Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Messy Beautiful Love: Hope And Redemption For Real-Life Marriages, by Darlene Schacht

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Synopsis: "Messy Beautiful Love" delivers an incredible testimony of grace that offers hope for today's marriages and a spark for rekindling love.

Love gets messy.

Financial problems, sickness, aging parents, a chronically unhappy spouse . . . trials will inevitably come that threaten your marriage. No matter how long you've been married or how strong your relationship is, sooner or later you are going to have a mess to clean up.

"Messy Beautiful Love" is about cleaning up messes God's way, exchanging your ideas for His, and being prepared for both the best and the worst that marriage has to offer.

When you surrender your relationship to God, then and only then will you experience the blessing of marriage as He intended. This is the blessing of obedience. "Messy Beautiful Love" is an invitation to that obedience. The cynical world says marriages don't last, but God knows better. Tune out the world and tune in to Him. When you do that, a beautiful marriage is not only possible, it's inevitable

Thoughts: **I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review**

I've been a fan of the Time-Warp Wife via Facebook and her blog page for a while now, and reading this book cemented that fandom. I will now be her fan for life!!

When I read the first chapter, where her husband confronted her and she confessed her affair, it was like reading my own story--including knowing that, with the grace and forgiveness of God,they worked through it and stayed together, stronger than before.

Every chapter in this book is filled with great advice and insight into being the wife God wants us to be. My copy is full of blue highlighter marks where things touched my heart. While I was aware of the Bible verses she quotes, her take on how to live them is often fresh and informative.

I would recommend this to any woman who wants to have a God-centered marriage.

My rating: Five Stars

Monday, September 29, 2014

Blue Hydrangeas: An Alzheimer's Love Story, by Marianne Sciucco

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Synopsis: What if the person who knew you best and loved you most forgot your face, and couldn't remember your name? A nursing facility is everyone's solution for what to do about Sara, but her husband, Jack, can't bear to live without her. He is committed to saving his marriage, his wife, and their life together from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. He and Sara retired years ago to the house of their dreams, and operated it as a Cape Cod bed and breakfast named Blue Hydrangeas. Jack has made an impossible promise: He and Sara will stay together in their beautiful home no matter what the disease brings. However, after nine years of selfless caregiving, complicated by her progressing Alzheimer’s and his own failing heart, he finally admits he can no longer care for her at home. With reluctance, he arranges to admit her to an assisted living facility. But, on the day of admission, Sara is having one of her few good days, and he is unable to follow through. Instead, he takes them on an impulsive journey to confront their past and reclaim their future. In the end, he realizes that staying together at any cost is what truly matters.

Thoughts: **I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**

This is a beautiful, heart-breaking love story. It's the story of an older couple and their journey dealing with the wife's Alzeheimer's over a decade. There is humor, sadness, and so much love. It's so well written that you lose yourself in it and forget that it is a work of fiction. 

I would highly recommend this for anyone of my age group who has begun to have trouble relating to the romantic stories of twenty-somethings. This is what love looks like for those of us of "a certain age." 

My rating: Five stars

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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What I read last week:
1) The Affair, by Alicia Clifford
2)   Landline, by Rainbow Rowell
3)  No Safe House, by Linwood Barclay
4)  If I Stay, Gayle Forman
5)  An Average Joe's Pursuit For Financial Freedom: Change Your Perception Of Money, by Michael Warren Munsey

6)  Blue Hydrangeas, by Marianne Sciucco

What I listened to last week:
1)   We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
2)  A Taste For Murder, by Claudia Bishop
3)  Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story, by Shanna Hogan
4) Buried By Breakfast, by Claudia Bishop
5) Shattered: The True Story of a Mother's Love, a Husband's Betrayal, and a Cold-Blooded Texas Murder, by Kathryn Casey

What I'm currently reading:
1) Barely Bewitched, by Kimberly Frost
2) After The Fog, by Kathleen Shoop
3) Small Blessings, by Martha Woodruff

What I'm currently listening to:
1) Echopraxia, by Peter Watts

What I plan to read this week:
1) Crazy In Paradise, by Deborah Brown
2) Deception In Paradise, by Deborah Brown
3)  Hilltop Sunset,by Joyce T. Strand
4) Making Marion, by Beth Moran

What I plan to listen to this week:
1) Ground To A Halt, by Claudia Bishop
2)  Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, by Donald B. Kraybill
3) Toast Mortem, by Claudia Bishop

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Clash Of The Titles: August New Releases

Clash of the Titles presents four brand new inspirational novels. One’s set in a Bible camp for tweens or the tweens in your lives. Hopes and dreams are threatened in another. In the third, a town’s in need of a miracle. Two people work to cure a deadly disease in the fourth. Which one will you read first? Browse the books, then, using the voting box below, let us know the title you’ll put at the top of your to-be-read list.

