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Lori Benton’s Many Sparrows

Many Sparrows: A Novel by [Benton, Lori]

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would…

In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.
When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son…especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

Review

Lori Benton is an author who I always read. I don’t always like the direction she takes her stories in, but there is no doubt she is phenomenal writer and worth reading. Because I was not in love with her last book I kind of put this one off. But I’ve read it now and I’m glad I did. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The plot. This book was intense and very stressful…especially in the beginning. I realize that might be a turn-off to some people, but for me I was hooked immediately. I was completely drawn in and found myself so concerned about all of the characters involved.

Jeremiah Ring. Man I love a good hero and Jeremiah was an excellent one. He’s lived amongst the Shawnee and the Virginians. He’s got a past. He’s a man of faith. He’s a man of his word. He’s got honor and he’s kind. When he makes mistakes, he owns them. He was a character I could trust.

Secondary characters. There are two characters in this book that come out of The Pursuit of Tamsen LittleJohn. I loved how they connected to this story and even how the author quietly placed them into the story. It made me want to go back and read the other book. Aside from these characters, the author was very successful in helping me see things from two points of view and to really like all the characters she introduced.

Diversity. Always a plus.

History. There is no doubt that Benton did her research and she wielded it well. There were times when she had to summarize situations for the reader, but it all worked for the benefit of the story told.

Spiritually, characters pray and seek God. I would say the theme is knowing that God is God and He is good and sovereign even in the tough times.

What I didn’t like

Clare. So, here is where things get tricky. Initially, I was completely in Clare’s camp. She is strong and she is purposeful and she lets nothing deter her. I love me a strong heroine. The author managed to beautifully write a heroine who was strong without having her step out of her timeline. But then she started doing things that made her flirt with the TSTL line (Too Stupid to Live). I get that it was to show that her faith in God was weak and that she needed to learn to put her trust in him, but it also made her a character I couldn’t trust. And let me clarify…it wasn’t her mistakes that bothered me, it was how she acted after she made those mistakes that made me look at Clare askance. Why can’t heroines be both strong and wise?

Romance. I have no doubts Jeremiah Ring loved Clare. I have great doubts that Clare loved Jeremiah Ring. A good romance, in my opinion, is a giving and taking relationship. Both the hero and heroine should give and take from the other. In this book, Jeremiah was the only one doing the giving while Clare took, took, and took some more. He did so much for her and she acted as though it were her due. It made for a lopsided romance and one that made me doubt the sincerity of Clare’s affections for Jeremiah. I think she cared for him, I also think she would have cared for any man who was willing to do all she wanted. Jeremiah didn’t come across as special to her.

Romance scale: 8

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I didn’t want to put it down. Although I had some problems with this novel, it was so good that I still recommend you read it anyway!

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Ann H Gabhart’s These Healing Hills

These Healing Hills by [Gabhart, Ann H.]

Francine Howard has her life all mapped out until the soldier she planned to marry at WWII’s end writes to tell her he’s in love with a woman in England. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

Review

It has been a while but I have read Ann H. Gabhart’s novels before. The reason that I grabbed this one was because: a) she’s a solid writer and b) probably ever since I watched and read Christy as a girl, I’ve always been fascinated by the city girl who goes to work with the people in the mountains and hills of West Virignia/Kentucky. So, basically it was the plot that caught my eye. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Francine. Immediately, almost from the first page, she became a heroine that I could connect with. She’s living in a day and time when most women her age are married and certainly don’t have professions, but there she is, a nurse. Life hasn’t gone exactly the way she has planned and so she has to make new plans…in the mountains. Her kindness and thoughtfulness and even the way she got lost all the time really made her a character that was endearing.

Ben. I liked him right away as well, even though I had a tiny problem with him (see below). He cares about his family and works hard. He is grappling with almost two identities: the boy raised in the mountains and the returned vet who has now seen the world. Which person should he be?

