Dust Between the Stitches by Cleo Lampos ~ Review

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Dust Between the Stitches by Cleo Lampos

I have not read too many pieces of fiction that deal with the Dust Bowl era of the West. This was a welcome change of pace for me. I already enjoy historical fiction, and this book has it in spades. What I find really interesting is how well the author uses her own family’s history including boxes of letters spanning the years from 1930 to 1942. From these family heirlooms and legends, the author has crafted a wonderful work of fiction that places you right there in Colorado, on the edge of disaster, amidst people struggling for their lives. A nearly fogotten slice of history becomes alive.

Addy Meyers has just moved to Colorado from Topeka, Kansas to live with her grandfather and help him raise two young adopted children. Addy’s grandmother had just died recently and her grandfather was getting older and struggling to keep his homestead in the black. So with that in mind, she took a commission to teach in the local one room schoolhouse. She hoped to help pay the bank note with her salary. Addy didn’t know her grandfather very well, since her mother didn’t visit him very often. But she was willing to help the family.

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Jess Dettmann was also in the area for his own purposes. He owned dragline equipment and helped area farmers irrigate their fields and build storage cellars, something that was especially important during this time of drought. Addy discovered that he rents the cabin on her grandfather’s property so she doesn’t trust him at first. Men in her mother’s household were dishonest, rude, and took advantage of her. However, over time she sees Jess as a person that was willing to help her grandfather and others, so she gives him a chance to build a friendship.

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This author writes so well that I felt I was part of the family, living on a small homestead growing sugar beets, irrigating the farm, and being part of the small community, especially in the school. It helps that I had a grandmother who taught in a one room schoolhouse, that I’d lived for awhile in sugar beet country, and had a grandfather who dug his own irrigation ditches with his equipment. I’ve heard the stories and for that reason love historical fiction tales like this one.

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There’s also a touch of politics, issues that caused division among people in the area, bullying, matters of faith, the struggle to find hope and overcome discouragement. Here you beging to understand a depression era point of view. How did they survive? The book is loaded with poignant moments. It really touched my heart and fired my imagination. If this is something you would enjoy I highly recommend it.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett ~ Review

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Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1: Of Passion and Pride by Kathryn B. Collett

My very first reaction after finishing this terrific historical fiction is ‘wow’! Kathryn Collett is a great storyteller. I literally picked up the book and spent hours reading it and couldn’t put it down until I finished. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

In the author’s note at the beginning of the book, she gives a little bit of background about the main character and a little about herself. I find myself drawn to the same type of book she has written. I have always been fascinated by the history behind the very earliest Christians living on the Mediterranean. That’s because after Jesus died, the Mediterranean Sea was the primary vehicle in spreading the Gospel throughout the Roman world. The author explains, “Phoebe is an actual historical woman who lived in the first century. But who was she really? Was she married? Did she have children? What motivated her? Who were her friends? When did she first cross paths with the Apostle Paul? What did she wear? What was she afraid of? Who did she love? These are just a few of the questions I’ve asked at various time.” This is the basis for this historical fiction.

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There are so many things to love about this author’s writing style. First, she is meticulous in her researched details of the lifestyle of citizens of Corinth, the life of the early Christians, and the early ministry of Paul the Apostle. I felt drawn into the story personally. All the details and story line give this book credibility. I felt I was right there, side by side with Phoebe, frustrated with her, desperate to save the family business with her, grieving and angry with her throughout her experiences when life becomes unfair.

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Second, the characters are believable. Human nature hasn’t changed at all in the past couple thousand years, and this author is adept at communicating human nature in all its variations of good, bad and evil.

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Third, for me this was a fast paced adventure. The writing is compelling, establishing an urgency as Phoebe seeks to make things right for her family and friends, in spite of the challenges and limited time she faces. Since this is the first book in a series of three stories, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books. While this tale has a definitive conclusion, it also heavily implies there is much more to come. There is still more of the mystery to solve, and resolutions to make. I highly recommend this book to you. This is one of those books I will enjoy reading over several times.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Story Cartel on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels ~ Review

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island Maude's Mooring pic

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude’s Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels

I enjoyed this book so much. The beautiful Mackinac Island makes the perfect setting for this endearing historical romance. Since I live in Michigan, I might be a little biased. I especially enjoy visiting this island with its rich history and colorful background. There aren’t too many residents of the state who haven’t visited this site at least twice in their lifetimes. The author makes full use of the unique geographical features on the island and its beautiful views. That includes the abundance of lilacs which fill the air with its fragrances, even today.

Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 2017 is 69th

The story begins the moment Ben Steffan lands on the island and literally runs smack into Maude Welling at the docks. She looked upset and perhaps a bit angry. She apologized as she hadn’t seen him in front of her. Then she turned and rushed toward the village where he assumed she lived. He continued his stroll, to assume the persona of a wealthy industrialist, Freidrich Konig, he was trying to portray. He had a job to do. But when he looked up from the lovely brunette he had run into, he spotted two people he had known in Detroit. He hoped they didn’t blow his cover.

Maude continued down the street completely disoriented. Not only had she suffered the loss of her mother a year ago, but now she’d lost her fiance. She had expected Greyson’s arrival so they could wed and run her family Inn together. But without notice, he arrived on the docks with his wife! How was she to run the inn herself? Will her father now fulfill his threat to sell it and move down state? She didn’t want to leave the island. Could this day get any worse?

Mackinac Island

The author writes a tender love story that is much more than a casual summer read. She includes a touch of mystery, some duplicity on both the characters’ parts, not a few misunderstandings, heroic action, a bit of a twist and great character development. Both Ben and Maude have reached some crossroads in their lives. Both are attracted to each other, but have secrets that could stop their relationship developing before it even begins. How the author resolves this conflict is heart warming and life affirming.

Mackinac Island Grand Hotel

I especially enjoyed the touches of historical events where the men in the community must be prepared at a moment’s notice to become a rescue team in case there is a shipwreck or collision in the icy waters surrounding the island. At one point, the author uses one such event as a means to draw Ben and Maude together in spite of their determination to back away. What a great story.

Mackinac Island Lilacs Grand Hotel

“Everything you have comes from God, by His will, and for His glory only. Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that anything here on earth truly belongs to you.” –Pastor McWithey

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the Barbour Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson ~ Review

Naomi Chronicles Choosing to Be new cover

The Naomi Chronicles Book 2: Choosing to Be by Paula Rose Michelson

This is book two of the series, The Naomi Chronicles. Both books are very closely tied, so even though they are complete books and can be read on their own, this second book closely continues the story begun in the first book and resolves much of it. I recommend you purchase them together and read them one right after the other.

The focus of this book divides between Naomi and her husband, Chaz. They are separated after only one week of marriage at the beginning of this story. What’s unique about this book is that the first book emphasized how most of life’s choices had been removed from Naomi’s life in her first thirty years. How many of us readers can identify with that? Stuff happens, and sometimes leads us places we hadn’t originally wanted to go. But now, she is at a crossroads and begins to realize she has many choices to make. The choices do not come easy to her, so this is her opportunity to learn many truths, find her inner peace, especially coming to peace with her past, and figure out how to proceed. Does she go back into hiding, or will she become like a butterfly, finally released from her cocoon?

Also in this second book, we become more acquainted with Chaz as an individual. We only get to know him briefly in the first book, so now his character becomes a little more developed and we see why he does the things he does. There is a twist in the plot here that may surprise you. I know it certainly knocked me for a loop when I learned more of his background. All I will tell you at this point is that there is a resolution for Naomi and Chaz. But the twist and the means of resolution is what makes this part of the tale so interesting.

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Meeting with God

There is so much to love in this second book. First, the author does a remarkable job of fashioning an old world atmosphere in the way Naomi dresses, talks and thinks that’s charming. But it is also in stark contrast to the rest of this new world, and it takes her time to adjust to the American way of life. I find that so endearing. The author uses a small boy to make that transition more palatable for Naomi. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes…”

Second, the same little boy brings in comic relief while Naomi grapples with heavy life issues. How true to life! Often when we are trying to take in what God is speaking to us about, distractions are a way of bringing relief to the intensity of the moment. Either it becomes a way to take our minds off the issue and leads us away, or it helps us focus better on the point God is trying to make. I enjoy seeing how the author uses this feature for Naomi’s good.