SPEAK NO EVIL by Mary Hamilton
Having his younger sister at summer camp will be a pain, but Taylor Dixon, 15, never expects the pain to go so deep. When she falls for his snobbish cabin mate, a war of words and pranks escalates, threatening to land him in jail and destroying his dreams for the future—until a lesson learned from an old engine sets him free from the prison he built himself.

With the rare ability to play the piano by ear, Amaryllis Brigham wants nothing more than to someday found a music school. However, someone keeps undermining her hopes and dreams, and
she's sure it's Bram Everstone--the father of the one man she's ever come close to falling for.

MIRACLE IN A DRY SEASON by Sarah Loudin Thomas
Perla Long wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter where her past can stay hidden, but she ends up in a town in desperate need of a miracle. Bachelor Casewell Phillips sees everything he wants in a woman in her, but can’t get past the sense she’s hiding something.

WITH EVERY BREATH by Elizabeth Camden
In the shadow of the nation's capital, Kate Livingston's respectable life as a statistician is disrupted by an encounter with the insufferable Trevor McDonough, the one man she'd hoped never to see again. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, and the only reason he seeks her out now is because of the one thing they share in common: the competitive drive to cure the world’s deadliest disease.

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Book Tour And Giveaway--The Resurrection Of Hannah, by Kathryne Arnold

"The Resurrection of Hannah is the story of a woman whose path is forever altered, her first tentative step leading to an astonishing life journey. As the story develops, Samantha is torn between the polarities of everyday existence ―between present and past, love and fear, hope and despair—finding herself unable to exist in two very different worlds, she must go full circle to find her way home. The Resurrection of Hannah was inspired by true events, the first in what I believe is a unique series full of gripping plots, memorable characters and unanticipated bends in the road. " - Kathryne Arnold, author 

Samantha Clark meets with a monthly group to delve into subjects of interest. They dabble in meditation, dream work, and hypnosis — just friends having fun. But lately Sammi is feeling off-kilter and plagued with poor sleep. Searching for a natural solution, she discovers a bitter herb known to induce slumber, whips up a concoction to sweeten the herb, and imbibes. Unbeknownst to her, these areas of experimentation are whirling together to form the perfect storm, one that will blow open an entrance in Sammi’s mind that leads to another world, a door that can never again be closed.

She becomes enmeshed with two friends in a tug of war between life and death: Melissa is dealing with a complicated pregnancy and Julie is wrestling with cancer. Adding to this turmoil is Sammi’s disconnect with her career as a psychotherapist; her life doesn't seem to fit any longer. Into the drama walks Todd, a handsome, laid-back guy who lightens up her days. Trouble is, Sammi is having a hard time getting close, and a nagging sense of doubt and fear. Like so many times in the past …

But the topper to all this is the dreams. They begin innocuously…but quickly morph into mind-blowing spiritual adventures. The crazy nocturnal activity appears to be related to a soulful character trying to make himself known. In a quest to uncover the truth, Sammi researches clues discovered during her nighttime romps. What she finds is another facet of herself…all wrapped up in post-colonial 18th-century clothes. Sammi flies off to New England, and with the aid of the Rev. Clark, her skeptical father, she embarks on an adventure, revealing a tragic, centuries-old mystery. One only Sammi can solve.

My Review
I was drawn in by Sammi's monthly group, and their discussion of re-entering dreams and taking control of your dreams. The more I read of her dreams, the more invested I became in the story, and the more I wanted to know about what was happening and why.

As someone who is very into researching my family tree, I could identify with her searching for information from the past to make sense of her dream experiences.

Her relationships with her friends and family in the present were very realistically depicted, and I look forward to reading more about them in future books.

The way the past and present come together at the very end was a big surprise, but one that I loved.

This book gets a very enthusiastic FIVE STARS from me!

