Book Review: Never Let Go by Elizabeth Goddard

Never Let Go is a book that grabs you from the first page and…well, never lets go. (Yes, I went there!) We meet Willow Anderson, reeling from the sudden loss of her beloved grandfather, JT. She and JT were Anderson Consulting, a forensic genealogy consulting firm. When she decides to try to close out JT’s final case, she is brought back into contact with Austin McKade, her former boyfriend and ex-FBI agent, who was called in on the case by JT and agrees to help Willow see it through. The book takes the reader on a rocket ride with twists and turns aplenty, and it was hard to put down! I’m not normally a fan of romance, but I do like suspense, and there’s plenty of that here. There are things you don’t see coming until they hit you upside the head, and the way the author builds the tension and pulls you along is quite a rush. If you like a good suspense novel, with a little clean romance thrown in, you will love Never Let Go. It’s the first book in the Uncommon Justice series, and I am ready to read more of it!

About the Book

As a forensic genealogist, Willow Anderson is following in her late grandfather’s footsteps in her quest for answers about a baby abducted from the hospital more than twenty years ago. The case may be cold, but things are about to heat up when someone makes an attempt on her life to keep her from discovering the truth.

Ex-FBI agent–and Willow’s ex-flame–Austin McKade readily offers his help to protect the woman he never should have let get away. Together they’ll follow where the clues lead them, even if it means Austin must face the past he’s spent much of his life trying to forget. And even if it puts Willow’s tender heart at risk.

In this fast-paced and emotional page-turner, bestselling author Elizabeth Goddard keeps the stakes high, the romantic tension sparking, and the outcome uncertain until the very end.

About the Author

Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of forty novels and counting, including the romantic mystery, THE CAMERA NEVER LIES–a 2011 Carol Award winner. Four of her six Mountain Cove books have been contest finalists. Buried, Backfire and Deception are finalists in the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, and Submerged is a Carol Award finalist. A 7th generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to fulfill her dreams of writing full-time.

You can learn more about Elizabeth and her books on her website, and you can order your own copy of the book here.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions expressed here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t like.

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Book Review: NKJV Study Bible

I had the opportunity to take an early look at the NKJV Study Bible from Thomas Nelson.  I wanted to share some of my thoughts with y’all.  But first, a video from the publisher:

This Bible is large in size, but not so large as to be unmanageable.  The New King James translation gives you the beauty of the King James without all the “thees” and “thous” and “forthwiths”.

It offers easy to read Comfort Print, which was helpful for my progressive lens-enhanced vision.

The cover is a work of art.

This Bible is chock full of cultural notes, study aids, maps, and more.

Each book of the Bible opens with a timeline and background information on the book and its author.

I like to get background information when I’m studying the Word, and this Bible helps me do just that.  The cultural notes highlight things about Biblical culture that I often wasn’t aware of, and it really helps bring the Scriptures to life.  The NKJV Study Bible also has a host of helpful tables and a very useful concordance.  My only complaint is that it doesn’t have much space to write notes, but then, it’s a study Bible, not a journaling Bible!  The NKJV Bible will be a valuable aid to me as I spend more time in the Word, and I’d recommend it for anyone who’d like to go deeper than a surface reading of Scriptures.

I received a complimentary copy of the NKJV Study Bible from the publisher.  

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Tuneful Tuesday: Shine On Edition

If y’all have read my blog for any length of time, you know it has not been all sunshine and roses in our little corner of the world.  Deaths of loved ones, multiple stints of unemployment and/or underemployment, loss of a home to foreclosure, and the hits just kept on comin’.  Some days it felt like my head was going to pop right off my shoulders from the stress, and some days I surely did not feel like I was any kind of testimony to the goodness of Jesus.  Some days, I figured I was pretty much the opposite, and I had to apologize to God for my bad attitude.  A lot.

But we still tried our best to be faithful, to honor God, and to praise Him even when we felt like throwing a fit.  And we felt like throwing a lot of fits (okay, I did – maybe Brian didn’t so much!).