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Third, I love the way the author leaves an opening for further development near the conclusion of the book. It makes me look forward to reading more of this series.

If you enjoyed this review, see my review of The Naomi Chronicles Book 1: No Other Choice here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of book 1 (basically) from the author and purchased this book on my own but with the author’s knowledge. My intention is to write a completely honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Petticoat Detective (Undercover Ladies Book 1) by Margaret Brownley ~Review~

Petticoat Detective

Petticoat Detective by Margaret Brownley

Combine historical fiction, a female Pinkerton Detective Agency operative, a former Texas Ranger, a bandit who’s adept at keeping his identity hidden even from the best of sleuths, mistaken identity, false assumptions, a killer on the loose, a recent murder, a Madame who sells boots, and you get an adventure you won’t quickly forget. Then add some sly humor, a little bit of romance, some great character work, and the combo makes this book irresistible.

Former Texas Ranger Tom Colton was on a mission. His brother Dave’s last letter to him had indicated a change of heart and a desire to be reconciled with his young son, whom Tom was raising. Now his brother was dead, and Tom wanted to find his murderer and bring him to justice. His recent investigations brought him to Goodman, Kansas, right to the doorstep of Miss Lillian’s Parlour House and Fine Boots. Dave had written about a Rose, one of Miss Lillian’s girls, whom he had fallen in love with and intended to marry. Tom wanted to talk with Rose, hoping to elicit her help in finding Dave’s killer. This part of his quest made him uncomfortable, but he would do whatever it took to get his man.

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Jennifer Layne was a highly trained agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her job often placed her undercover on a case where she could accomplish more than a man often could. Her quest had also brought her to Miss Lillian’s Parlour House where she was to talk to a Miss Rose whom the Pinkertons believed was a key to their investigation to the identity of the Gunnysack Bandit. She decided to apply to become a “resident.” She had just become established in a room and been made over to look more “decent” in Miss Lillian’s estimation, to get close to Rose. But a complication occurred when Miss Lillian discovered Rose in her room, killed but without evidence of a struggle. Jennifer’s job suddenly took a serious turn for the worse. She wondered if Rose’s death had anything to do with her investigation of the bandit.

Just moments before Rose’s death, Tom was directed upstairs to her room. He was told she was expecting him. Somehow he entered the wrong room–Jennifer’s room (as Amy Gardner). He assumed she was Rose, and Amy assumed he was a john! What ensued was a comedy of errors and gaffs until they heard Miss Lillian’s scream, sending them both out to investigate. From that point on, Amy in disguise as a “lady of the night” and Tom worked together on the case. Amy could not divulge her true identity so she had to keep her mouth firmly shut in spite of Tom’s concerns over her chosen profession. The tale comes to a satisfying conclusion, and all the misunderstandings, assumptions, clues and surprises make this a fun read.

faith trust God even unknown plan

This is the first Margaret Brownley book I have read. I’m pretty certain it won’t be the last. There are many reasons why I like this one in particular. First, there is a “who done it” thread running all throughout the story that’s well written. Tom wants to find his brother’s killer. In the process of picking up clues, he believes they lead him to the Gunnysack Bandit. Finding who this bandit is becomes his central focus. Between the Tom and Amy, clues begin to look as if Dave Colton might be the bandit. Disheartened, Tom returns home after the Pinkerton Agency concludes the same thing. But Jennifer doesn’t like the way the clues don’t exactly add up. Eventually she has an idea after the case was closed. The end solution took me completely by surprise. Kudos to the author for keeping the readers guessing right up to the end.

Second, the pull of attraction between Tom and Jennifer (as Amy) is everywhere in this tale, twisted up in the main plot, complicating the urgency of their respective tasks. It is especially evident in Tom, a man of faith. Since he believes Amy is a “sporting woman” he fights his attraction to her all the way to the final chapters. In the meantime, Jennifer has her own conflicts because she too is a person of faith. She barely manages not to compromise her convictions without revealing her involvement with Pinkerton. I was a little surprised whom she took into her confidence. I think you may be too. But it works out well in the end.

