumped around in the timeline. It’s certainly not a smooth read.

The book overall had the tone/feel of a tell-all tabloid piece. It centered on the negative aspects of Reagan’s careers and leadership. O’Reilly seemed to fixate on Nancy Reagan’s faith in a fortune teller and Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s. Both things are true and did happen, but were they the focal points of this man’s presidency? I don’t think so. Nor did either have anything to do with the assassination attempt, which the book does cover, but is not the focus of the book as one would assume from the title.

Some of the sections on Hinckley were new to me, but again, the timeline jumped around making it somewhat confusing to follow. Overall, I think O’Reilly was more sympathetic with Hinckley than he was with the Reagans.

If you’re a die-hard political person, you may enjoy this book. It does cover the Berlin Wall moment well, but that’s the only truly positive thing I remember reading in it. O’Reilly even fixates, it seems, on the negative aspects of Reagan’s friendship and working relationship with Margaret Thatcher. Why he’d do that when they were in accord on most things, I don’t really know. At the very end he brings out their deep friendship as shown by Thatcher’s taped eulogy at Reagan’s funeral. It felt almost a tacked on afterthought.

A Thousand Shall Fall

A Thousand Shall Fall (Shenandoah Valley Saga #1)A Thousand Shall Fall by Andrea Boeshaar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a good Civil War series and the Shenandoah Valley Saga caught my eye. This is the first book, but book two is teased at the end and I’m already looking forward to reading that one.

A Thousand Shall Fall is the story of Carrie Ann Bell. Left in dire consequences when the war comes to their home in the Shenandoah Valley, Carrie Ann does her best to keep her family together. But her father is missing and her youngest sister has run off. Carrie Ann devises a desperate plan to retrieve her sister. What she finds instead is a Yankee colonel who she’s met before.

In the beginning of this story, I was sure I must have misunderstood and missed book one. There is a lot of backstory regarding the first time Carrie Ann and Peyton met. It honestly reads like the second book for a while. But stick with it, it’s worth it, and it’ll all come out in the end.

Andrea Boeshaar did a wonderful job of setting the reader into the Shenandoah Valley amidst a divided people. Virginia split into two states, Virginia and West Virginia, because of the Civil War. Loyalists and rebels lived very close to each other here. And then came the orders to burn the valley. Powerful images and insights into how these events affected those living there at the time.

Until the Dawn

Until The DawnUntil The Dawn by Elizabeth Camden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elizabeth Camden delivers again! If you loved “Beauty and the Beast” as a child, you’ll enjoy this story. No, the hero isn’t a true beast, but he certainly could play the part at times. The heroine is a beauty, however, both inside and out. A touching story of how a person can shine the light of God’s love by how they choose to live their life.

Sophie van Riijn has known her share of disappointments. When Quentin Vandermark appears at his family’s lovely old estate – the estate where Sophie grew up – and states he’s there to tear it down, Sophie is devastated. She takes on the position as cook at the estate in hopes of finding a way to prevent such a tragedy as the loss of her beloved Dierenpark. What she never expects is to find herself drawn to the rude, cynical man bend of destroying her dreams.

Set at the end of the 19th century on the banks of the Hudson River, “Until the Dawn” is a story with a timeless feel readers will be drawn to. It’s underlying message of hope and faith will bring a smile to the reader’s face. And the mystery wrapped around the old house will keep the reader guessing until the final pages.

The Dreaded Thomas Family Christmas Webpage

merry-christmas

It’s a new day and a new look for The Dreaded Thomas Family Christmas Page. After fifteen years I no longer own the twinwillowsfarm.com webpage. I also let my old blog, The Sheepish Scribe go dormant. And, in keeping with the times, I’ve moved everything here at PeggThomas.com. These are just a few of the many changes Michael and I have traveled through this past year.

snowing trip
A cowboy and his horse.

Jeff finished his move to Sturgis, MI. The last of his belongings, including Cash, went south after New Year’s Day. It wasn’t the best weather to travel in, much less pull a horse trailer through, but they made it.

While Jeff was starting his career job, Michael was losing his. He was laid off from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with a month’s notice. His job was still there, but someone higher up the food chain lost their job and bumped him out of his. It was devastating.

that face
His coaching face.