Over the summer, we both worked at our church’s VBS (Vacation Bible School, if you’re unfamiliar with the acronym).  We danced and sang and wrangled a group of 3rd and 4th graders every night for a week.  Exhausting, but really a lot of fun!  And while we were chasing kids around and making sure they got where they needed to get and had a good time doing it, one of our friends working with us told us that we always seemed so happy, that we were married and had dealt with a lot of hard stuff and yet we were joyful.

And that really stuck with me.  We never know when how we’re living is making a difference to someone, when they’re seeing our attitude and our love for Jesus even when things aren’t easy. 

He says,
I don’t know why you care
I don’t know what’s up there
I don’t know how it’s done
Just take me to your leader, son
I see you’ve got the joy
I’ve seen you live it, boy
It’s real, it’s free, it’s fun,
So take me to your leader, son
Take me to your leader, son
They don’t know why we care
They don’t know what’s out there
They don’t know how it’s done
Let’s take ’em to our Leader, Son
They see we’ve got the joy 
They see us live it, oi
It’s real, it’s free, it’s fun,
Let’s take ’em to our Leader, Son

Our pastor has said often that the best way to show others the love of Jesus isn’t to tell them we’re Christians.  Rather, it’s to build a relationship with them, and to love them, and to live in such a way that they’ll want to know how we do it.  So shine on, y’all.  Shine with the Light of the World.  

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When Surrender Isn’t Defeat

We moved back to Louisiana in 2012, when I was transferred.  But things didn’t always go like we’d envisioned.  My husband couldn’t find a job in his chosen field, or any other field, for months after we moved.  When he finally did find work, it was his “thank God I’ve got a job” job, doing physical work for long hours in all weather.

In 2013, after much prayer and consideration, we bought a home.  Huzzah!  In 2014, I lost my job.  Rats.  Finally, after eight months of unemployment, I took a state job, making significantly less money. My husband’s job paid less, even, than mine.

In 2016, I found a better paying job that I loved and hoped to make my career.  I was doing work I enjoyed and making decent money.

But we couldn’t climb out of the financial pit that 2014 had left us in.  In 2017, we lost our home – that home that we prayed fervently over – to foreclosure.  Thankfully, we found a trailer to rent.  It was in our price range, in our school district, and we figured, okay, this is it.  Here’s where we get back to more stable financial ground.

Then, in June 2017, I was unexpectedly laid off from that job I loved.  The firm wasn’t making enough to support two attorneys, and I was the junior attorney.  I was gobsmacked.  Job hunting began again.

And God provided.  Again.

I’m now back in state employment, making even less than I was in 2014.  We’re back in the pit of the perennially short of cash, juggling bills and ducking unpleasant phone calls.

We have cried, we have prayed, we have asked God for wisdom.  And still we remain in the messy middle.  That’s been a real bitter pill for me to swallow.

Lately, though, the idea of God being sufficient for me in and of Himself has come up repeatedly.  In books I’ve read, a recent sermon at church, devotionals.  To get to that point of God being sufficient, I read and heard, I had to surrender.  Really surrender everything to God.  But what does that LOOK like, I thought?

One day, on my way home, God and I had an ugly cry.  Finances weren’t improving, I’d kept track of everything, but we were still in the hole two days before payday. Now we couldn’t afford pizza for our school’s spirit night.  Pizza.  Thirty bucks.  Really, God?!  So I cried.  I hollered.

And finally I told Him, “God, I surrender.  Right now, though, surrender feels an awful lot like defeat.”

I sobbed, “God, all I have, all I am, right down to the change in my wallet and the dust bunnies under my bed, it’s Yours.  If surrender means we stay on the edge of the fiscal cliff, no mission trips, no church camp, no giving generously like we dream of, no family vacation ever, living in a trailer because that’s what You see fit to do, then that’s how it will be. Please help me be at peace with surrender, because right now I am not at peace.”