Third, the book is heavily laced with good humor from mixed up identities to misunderstandings to just plain silliness. The strands of humor and adventure work well together. This coupling brought me back to re-read the book more than twice.

True friends love you as you are

Finally, I was given this book on CD to review. Jaimee Draper reads the book with so much talent and gusto that her acting ability made the story come alive. She added accents, hesitations, and mispronunciations at all the appropriate places with hilarious results. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. For all the above reasons, I highly recommend you read it too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles) by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant

Have you ever read parts of the Bible and then tried to imagine the events as they occurred in the day to day moments? I used to wish there were more books written that way. This book is one that accomplishes that feat completely. It opens the windows and doors and allows us to live with friends and family of some well-known characters of biblical events. In this case, it’s about Ezra, family man, scholar, Rebbe, husband, brother, friend, son, leader, and teacher. He struggled with daily life justlike you and I do.

Nearly 500 years before Jesus of Nazareth arrived in Galilee, Ezra lived in a world of danger, secular influence, hatred and enemies. About 100 years before his time, a group of Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and the country of Judah. What were they returning from? Their country had been decimated by enemies over 70 years before that. Their people were taken away or scattered throughout the land. Many lived in Babylon itself. Judah was then filled with neighboring peoples such as Edomites and Amalakites. The first wave of returning refugees helped to rebuild the walls and established businesses and families again. They made efforts to live in peaceful co-existence with the inhabitants. Sayfah and Amina were Edomites living near Bethlehem in a village of their own. Amina was crippled from her younger years. Now she was treated like a servant in her own home and scorned by most of the men. One day she met an older woman who also suffered from a weak, twisted leg. But she was a Jewess, a talented weaver who brought her goods to Bethlehem to sell in the market. They became friends. It was a friendship that would save Amina and Sayfah’s lives years later.

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In Casiphia, another province of the Persian Empire and near Babylon, Reuben was apprenticed to his father, David of the tribe of Levi. David was a blacksmith, since the Levites had no temple to serve in. Reuben was twelve when he learned that through his second in command, Haman, King Xerxes had pronounced a death sentence for all the Jews living in all his 127 provinces, on the thirteenth of the month of Adar. They were to be killed and plundered. Reuben’s father was angry at his peoples’ helplessness and began to secretly stockpile weapons he made at his forge. Reuben watched in concern as people began to buy the supplies for their protection. When the day finally arrived, the fighting was fierce. Greed motivated some of the hatred against the sons of Jacob. Their enemies wanted the plunder. While most of God’s people survived, some were injured or killed. Reuben’s father was one who never returned from battle alive leaving Reuben at thirteen in charge
of caring for his mother and family. Since he was too young to operate his father’s business, his uncle sold it to another blacksmith who would continue Reuben’s apprenticeship. But Reuben was filled with rage and hatred. He took to the streets at night, and eventually became adept at thievery. He was then taken in by a gang of Babylonian robbers. He turned his back on God.

Ezra’s brother, Jude was also killed in the conflict in the city of Babylon itself. Ezra grew up in a potter’s family although early on, they discovered he had a gift for reading, understanding and interpreting the Torah. So when his brother died, Ezra married his brother’s wife, according to the law, to help provide for her and their family. Eventually he was responsible to provide a son to carry on Jude’s name. Some time later, God laid on Ezra’s heart to petition the King of Persia to allow him to lead a group from his community back to the Promised Land, Israel, to build up the city of Jerusalem. Once the petition was granted, Ezra was appointed governor over the province. This wasn’t the end of the story, however, but the beginning. Somehow Ezra, his family and friends, Reuben and his band of Babylonian robbers, Amina and Sayfah and their adoptive Jewish family all intersect in a powerful way.

This may not be important for everyone, but for me living history is vital for our sense of identity and perspective on life. This book is artistically written to help the reader put faces and heart into people and events we may already have at least a nodding acquaintance with. It deepened my perspective and gave me a greater appreciation of the scope of God’s love and protection. It also heightened my awareness of the types of difficult situations many have faced when putting God’s justice into practice. This is a tremendous object lesson, carried out in the story line, how God tempers His justice with mercy and expects His followers to do likewise.