The romance. It was cute and light. I will be honest and say I wished there had been a bit more meat here. But what saves it is that Ben and Francine don’t fall into each others arms right away. They take their time. They get to know each other. They count the cost of being together. It’s not a hate-to-love trope, but there is a lot of hesitance there that I thought worked nicely. In the end, the idea of a romance between a city girl and a country-mountain boy worked.

The secondary characters. I thought the author did a lovely job of teasing out new characters that Francine encountered so that it wasn’t overwhelming. Ben’s family became important to me as a reader and so did other townspeople.

Spiritually, characters pray and seek God’s direction and often meditate on God’s Word for some wisdom.

What I didn’t like:

This is not a bad book. However, I think it could have been even better if there had been more details about Francine’s midwifery and more details about what it was really like up in those hills. Stuff is mentioned, it’s hinted at, but I would have liked to see Francine grapple with it more as a city girl. Although I could tell the author didn’t necessarily want to glamorize the mountain life (because she did present the not so good things), it felt at times glamorized (the people were kinder, more spiritual, giving, etc.).

Ben. Ben is wonderful hero. The only problem is that he felt so different from his family and neighbors. If I hadn’t been told he was from the area I would never have really guessed. He certainly dealt with his share of mountain problems, but he didn’t feel mountain. I don’t know, maybe that was that point and I”m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, a lovely book. Everything I didn’t like was me being nitpicky. A lot of threads seemed to be rather loose in this book and if the author writes a sequel I will be reading it.

** I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Kristi Ann Hunter’s An Inconvenient Beauty

An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House Book #4) by [Hunter, Kristi Ann]

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she’ll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.

Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

Review

Having read the other books in this series, I became a fan of Kristi Ann Hunter. First, because I love regency novels; second, because she wasn’t super predictable; and third because she fashioned together a group of family and friends that made me want to read more. I was so looking forward to Griffith’s story. And while this story make work for some people, for me it was incredibly disappointing. My thoughts:

What worked

Griffith. I have liked Griffith from his first introduction. I only liked him more in this book. You learn what makes him tick and why he makes the decisions that he makes. Even though he was the hero of the book, I found myself completely identifying with him and his problems. I love that he thinks things through, that if he didn’t know the answer he sought out guidance, and that he was a planner. I was so excited to see him fall in love!

The idea of Isabella. Griffith needed a woman who he least expected. In theory, Isabella could have been that woman.

Secondary characters. I loved Griffith’s whole family. Sometimes series can get annoying if they reach too much into previous books, but every moment with Griffith’s family felt right…and they added a lot of humor to the novel.

Spiritually, the characters pray and seek God for guidance and wisdom.

What didn’t work

Isabella. I’m not sure where to begin, but here goes: Isabella is in London for the season because she is, essentially, being blackmailed by her uncle. When you learn why, if you’re anything like me, you will say that is completely ridiculous. I didn’t buy it. I’ve read so many regency novels and I’ve never heard of a situation like this. It made no sense to me. I was mad confused for a third of the book because I kept expecting something else to be the problem. To that fact, I think Isabella was confused. It made for a story that I just didn’t buy and thus I was not committed as a reader.

Secrets. Then, Isabella could have, of course, solved all of her problems by confiding her situation to the right people. Does she do this? No, because then the book would have been over. Thus, Isabella became an unlikeable character to me. It felt like she was dragging out a situation that could have been resolved in minutes. Towards the end of the book I found myself agreeing with her and saying ‘no, you don’t deserve the duke.’

Predictable. I liked this author for her unpredictability. But once I realized that Isabella was going to keep her secrets no matter what, I knew exactly how the novel was going to play out.

Romance. I just wish that Isabella and Griffith could have worked together instead of working on the same problem from different angles. It would have made their romance seem more concrete. Instead, they spend most of the novel with this problem between them that didn’t have to be there. From a romance perspective, not a lot of romance is happening when people are trying to solve a problem. Instead you get a whole lot of running away and scenes that don’t make sense.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, some people will read this book and really like it. Unfortunately, I was not one of them.