Buy the book from
Amazon.co.uk     Amazon.com     Barnes and Noble 

"As the book progresses the author does a great job getting you hooked.  A great suspenseful read that I'm sure you will enjoy" - Beck Valley Books

"This book carries the reader along and is difficult to put down. The suspense continues to the very end and this debut novelist has set the tone for a series readers will love." -Janice Phelps Williams, founder of Lucky Press, LLC

The second book in the series:

"The Fear of Things to Come, is considered a page-turner, a suspense/thriller/mystery that takes the protagonist on another grand adventure. Both novels present Samantha as she is confronted with diverse and surprising life occurrences, each tale presenting a labyrinth she must feel her way through, mirroring the shifting sands on which she stands. Samantha is an engaging lead character, full of human imperfection and spirit and strength, one whose infectious energy binds to the loved ones caught up in a her ever-changing life stories." - Kathryne Arnold, author

The DSM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A voluminous, invaluable tool used by psychotherapists the world over to diagnose individuals with mental illness. Referenced by Samantha Clark countless times throughout her career, never suspecting that one day it would save her life.

Samantha receives a seemingly innocent but anonymous letter, and overnight her world changes forever. She becomes a victim in a frightening game of cat-and-mouse, a nightmare that begins when her boyfriend, Todd, fails to return to the wellness retreat they own in the woods of Florida. Working closely with police, Samantha and two trusted friends discover that Todd’s disappearance is linked to a series of murders occurring in a nearby county. They soon find themselves prey to a mentally ill patient from Samantha’s past, bent on revenge. With time bearing down, they must weave together the clues found in a succession of ominous letters and the DSM to save Todd. Their mission to unravel the mystery behind the kidnapping plunges them into a terrifying maze of danger, deception, and madness.

Buy the book from...

"An excellent psychological thriller written in a simplistic language and a plot that is well thought out and easy to follow." - Beck Valley Books"

"Well-written convoluted plot that stirs the heartbeat and sends chills down the spine." - review from Amazon

About the Author
I was raised in the northeastern United States, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and resided in a half-dozen homes or towns throughout my growing up years. My father was a reverend with a flourishing career, moving the family to various parishes as his calling dictated, which I view in a positive light as I was exposed to different communities and lifestyles. After graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, I moved with my father to Massachusetts.

Thrilled to begin college in New England, I jumped in with both feet and managed to excel in biological and psychological studies upon which I secured my very first "real" job as a Senior Psychiatric Counselor at a group home for adults with mental illness. Wanting to further my learning, I attended Suffolk University in Beacon Hill in Boston, and graduated two years later, obtaining a Masters degree in Counseling and Human Relations.   Over the next twenty years I concentrated further on my work in counseling and social services and became a licensed practitioner.

Several years ago, due to a deep longing to express my feelings in an alternative manner, I literally sat down one day and began writing my first novel. The resultant book, The Resurrection of Hannah, had been born out of a series of powerful dreams, along with compelling and coexisting experiences that inspired me to create a story that would capture the strength of my emotions. I had a yearning to shape a tale based around individuals in my life that I believed would make engaging characters. I had a strong desire to experience a higher level of creativity, to literally produce something out of nothing- a fascinating and challenging endeavor I could not ignore. It was during this time that I became a clinical hypnotherapist and a nationally certified counselor, as well as starting a private practice as a psychotherapist.   I also decided to move back to friends and family in Florida and worked again at the local Hospice, then more recently in community mental health. Once bitten by the writing bug, I could not help but pen my second work of fiction, The Fear of Things to Come. I am now in the process of writing another novel in what I consider a unique collection of adventure stories, the third in the Samantha Clark Mystery Series.

Follow the Author 
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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon, Day Thirteen Update And Wrap-Up

Saturday, September 20, 2014
What I read today: 244 pages

Total pages read for challenge so far: 4311

Today's finished books: 

Books I made progress in: 
The Affair, by Alicia Clifford--56%
No Safe House, by Linwood Barclay--22%
Save The Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, by Jen Doll--66%

Total number of finished books: 16

Titles of finished books: 
The Book Stops Here, by Kate Carlisle
Dissonance, by Erica O'Rourke
Watercolor Dreams, by Sherry Kyle
Confessions of a Teenage Rape Survivor, by Holly Dae
An Inconvenient Year, by Yvonne Joye
Chocolate Covered Murder, by Leslie Meier
The Moment Of Everything, by Shelly King
Baby Talk (Book 1), by Mike Wells (novella)
Blood Psychics, by Lindsay Edmunds (two short short stories)
Keep Your Friends Close, by Paula Daly
The Kennedy Connection, by R.G. Belsky
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
Landline, by Rainbow Rowell
If I Stay, by Gayle Foreman
A Taste For Murder, by Claudia Bishop
Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story