 

We tried to keep things as normal as possible, including a visit with Jeff to watch him coach his 8th grade basketball team in January. He’s a good coach and enjoys working with the kids, but it does put a crimp in his roping schedule.

Michael’s final day at work was February 14th. Yeah. Happy Valentine’s Day from the State of Michigan. We were fine, financially, but it was still worrisome. After a couple of weeks, he was offered a position in Traverse City doing exactly the same job he did here. Of course, he jumped on it! Janet and Marsha (sister and adopted sister) had moved to Lake Ann (near Traverse City) a few months prior. They offered him a place to stay while he worked during the week while I stayed home to sell the farm.

 

Murphy on the run
Murphy on the run.
snowy log pile
Log Pile


March came in cold and snowy, but at least Michael had a job. Murphy and I got the house ready to put on the market. We also sold the sheep. That was difficult. But I logistically, we wouldn’t have been able to move them with us. It was a sad day when we watched them driven away.

 

Edwin H Gott in the ice
Michael and Murphy boatnerding
Boatnerders

April brought a bit of a thaw, so Michael and I  – and Murphy – took a day trip up to the Soo. It was still pretty cold! The river above the locks was still clogged with ice, although the Edwin H. Gott had no problem moving through it. The river down at our favorite spot, Mission Point, was pretty much open. Just some floating ice here and there. A sure sign of spring.
fish dinner 5-25-15ARGH Cap'n MichaelMay brought fishing! I caught a handsome small-mouth bass and turned it into that beautiful dinner complete with hushpuppies. We didn’t get fishing as often as we’d like this year, but it was a casualty of living across the state from each other all week.

Michael and Jeff with Jimmy Fortune

 

 

Jeff discovered a fun place to visit in Shipshewana. It’s a little theater where a lot of old-time country music stars give concerts. We went down in May and saw a few of them, including Jimmy Fortune from the Statler Brothers. Yes … he really is that short! We also saw Bobbie Bare, TG Shepherd, and LeRoy Van Dyke.

 

 

hole under the floor 5-3-15
Hole through the cement.
what a mess 5-2-15
Ripping up the mess.

 

 

Murphy checking out the new laundry room floor 7-3-15
Murphy checks out the new floor.

May also brought … the mold. We’d lived in this house for more than 14 years and never saw a sign of mold before. We had to take the house back off the market and get rid of it.

Michael had only the weekend to work on it, so it took a few weeks. First was tearing up the old flooring and sub-floor in the laundry room, which is on the bottom level of our tri-level house. Once he did, he found this square sump pump hole. We’ve no idea what mental midget thought it would be a good idea to put a sub-floor over this open hole. *sigh* But now it’s all filled in and a brand new floor is in place. At this point, we decided maybe we’d jumped the gun on selling the house. Maybe the Lord was slowing us down. Janet and Marsha were willing to put Michael up for a longer period of time (or should that read: put up with Michael?). At about that same time, rumors expanded about more State of Michigan changes at DHHS. The last thing we wanted to do was sell the farm and then have Michael moved again. So we decided to give it some time to play out.

 

working the hay 6-29-15
Bailing hay
Calvin Miller raking hay 6-29-15
Raking hay


June means hay season. With the sheep gone and just Old Trooper to pasture, we asked a neighbor if he’d like to hay off our horse pasture. He did and I snuck some photos from the back porch. What a pretty sight to watch!

 

On the boatnerd dinner cruise 6-26-15
On the Boatnerd Cruise

We did our annual trip to the Soo for Engineer’s Day. The weather was fantastic and we saw many of our favorite freighters. Jeff joined us for part of the weekend, but he had to cut it short because he was in a friend’s wedding on that Saturday. Michael and I took the “Boatnerd Dinner Cruise” and it was fun. We got stuck in the MacArthur Lock! Our tour boat had to back out of the lock because the upbound gate malfunctioned. A word to the wise … tour boats don’t back up very well! But the tour boat guys were great and they extended our trip by an extra 45 minutes to make up for it.

Jeff and Michael with the Federal Satsuki 6-25-15
Jeff and Michael with Federal Satsuki

 

 

 

 

the family with some smiles 7-4-15
Family Photo

 

We celebrated the 4th of July with Greg, Sandy, Adam, Diana, Nathan, Andrew, and Danny (my brother, sister-in-law, and niece’s family). It was a fun time and the little guys didn’t mind the noise at all. We also heard Three Men and a Tenor, one of my favorite vocal groups.