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Robert Whitlow’s A Time to Stand

A Time to Stand by [Whitlow, Robert]

Adisa Johnson, a young African-American attorney, is living her dream of practicing law with a prestigious firm in downtown Atlanta. Then a split-second mistake changes the course of her career.

Left with no other options, Adisa returns to her hometown where a few days earlier a white police officer shot an unarmed black teen who is now lying comatose in the hospital.

Adisa is itching to jump into the fight as a special prosecutor, but feels pulled to do what she considers unthinkable—defend the officer.

As the court case unfolds, everyone in the small community must confront their own prejudices. Caught in the middle, Adisa also tries to chart her way along a path complicated by her budding relationship with a charismatic young preacher who leads the local movement demanding the police officer answer for his crime.

This highly relevant and gripping novel challenges us to ask what it means to forgive while seeking justice and to pursue reconciliation while loving others as ourselves.

Review

I love Robert Whitlow books. He writes fantastic legal fiction with a spiritual lense…that didn’t mean that I wasn’t hesitant to read this book once I read what it was about. Obviously US race relations are tense and let me tell you, I consider myself to be a Christian Evangelical, but half the time I can’t stand them. They drive me nuts when it comes to race relations. I have stopped reading an author who I liked because of what she would say about black Americans on her social media sites…thus I was worried. I didn’t want to start side-eyeing one of my favorite authors. I remember picking up this book and saying Whitlow you can either make me love your writing and make me hate it. Reader, I loved it.

What I liked:

Race relations. Whitlow could have chosen to really sugar coat this book and he didn’t. I thought he did a very accurate job of showing the suspicion on both sides of the racial line and of dealing with the fact that blacks and whites have a complex history. I love that he acknowledges it instead of shying away. You can’t deal with a problem if you pretend it’s not there.

Adisa. Adisa is a young black female attorney who works hard and loves the Lord. She is faced with quite a few challenges in this book. I did not envy her once. Nevertheless, she stays continually in prayer and trusts that God will work things out. She is a main character you can trust to make the right decisions and to handle delicate situation. When she faced difficult decisions, her thought process felt real.

Luke. I will admit he wasn’t my favorite person in the world, but Whitlow made him real. I managed to be both irritated at him and still want him to be cleared. So kudos Whitlow.

Law. I can never argue with Whitlow’s grasp of the legal field. As a lawyer, reading all that Adisa had to do made me tired. Poor girl.

Secondary characters. They are much needed to the telling of this story so that you can get different points of views. There is even a little romance (but this is a book that didn’t necessarily need it.).

How it wrapped up. I’m sure you would like to know. It worked.

Sidenote: Whitlow is either an aspiring chef or a foodie. He made me hungry on several occasions.

Spiritually, there is a great emphasis on the power of praying and how if you serve God, He will bless your descendants.

What I didn’t like:

I liked the entire book!

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a wonderful book. I think Whitlow handled the topic beautifully. I was worried at first, but if anything he made me love his writing more. It was a book I couldn’t stop thinking about and read much faster than I intended.

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Tamera Alexander’s To Wager her Heart

To Wager Her Heart (A Belle Meade Plantation Novel Book 3) by [Alexander, Tamera]

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success–General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks.
Seeking justice . . . 
Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancé–and has shattered her world.
Struggling to restore honor . . . 
   
Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family–and Nashville society–do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.
Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?
Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.
Review
Tamera Alexander is an auto-buy author for me because I love the way she combines history with romance. My thoughts:
What I liked:
Sylas. From the moment he steps on the page he quickly becomes one of the most interesting characters of the novel. I love how he kind of fits that Old Western mold and at the same time breaks it. Whenever he was on the page I knew something interesting was going to happen.
Alexandra. I will admit that while I liked her character, it took me a while to really like her. However, by the end of the book I found myself completely in her corner.
Historical research. Alexander has a lot of historical events and people in this book. The author clearly does her research. Every historical aspect felt fully researched and learned from the way that the school for black Americans was run to the way that the main characters interacted with ‘real’ historical figures.
Mystery. There’s a bit of a mystery here, but interestingly enough, Alexander resolves it in a way that I hadn’t quite expected. Nevertheless it worked, because it felt real.
Spiritually, the characters learn to trust God even when the situation looks and feels hard.
What I didn’t like
I did feel like Sy and Alexandra were separated more than I would have liked.  One of the best things about an Alexander romance is that she does the friendship romance so well. It was done well here, but the characters did spend a lot of time a part.
Also, it kind of felt like Alexander had a list of historical events that she wanted to hit and she hit them…but it felt like a bit much at times. Sy and Alexandra met this famous person, they were a part of this famous event, they saw this historical event happen. I realize a lot was happening historically at that time, but I felt like all the things they were a part of took away from the story a bit.
Romantic scale: 8
Overall, while not my favorite Alexander book, a very satisfying read.
**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**
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Mini-Reviews

My Unexpected Hope by [Gray, Tammy L.]

After a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

Review

I’ve been looking forward to this book since I read the first one. It’s not often you get a second chance romance like this one. Second chance romances rarely make sense to me, but this one did. Gray is able to convey the cost of addiction and what an addict’s life looks like so well (not that I know, but this felt real). I knew Gray would make me fall for Chad (even though I didn’t like him too much in the first book) and she did. Laila was awesome as well. I was worried about her dating someone else, but it somehow manages to work here. I loved seeing Katie again and learning about how she was doing. Spiritually, the novel was a bit vague at times. Laila goes to church and it’s clear God is important to her, but I wasn’t so sure about Chad right off. I will admit that there were moments were it felt like it was dragging a bit, but overall a very good read. I would read anything Tammy Gray writes.

The Whys Have It by [Matayo, Amy]

Chart topping pop musician Cory Minor has it all—fame, money, more women at his disposal than time to spend on them. He’s living the life most American men only dream of. Until an ordinary concert in Springfield threatens to destroy everything he’s worked for.
As he and his band leave the arena for his next show, Cory’s tour bus crashes into two teenage girls, killing one girl instantly and leaving the other barely clinging to life. Lawsuits are threatened, tabloids are talking, and Cory’s idyllic world falls apart. But what no one knows is that this scene is all too familiar. Because this isn’t the first accident Cory has caused. This isn’t the first time he’s destroyed someone else’s life to save his own.
It’s just the first time he’s had to face it head on.
Small town girl Samantha Dalton has no one—no mother, no father, and now no sister. She’s lost everything in a world that celebrates excess. So when Cory Minor shows up at her doorstep offering money and apologies, she turns him away too. You can’t lose what you don’t have, and she can’t take another letdown, especially not from someone who has managed to rip away all she had left. Samantha has been fine on her own for years, she’ll be fine now too.
At least that’s what she tells herself.
But Cory won’t leave. He’s persistent in the worst possible way.
Will Cory’s determination to make things right pay off in the end, or will Sam keep pushing him away until there’s nothing left to fight for? How can two people learn to rely on each other when life keeps hurting them both?

Review

Amy Matayo is a fantastic author…but this book didn’t work for me. I loved the concept of a rock star and a regular person getting together. However, the book was really sad. There was a lot of death and mourning going on. Understandably of course, but it didn’t a happy book make. We had Sam who had lost everyone in her family and Cory who was really self-absorbed. Half the time Sam was cheering him up and trying to make life great for him. It just…kind of…bothered me. I did not care about Cory’s past or his problems. I was more concerned about Sam. I think Cory would have made a great hero like ten years from now when he matured. But as it stood, he just didn’t work for me. I would not marry that guy or advise anyone else to do so. There were too many times I wanted to say ‘dude, handle your business’. This one is probably more a clean romance than a Christian romance.

Engaged in Trouble (An Enchanted Events Mystery Book 1) by [Jones, Jenny B.]