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This message couldn’t have been conveyed so aptly if the author hadn’t written with authenticity and well-researched detail. Such a writing style drew me into the scenes and into the very hearts and minds of the characters. I was right there, experiencing the events unfold and feeling their pain and joys. Excellent writing. It was all there: the pain of loss, feelings of helplessness, moments where hope had fled, funny vignettes that often accompany child rearing, the bond of marriage when it transcends the mechanics of every day life, the struggle to belong, and the joy of victories big and little.

The third element I enjoyed about this book was the complexity of the plot. You can’t say that Keepers of the Covenant is all fast-paced adventure and action, nor is it completely character-driven. The author takes the best of both genres and seamlessly blends them. They are well-balanced. Readers may already know the basic story, but the draw is how the author pulls it all together and includes us in the ride. The book is filled with sensitivity and flair–adrenaline and contemplation. I’m definitely going to read other books by Lynn Austin.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from bookfun.org on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan ~Review~

Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Where Trust Lies

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the Return to the Canadian West series. Book 1 is entitled Where Courage Calls. The protagonist of both books is Beth Thatcher who had rejected a life of ease to attend college and then choose to teach in the Canadian West where life was more about a roof over your head and food in your belly than shopping excursions in an upscale store and the latest fashions. That was in book 1. In book 2, Beth has returned home for summer vacation after completing her first year of teaching.

There had always been a gulf between Beth and her mother and youngest sister, Julie. She had hopes she could somehow close that gap over the summer. When she arrived home, she found her family preparing to go on a 6-week cruise from Toronto to the St. Laurence River and on to the east coast, finally moving into the United States before returning. At first she was reluctant to go on the trip, but her father challenged her to get to know her mother as adult to adult, rather than as a daughter to a mother. But Beth had another reason to hesitate. In her year away from home Beth had attracted a suitor–Jarrick “Jack” Thornton, an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was stationed out west and Coal Valley, where Beth taught, was part of his jurisdiction. He requested they keep in touch over the summer to become more acquainted with each other. She agreed to write.

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When Jarrick learned of this opportunity to travel with her family, he urged Beth to go. They could keep in contact with each other through letters, phone calls and telegrams. So it was decided that Beth would go, albeit a little reluctantly. Not only was Beth’s mother and two sisters going, but so were little JW and his nanny, her mother’s best friend, Mrs. Montclair, her daughter and their maid, and their own tour guide Emile Laurant. Close quarters, differing interests, the rapid pace of events, and personality conflicts kept the pot bubbling with tension and interest. At the apex of the story, Julie was abducted, throwing the small circle of family and friends into turmoil and onto their knees in prayer. None of them were ever the same again.

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It was so good to read another of Janette Oke’s books again. I have already read nearly all the books she’s written. Like the first book in this series, her voice is distinct and heart felt. Where the focus is usually historical fiction of the Canadian west, this book explores the historical east. Building community is one of Oke’s writing talents; in this book that legacy continues but within the tight circle of friends and family on the cruise. Writing in tandem with her daughter allows for the sense of contemporary issues as well. The new voice brings with it freshness that nevertheless blends well with the familiar Oke memes. Mother and daughter make a fine writing team.

Another reason I enjoy reading this author’s books is that faith in God is nearly always faith in action. It is the driving force for many of her characters’ actions, yet not portrayed as if these men and women who loved God could do no wrong. It is their inner struggles that brings life to every individual and makes them real to us. The reader can’t help but empathize with people whose faith is neither great nor less than their own. We falter where they falter, and gain courage from the same God these characters draw courage. There’s no preaching here, only life lessons and hope.

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Finally, the authors write with humor, keen observation of various personalities amidst the conflicts and employ some fairly intense suspense. There is an undercurrent of romance, especially when Jarrick rushes to Beth’s side at the height of the frightening events of Julie’s abduction, and a strong sense of more to come at the book’s end. Events do resolve, so there is not a cliff-hanger, although not all threads in this book are settled. It seems that there must be at least one more book in this series to come. The issue of trust, dealt with all throughout the book, is not yet completely finalized. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House for their blogging program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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