 

 

 

 

matching boatnerding hats 7-24-15
Wearing our rally hats!

We did a full week of camping in July at Algonac State Park on the St. Clair River. It was HOT that week! We laughed when we bought the new camper and it came standard with an air conditioner. We didn’t think we’d ever use it. We did that week. Jeff joined us for the whole week.

Jeff toasting marshmallows 7-19-15
Jeff toasting marshmallows
Michael and Jeff with the Alpena 7-20-15
Michael and Jeff with the Alpena
Murphy steals my chair 7-19-15
Chair thief

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael at Scalawags 8-1-15
Michael at Scalawags

August was a quick day trip to Mackinaw City to visit the Rendezvous there. There’s a fellow who has a booth there and sells handmade wooden utensils that I love. We’ll go back next year so I can purchase a couple more. And have lunch at Scalawags, of course!

 

 

2015 garden and house 8-8-15
2015 Garden
Corn Relish and plain sweet corn 8-25-15
Corn Relish & Sweet Corn

I hummed and hawed about canning any of the garden produce this year, still uncertain if we’d be moving or not, but finally decided I couldn’t just let it go to waste. So I canned a few things, but not as much as I might have if we’d been certain we were staying.

 

 

Camper on lot 215 Brimley State Park
Michael smiling 9-18-15
Michael and Murphy
Pegg and Murphy in their chair 9-19-15
Pegg and Murphy

September we camped another full week at Brimley State Park, our favorite campground. We relaxed, watched boats, and generally rested up before Michael’s surgery. About this same time, we learned that a supervisor in the Alpena office had given a retirement date of January 31. A chance for Michael to come back home!

 

Michael's new blue cast 10-7-15
With his 2nd cast.
Michael in recovery 9-24-15
In recovery
Michael's arm 2 post-cast 10-7-15
Between casts, a look at the scars.

But before we could get too excited about that, Michael needed surgery on this right thumb. He has degenerative joint disease and every so often he needs a joint repaired. This one was a major surgery. His thumb joint had deteriorated to total bone-on-bone. They basically removed his thumb joint, took part of a tendon out of his forearm, and then used that tendon to reconstruct how his thumb will operate. It worked! But it took longer than we thought it would. He’s still in physical therapy and just now starting to build strength back. The doctor says he’ll have 85% or so of his original strength.

sunshine through the trees
Trails at Ocqueoc Falls
Michael and Murphy
Michael & Murphy
Bridge with birch tree
The Bridge
eagle in flight
Eagle in Flight

 

 

 

 

 

We took another day trip to Mackinaw City while Michael was convalescing. We had sat by the bridge in the park, had lunch at Scalawag’s, then on the way home we stopped at Ocqueoc Falls and took a walk in the woods. We saw a group of bald eagles, which was really cool, and even made it back to the car just minutes before the skies opened up and drenched us.

 

Samuel Lewis Hainsfurther 11-23-15
Samuel – a Keeper!
Dad 06-20-09
My Dad

November brought another great-nephew! This is Samuel and he’s a keeper.

Life has its circles. While we welcomed Samuel, we said goodbye to Dad. He lost his battle with Alzheimer’s on November 16th. Jeff called me around 8:00am to tell me he’d shot his deer and while I was talking to him, my brother texted me that Dad had died.

He died at almost the same time Jeff shot his deer … with the gun Dad had given him. A deer with a perfect 8-point rack, the nicest Jeff has ever shot. I think Dad ran that buck past him on his way to heaven.

 

Father and Son with their 8-points

Here is the deer, along with Michael’s deer taken the evening before. Both 8-points, both now at the taxidermist’s. Look for these big boys to be on the wall and decorated with Santa hats in next year’s post! Way to go, guys!

It’s been a wild year with a lot of changes and a lot of unknowns. At this point, we’re not sure when – or even if – Michael will get moved back over to this office. The possible retirement here is uncertain. There is a possible job opening in the Tawas office. His position in Traverse City is a secure position. We’ll reevaluate in January if we should put the house back on the market, or if we should sit tight and wait. Prayers appreciated as we make this decision!

We wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year in 2016!