Paisley Sutton shot to stardom as a teenage rock sensation, but ten years later that star has fizzled out, just like her bank account. When she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s wedding planning business, Paisley leaves the glamour of Los Angeles for a charming small town in Arkansas. Thinking she’ll arrive in Sugar Creek and liquidate the moldly property, Paisley’s shocked to find Enchanted Events has experienced a major makeover and is now the place for brides. She’s got two months to keep Enchanted Events afloat if she wants to sell and rekindle her music career with the profits.

Paisley’s tossed into a world of vows and venues, but her most difficult challenge comes in the form of one demanding bride. When this Bridezilla’s found facedown in her cake, all fingers point to Paisley as the prime murder suspect. And she does not look good in prison orange.

This former pop princess will need the help of her gun-toting, ex-CIA grandmother and her handsome neighbor, Beau Hudson, to unravel the mystery and clear her good name. As she and her unruly posse dig into Bridezilla’s life, she discovers the woman had a long list of enemies. The closer Paisley gets to the truth, the more her own life is in danger.

Love is in the air this wedding season, but before Paisley can help the ladies of Sugar Creek say, “I do,” she’s got to unveil a killer. Or find herself the next target.

Review

You can’t really go wrong with a Jenny B. Jones novel. Especially if you want something happy and uplifting. Somehow she is able to discuss serious topics in a light-hearted way…sometimes too light-hearted. I did feel like the snark went a bit overboard at times, but overall I really loved Paisley and the idea of Paisley. The romance is cute, the mystery will keep your attention, the secondary characters become almost like family.  I do think I would have liked to know more about Beau. It’s not my favorite Jones book (hello Save the Date), but overall very cute. I will be reading the next one in this series. This probably falls in the category of more of a clean romance than a christian romance.

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Tessa Afshar’s Bread of Angels

Bread of Angels by [Afshar, Tessa]

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant’s daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father’s secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances—along with her father’s precious dye—help her become one of the city’s preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can’t outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

Review

I’ve always enjoyed Tessa Afshar’s novels…which is saying a lot for me because I don’t generally enjoy Biblical fiction. I was super excited about this week. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Lydia. We first met Lydia in Land of Silence. It’s only for a minute, but we learn that purple fabric is her thing. I really liked Lydia. She’s caring, she’s loyal, she works hard, and she’s very smart. She goes through some tough times and even though it causes her to have doubts, it doesn’t cause her to give up. She’s also really fascinating. There is a romance, but it doesn’t appear until much later in the book. This managed to be one of those rare books where the romance was not needed. Lydia’s life was interesting all on it’s own. She was a character the reader could trust.

The story. There is not a ton of information known about Lydia in the Bible, thus Afshar creates a story for her. I loved it. Lydia became very real. We don’t know if she faced these kinds of struggles, but I felt like Afshar did a lot of research into how a woman at that time could become a successful business owner and even why she might not have a huge family. This story is based off a real person, but Afshar’s narrative really makes her come alive.

Secondary characters. There are quite a few secondary characters, but each one is rich and has his or her own back story. I liked the way they managed to come in and come out of Lydia’s life, making small but important influences on her.

Spiritually, Lydia is introduced to God through her Jewish friend and later comes to meet Jesus. Readers get to follow Lydia as she learns to pray and trust God and really learn who Jesus is.

What I didn’t like

Biblical incorporation. First, let me say that I didn’t have a problem with the way stories from the Bible were added into this novel. However, towards the end it didn’t feel as organic as I would have liked. It kind of felt like certain bullet-points had to be hit and so I kind of found myself skimming the parts of the story that were familiar to me as a Bible-reader.

The romance. I usually love Afshar’s romance, but this one didn’t quite work for me. The guy was fabulous. Lydia was fabulous. But again, since it comes up so late in the story it felt like the author felt compelled to have a romance and put one in there. I just wasn’t invested and I didn’t care if Lydia married or not.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a very good story and I look forward to reading more!

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**