The next day I read this:

But when I surrender myself to God, I am allowing Him to do what He does best:  make his name famous. – Erica Willis, Believe Boldly

Pow.  Right in the kisser.  I wasn’t at peace with surrender because I was still making it all about ME.  Focusing on what wouldn’t go my way if I let go.  I was still hung up on that, not seeing the fact that I am God’s, TO BE USED FOR HIS GLORY.

It’s still a daily battle for me to take all my thoughts captive.  I’m not suddenly filled with complete peace. But I am finding it easier to trust that God is indeed sufficient if I will just surrender myself and get out of His way.

Listen to my cry for help, O Lord!  Give me insight by your word!  Listen to my appeal for mercy!  Deliver me, as you promised. – Psalm 119:169-170, NET

And as I remember the truth that He is enough, suddenly that surrender starts to look a little bit more like victory.

UPDATE:  I wrote this several months ago, but never posted it.  (I was hoping to have it published on another site, but since that fell through, I am now free to share it here.)  In June of this year, something happened that I never expected.  I got a new job at the place where I currently work, doing what I’m actually trained and educated to do, with a salary that’s the most I’ve made at a job in my working life.  For the first time in our ten years of marriage, we are moving toward financial stability.  And I like what I do, and I like the people I work with.  What a gift!  And never, never did I see it coming.  It wasn’t anything I pursued, because I didn’t even know the possibility existed.  But God.  He had this in mind all along.

And the real kicker?  I got the call offering me the job on my 50th birthday.  On. My. Birthday, y’all.  I told my husband he’s gonna have to go some way to top this present when my next birthday rolls around!

I hope my experience can encourage someone reading today.  Keep pushing.  Keep praying.  We never know when God’s plan for us is about to unfold.

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Book Review: The Edge of Over There

 

The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker is the sequel to The Day the Angels Fell.  While it would be helpful to have read the first book in the series, it’s not essential to do so to understand this story.

A new Tree of Life has been planted, and evil forces have plans to use it for their own ends.  Abra Miller must find it and destroy it, before it can be used for nefarious purposes.  The story is told, not necessarily in sequential order, from Abra’s viewpoint, as well as from that of her friend, Sam Chambers.  I don’t want to give away anything, as that’s the author’s place, to tell the story. But I really enjoyed this book.

The story has heroes and villains, adventure and intrigue, and enough suspense to keep it moving along nicely.  It also has elements of Christianity in it, but doesn’t beat the reader over the head with religion.  (As a Louisiana girl born and raised, I found the New Orleans/Marie Laveau connection fascinating.)  I’m going to pick up the first book in the series and give it a read, and I’m eager to see where this goes in the third book.

I received an advance copy from the publisher and NetGalley.  All opinions are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t like.

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Book Review: Courageous Women of the Bible + GIVEAWAY!

Have you ever been scared?  I have.  Plenty of times.  Sometimes it helps to stop and think of other women in challenging situations who dug deep, found their courage, and powered through.  And guess what?  There’s a book for that!

Courageous Women of the Bible, by LaTan Roland Murphy, is a book designed to encourage and strengthen women.  It tells the stories of Biblical women – some familiar, some maybe not so much – and how they found their courage in God.

In the introduction, the author refers to herself as “a self-proclaimed chicken”.  She states that, as she realized her own need for courage, she wrote this book to encourage other women.  And encourage she does!

Deborah, one of Israel’s judges.  Jochebed, mother of Moses.  The Samaritan woman, moving from one relationship to the next.  Mary, mother of Jesus.  Throughout Scripture, women play vital roles in God’s furtherance of His Kingdom, and the tasks God calls these women to often take them out of their comfort zones.  How did they do it?  Read and see.

Each chapter invites the reader into the life of one of these women of valor.  We see where they had to make difficult choices, and how they persevered to do so.  I liked the questions for reflection at the end of each chapter.  You can read the book straight through, without digging into the questions, or you can read it one chapter at a time and take some time to really reflect on each woman’s situation and how it can inspire you to live differently, live more courageously.  This is a wonderful book, and I’ll be referring back to it again and again for inspiration.