Wrap Up

Did much better than I expected.  Here were my original goals:  
 I have set a goal of at least six books during the next 12 days, but hope to be able to finish even more. Here are the first six that I will be working on, some of which are already in progress:

Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke (55% finished)

The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle (75% finished)

Watercolor Dreams by Sherry Kyle

The Moment Of Everything by Shelley King

The Kennedy Connection by R.G. Belsky

All We Had by Annie Weatherwax

Never got around to All We Had, because more interesting things kept showing up in the mail or from the library that I'd had requests in for....hopefully I'll get to it this week!  LOL
Completed all daily challenges as well.   

Now all I have to do is write reviews for all the books I read for this read-a-thon.  Watch for those to come this week.

Banned Books That Shaped America

Banned Book Week begins today, and so I am sharing this list of books which have been banned or challenged through the years. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884
The first ban of Mark Twain’s American classic in Concord, MA in 1885 called it “trash and suitable only for the slums.” Objections to the book have evolved, but only marginally. Twain’s book is one of the most-challenged of all time and is frequently challenged even today because of its frequent use of the word “nigger.” Otherwise it is alleged the book is “racially insensitive,” “oppressive,” and “perpetuates racism.”

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)
Objectors have called this seminal work a “how-to-manual” for crime and decried because of “anti-white statements” present in the book. The book presents the life story of Malcolm Little, also known as Malcolm X, who was a human rights activist and who has been called one of the most influential Americans in recent history.

Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
Again and again, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel by perhaps the most influential African-American writer of all time is assigned to high school English students. And again and again, parental complaints are lodged against the book because of its violence, sexual content and discussion of bestiality.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970
Subtitled “An Indian History of the American West,” this book tells the history of United States growth and expansion into the West from the point of view of Native Americans. This book was banned by a school district official in Wisconsin in 1974 because the book might be polemical and they wanted to avoid controversy at all costs. “If there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it,” the official stated.

The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903
Generally hailed as Jack London’s best work, The Call of the Wild is commonly challenged for its dark tone and bloody violence. Because it is seen as a man-and-his-dog story, it is sometimes read by adolescents and subsequently challenged for age-inappropriateness. Not only have objections been raised here, the book was banned in Italy, Yugoslavia and burned in bonfires in Nazi Germany in the late 1920s and early 30s because it was considered “too radical.”

Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
A school board in Strongsville, OH refused to allow the book to be taught in high school English classrooms in 1972. It also refused to consider Cat’s Cradle as a substitute text and removed both books from the school library. The issue eventually led to a 1976 District Court ruling overturning the ban in Minarcini v. Strongsville.

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
Young Holden, favorite child of the censor. Frequently removed from classrooms and school libraries because it is “unacceptable,” “obscene,” “blasphemous,” “negative,” “foul,” “filthy,” and “undermines morality.” And to think Holden always thought “people never notice anything.”

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953
Rather than ban the book about book-banning outright, Venado Middle school in Irvine, CA utilized an expurgated version of the text in which all the “hells” and “damns” were blacked out. Other complaints have said the book went against objectors religious beliefs. The book’s author, Ray Bradbury, died this year.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940
Shortly after its publication the U.S. Post Office, which purpose was in part to monitor and censor distribution of media and texts, declared the book nonmailable. In the 1970s, eight Turkish booksellers were tried for “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state” because they had published and distributed the text. This wasn’t Hemingway’s only banned book – A Farewell to Arms and Across the River and Into the Trees were also censored domestically and abroad in Ireland, South Africa, Germany and Italy.

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936
The Pulitzer-prize winning novel (which three years after its publication became an Academy-Award Winning film) follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Critically praised for its thought-provoking and realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the South, it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons. Its realism has come under fire, specifically its realistic portrayal – though at times perhaps tending toward optimistic -- of slavery and use of the words “nigger” and “darkies.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939
Kern County, California has the great honor both of being the setting of Steinbeck’s novel and being the first place where it was banned (1939). Objections to profanity—especially goddamn and the like—and sexual references continued from then into the 1990s. It is a work with international banning appeal: the book was barred in Ireland in the 50s and a group of booksellers in Turkey were taken to court for “spreading propaganda” in 1973.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
Perhaps the first great American novel that comes to the mind of the average person, this book chronicles the booze-infused and decadent lives of East Hampton socialites. It was challenged at the Baptist College in South Carolina because of the book’s language and mere references to sex.

Howl, Allen Ginsberg, 1956
Following in the footsteps of other “Shaping America” book Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg’s boundary-pushing poetic works were challenged because of descriptions of homosexual acts.

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1966
The subject of controversy in an AP English class in Savannah, GA after a parent complained about sex, violence and profanity. Banned but brought back.

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952
Ellison’s book won the 1953 National Book Award for Fiction because it expertly dealt with issues of black nationalism, Marxism and identity in the twentieth century. Considered to be too expert in its ruminations for some high schools, the book was banned from high school reading lists and schools in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington state.

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906
For decades, American students have studied muckraking and yellow journalism in social studies lessons about the industrial revolution, with The Jungle headlining the unit. And yet, the dangerous and purportedly socialist views expressed in the book and Sinclair’s Oil led to its being banned in Yugoslavia, East Germany, South Korea and Boston.

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, 1855
If they don’t understand you, sometimes they ban you. This was the case when the great American poemLeaves of Grass was first published and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice found the sensuality of the text disturbing. Caving to pressure, booksellers in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania conceded to advising their patrons not to buy the “filthy” book.

Moby-Dick; or The Whale, Herman Melville,1851
In a real head-scratcher of a case, a Texas school district banned the book from its Advanced English class lists because it “conflicted with their community values” in 1996. Community values are frequently cited in discussions over challenged books by those who wish to censor them.

Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940
Richard Wright’s landmark work of literary naturalism follows the life of young Bigger Thomas, a poor Black man living on the South Side of Chicago. Bigger is faced with numerous awkward and frustrating situations when he begins working for a rich white family as their chauffer. After he unintentionally kills a member of the family, he flees but is eventually caught, tried and sentenced to death. The book has been challenged or removed in at least eight different states because of objections to “violent and sexually graphic” content.

Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1971
Challenges of this book about the female anatomy and sexuality ran from the book’s publication into the mid-1980s. One Public Library lodged it “promotes homosexuality and perversion.” Not surprising in a country where some legislators want to keep others from saying the word “vagina.”

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane, 1895
Restricting access and refusing to allow teachers to teach books is still a form of censorship in many cases. Crane’s book was among many on a list compiled by the Bay District School board in 1986 after parents began lodging informal complaints about books in an English classroom library.

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
According to many critics, Hawthorne should have been less friendly toward his main character, Hester Prynne (in fairness, so should have minister Arthur Dimmesdale). One isn’t surprised by the moralist outrage the book caused in 1852. But when, one hundred and forty years later, the book is still being banned because it is sinful and conflicts with community values, you have to raise your eyebrows. Parents in one school district called the book “pornographic and obscene” in 1977. Clearly this was before the days of the World Wide Web.

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred C. Kinsey, 1948
How dare Alfred Kinsey ask men and women questions about their sex lives! The groundbreaking study, truly the first of its scope and kind, was banned from publication abroad and highly criticized at home.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961
The book was actually retained after a 2003 challenge in Mercedes, TX to the book’s adult themes. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class, a common school board response to a challenge.

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, 1947
The sexual content of this play, which later became a popular and critically acclaimed film, raised eyebrows and led to self-censorship when the film was being made. The director left a number of scenes on the cutting room floor to get an adequate rating and protect against complaints of the play’s immorality.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
Parents of students in Advanced English classes in a Virginia high school objected to language and sexual content in this book, which made TIME magazine’s list of top 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
Harper Lee’s great American tome stands as proof positive that the censorious impulse is alive and well in our country, even today. For some educators, the Pulitzer-prize winning book is one of the greatest texts teens can study in an American literature class. Others have called it a degrading, profane and racist work that “promotes white supremacy.”

Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852
Like Huck Finn, Of Mice and Men and Gone With the Wind, the contextual, historically and culturally accurate depiction of the treatment of Black slaves in the United States has rankled would-be censors.

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963
Sendak’s work is beloved by children in the generations since its publication and has captured the collective imagination. Many parents and librarians, however, did much hand-wringing over the dark and disturbing nature of the story. They also wrung their hands over the baby’s penis drawn in In the Night Kitchen.

The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez, 2002
The works of Chavez were among the many books banned in the dissolution of the Mexican-American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson Unified School District disbanded the program so as to accord with a piece of legislation which outlawed Ethnic Studies classes in the state.