I received an advance copy of Courageous Women of the Bible from the publisher, and they generously provided me a second copy to give away!  Would you like your own copy?  Just leave a comment on this post.  If you like, you can tell me about a situation where you had to find your courage.  Or, you can just say “hey” and let me know how to contact you if you win.  Giveaway closes July 31, 2018, and the winner will be chosen at random.

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B&H/Lifeway Book Review: The Psalms and Proverbs Devotional for Women

Do you ever feel like you need guidance?  Goodness knows I do.  I can mess up fourteen things before I even get out of bed in the mornings.  I’ll take all the wisdom I can lay my hands on.

That thirst for wisdom makes The Psalms and Proverbs Devotional for Women is a wonderful book with which to start my day.  It contains daily devotionals and readings from Psalms and Proverbs, as well as space to make note of thoughts and prayers.  The readings are short but relevant, and I find them helpful to me, particularly on days when I find my heart heavy with worries of the day (or week, or month).  And the book itself is beautifully made and comfortable to hold.  It’s hardcover, and I feel confident I can read and re-read it without pages coming loose.  I also feel confident that I *will* re-read it, as I expect the passages provided will speak to me differently at different times in my life, and that’s something I look for in a devotional.

If you don’t think you have time to start your day with the Lord, I highly recommend this book.  Five minutes of reading and you’ve refreshed your spirit and given yourself a Scripture passage to meditate on throughout the day.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of The Psalms & Proverbs Devotional in exchange for my unbiased review.

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Bittersweet farewells

Last weekend was a busy weekend for us.  The events that led up to this moment actually started way back in August, 2012, when my father passed away.  He’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years earlier.  He fought it hard, doing his best to stay up and moving, until he broke a hip.  That pretty much ended his mobility, and so began the real downward slide in his health.

I was at the nursing home the day he died.  At that point, he couldn’t get up out of bed, couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t do anything for himself.  I stayed for several hours that day, feeling like we were just waiting for death to claim him.  Late in the afternoon, I left to drive an hour and a half back home to deal with kids and homework and daily life.  About 20 minutes after I left, I got a phone call saying that he’d passed.  And there was sadness, and relief, that he was no longer fighting his body’s inability to do what he wanted it to do.  He was home with our Savior, he was healed, he was whole.

I remember the music I listened to that day.  The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony.

Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin.

Daddy’s chains were gone.  He was set free.  And there was some relief, because he’d always been larger than life to me.  He worked hard with his hands to provide for us when I was a kid.  He was a farmer, and it wasn’t an easy life.  He was always on the move.  I knew he wouldn’t have wanted to linger long in a body unable to respond to his will to get up and go.

Fast forward to the early morning hours of December 17, 2017.  My phone rang in the dark, before my alarm went off.  There’s no good news coming from a phone call in the dark of the wee small hours.  Thing One was at his dad’s this weekend, and my first thought was, is he okay, is his dad okay, his grandfather?   My ex’s wife (who I’m pleased to consider a friend) asked if I was sitting down.  Never did I expect to hear what she said next.  She told me Liz had passed.  Thing One’s grandmother, Liz, my former mother-in-law and second mom and friend for over two decades, had died unexpectedly.  She said she was having trouble breathing and to call the ambulance, and then she collapsed.  She, too, was home, set free, in the presence of our Savior.  But there was no relief there, just searing grief, much like when my own mother died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1994.  There was no music, just the sound of my heart breaking and my tears.

So, a month and change later, here we are.  My ex and my former father-in-law are slowly going through Liz’s things, and my stepmom is downsizing, moving out of the spacious house she and my father shared to a smaller house that she’ll be able to take care of more easily.  This means I’m inheriting a whole lot of stuff – a curio cabinet that was filled with beautiful objects my mother amassed over the years, family quilts, purses, books, my grandmother’s china.  We drove up to see them last weekend to load up the van and truck with memories and bring those memories home.

When you’ve got an hour and a half drive one way, that gives you some time to think.  I thought about my mom, and her passing shortly after Thing One’s dad and I got married.  She wasn’t crazy about the idea of my marriage, but she did it up right just the same.  The wedding was gorgeous, and ten days later, she was gone.

I thought about my father, and how my mother had always been the buffer between us.  We were both hard-headed and strong-willed, and I never had sense enough to say “yes sir” and shut up.  There were a couple of occasions that I didn’t think we’d continue to stay on good terms without her there to help us communicate, and I had to make up my mind that he was the only father I had, and by golly, I wasn’t giving up on him.  I recalled his tempers over things that seemed miniscule to me, but sure were important to him.  I also remembered, when I split with Thing One’s dad, him telling me that he normally wouldn’t condone divorce, but he would stand behind me.  That meant a great deal, coming from him.

I thought about Liz, how she had loved me from the moment she met me.  The first time I walked into her home, she hugged me.  I was not a huggy person, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this woman who just started hugging on somebody she’d never met!  But I grew to love her, and since my mother died just as we were getting to the stage where she could see me as an adult, and we could start to be friends rather than just parent and child, Liz stepped into that role admirably.  She told me that she had made a promise to my mother to look after me if the need arose, and she did.  She loved me well, she loved Thing One well, and she adopted Brian and Thing Two as hers, too.  It’s a remarkable woman who can welcome her son’s ex-wife’s new husband and child into her family.  She blessed me, and I hope she knew how much.  I want to be Liz when I grow up.

This song came on the radio as we were driving out of town that evening, and it seemed to fit so well.

And this is who You are
More constant than the stars up in the sky
All these years of our lives, I
I look back and I see You
Right now I still do
And I’m always going to

I have won
and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy
I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

Regrets?  Sure.  Joys?  Absolutely.  And how thankful I am that God has been my God through all of it.  He has seen the big picture, and He will guide me until I, too, see Him face to face and get to hug my family members who’ve gone before me.

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Year in Review: My Favorite Books

Please note:  This post contains affiliate links.  If you think any of these books sound interesting, please feel free to use my links to purchase them.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal on Goodreads to read 55 books.  As of today, I’ve read 114 books.  I’d say I’ve smashed that goal!

Of those 114 books, some were brain candy, some were not so great, some were pretty good, and some rocked my socks off.  I wanted to share some of the highlights with y’all.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the high notes of what I’ve read in 2017.

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt – nonfiction, history, science

This is the story of the women who served as the computers at the brand-new Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1940s and 1950s.  At a time when women were discouraged from pursuing things like math and science as career fields, these women used just pencil, paper, and brain power to calculate rocket trajectories and help launch us farther into space than we’d previously been.

I read this book in a single sitting when I was home sick.  It’s a fascinating story for anyone who’s interested in history, science, or just a good read about women breaking boundaries and doing things no one thought they could.

Carrying Albert Home:  The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam – fiction?  fact?  epic adventure

In keeping with the rocket theme, this book was written by Homer Hickam, of October Sky fame.  This book is described as a family epic, and tells the somewhat true tale of his parents, Homer and Elsie, the alligator Elsie received as a gift from Buddy Ebsen, and the journey they take to get Albert (the alligator) back home to Florida.  Is it true?  In places.  But what places?  Well, you’ll have to read it and figure that out for yourself.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill – middle grade fiction, fantasy

This is a story of a man desperate to hold on to power, a witch who isn’t really wicked, a young man who is more than he seems, and a girl filled with magic.  It was a beautifully written book, and I don’t cry much, but this book made me cry.  It’s a love story and a power struggle, and the story of sacrifice for something bigger than yourself.  It’s described as a middle grade book, and of course it would be excellent for that age group, but it delighted me as an adult.

The Daggers & Steele series by Alex P. Berg – fantasy, humor, police fiction

This link is for books 1-3, which is what started it all for me.  You can buy the books individually on Amazon, or start with the three-book set like I did.  I think I got these free through some email or other.  I thought they sounded like fun.  Little did I know.  Daggers is a somewhat crusty police detective whose aging partner calls it quits.  Daggers is pretty disturbed when they assign him a new partner who is brand new to the job.  She’s also young.  And attractive.  And she isn’t falling for any of his tricks.  Hilarity ensues, not quite to the level of greatness of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, but still a lot of good fun.  There are a whole bunch of Daggers &  Steele books, and I’m going to have to read them all.

Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce – fiction, fantasy, young readers, chapter books

Brian read this for a children’s literature course he took this past semester.  He recommended I read it, and I’m so glad I did!  This is a wonderful story of Billy and the stuffed animal, Ollie, made for Billy by his mother.  Ollie isn’t just any stuffed animal.  He’s special.  He’s Billy’s Favorite.  It’s the highest honor a toy can receive to be a child’s Favorite.  But Ollie is in danger.  When Zozo the clown (who is king of a subterranean kingdom at an abandoned carnival) and his army of Creeps toynap Ollie, Billy arms himself with his lightsaber and ventures into the big and sometimes scary world beyond his yard to rescue his friend.  The Creeps might be a little unsettling for very young children, but I think this would be a great book to read with your kids (even if they can read just fine on their own, because sometimes it’s just fun to have mom or dad read to you!).  Thing Two was so inspired, he wanted to make his own Creep.  I’m just glad he didn’t want me to make a stuffed animal for him, because that is beyond my sewing and crafty skills!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – fiction

Arthur Pepper’s wife, Miriam, died a year ago, and he’s carrying on.  Same routine, same slacks and sweater vest, same puttering around in the garden.  Until he finds a charm bracelet tucked away in one of her shoes, and realizes he’s never seen it before.  The charm bracelet leads him on an adventure to learn about the wife he only thought he knew, and to learn about what he meant to her and what it means to live, instead of just to exist.

This is not a high drama book.  Yes, there are moments of suspense (with tigers, there always are).  But it’s mostly just a sweet, well-told story about a man who misses his wife and who finds himself wondering what exactly he meant to her as he learns things about her that he never knew.  I read it in one sitting, so it’s a quick read, and very enjoyable.

These are just a few of the high points of what I’ve read this year.  If you’d like to see all the books I read in 2017, come find me on Goodreads and get all the scoop!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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Book Review: The Shadow: Someone is Watching (Rahab’s Rope, Book 1)

Meagan Winston cares deeply about women who are victims of human trafficking.  She travels to India regularly to help women escape those who are victimizing them.  Unknown to her, drugs are also making that same trip, and she is the only connection the FBI can find.

The FBI wants answers.  Enter former Marine Cole Fleming.  He shows up at Rahab’s Rope, the shop where Meagan works selling items made by women rescued from trafficking, with questions.  As the investigation unfolds, it becomes evident that someone else is also interested in Meagan, someone who’s watched her from a distance for a very long time and wants to show her how much she means to him.  Can Meagan trust her heart?  Is Cole the man following her?

The Shadow was a humdinger of a good read!  This is the first book by Kimberly Rae that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I expect it won’t be the last.  I wanted to reach into the pages and hug Meagan.  I can’t imagine being accused by the FBI of international drug trafficking, nor can I imagine having someone stalking me.  One would be bad enough, but both?

In additional to a whole lot of suspenseful moments, the book has some other high points as well.  It looks at the effects of the drug trafficking the FBI is looking to stop, and in that theme, we get some insight into why Cole does what he does.  We see how Meagan’s faith sustains her, and the good relationships between her and her family (her grandpa is my favorite!).  We see the redemptive power of God in a broken marriage, and the start of a relationship in the most unlikely of circumstances.

If you’re a fan of Dee Henderson’s work, you will thoroughly enjoy The Shadow.  You can read it for free right now with Kindle Unlimited, or you can win your very own copy here!  I’ve got one to give away.  To enter, just leave a comment letting me know what cause is near and dear to your heart (and if you feel inclined to talk about it, why).

Disclaimer:  I received an advance copy of this book from the BlogAbout Blogger Network in exchange for my honest review.  I only read books that interest me, and I don’t say nice things about the books I read unless they’re true.  All opinions expressed here are mine, and I received nothing in exchange for my review other than the advance copy.

 

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