Category Archives: Fiction

Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel

Title: Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel
Author: James Markert
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-7852-1909-5

“Rumor is, at the Tuscany Hotel, you forget all your worries, so your creativity can thrive,” Valerie is told in James Markert’s novel, Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel.

~ What ~
This three-hundred-and-sixty-eight-page paperback is targeted toward those who enjoy a mystical read about memory, forgetting the past, and accepting outcomes of life. Using the slang word darn, topics of physical abuse and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes a note from the author, acknowledgments, twelve discussion questions, another book excerpt from the writer, and the author’s biography.

Set in California after World War II, this story involves shell-shocked Vitto Gandy who returns home from war as a different man. When his aging father with Alzheimer’s disease is missing, the son knows exactly where to find him – at his defunct Tuscany Hotel. Abandoned for years, the hotel that used to be a haven of creativity turns into a magical nirvana where, by drinking its fountain’s water, one’s memory is miraculously restored with a catch.

As Vitto learns about his parents’ pasts and recalls the Greek and Roman mythology he was told as a child and is displayed throughout the statues, carvings, frescos, and paintings in the hotel, he must learn to paint “the real” to find redemption and inner peace.

~ Why ~
Written with well-defined characters, the book shows how often memories fade as age overtakes, wishing there could be a make-believe antidote for the body and mind by the simple act of drinking a magical potion. I appreciated the compassion of some of the characters and how several relationships evolved and changed when memories improved.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like stories about mystical waters curing lost memories, humans who believe they are reincarnated gods, and mythological history should avoid this book. Some may not like that the true God, Jesus Christ, and the eternal plan of salvation are never discussed, even though there are touches of Catholicism, confessions, and requests of hail Marys.

~ Wish ~
My number one issue with this book was that its publisher, Thomas Nelson, is normally known to promote Christian concepts and themes, yet this book contains a plethora of mysticism involving gods, goddesses, and the underworld. Being a Christian, I am so disappointed in Thomas Nelson’s recent switch to these types of books that are supposedly “spiritual” without even mentioning a relationship with Jesus Christ. With the last two fictions I have read from this publisher being so far from the Truth, I am leery of reading any more of their published works so have drastically rated this one down. I did think the author did a good job telling his eclectic story; I strongly wish he took a different approach when it came to death and dying.

~ Want ~
If you enjoy a read that promotes belief in something (not Someone) while weaving a tale of memory loss and aging, this might be for you, but I found the gods and goddesses mentioned in it are not the Real Answer when searching for peace and happiness.

Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2UEvOie

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Filed under ** Think Twice - I Didn't Like It, Book Review, Fiction

The Baggage Handler

Title: The Baggage Handler
Author: David Rawlings
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-7852-2493-9

“I am the Baggage Handler. Do you need some help with your baggage?” three troubled individuals are asked in David Rawlings’s novel, The Baggage Handler.

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-forty-page small hardbound targets those interested in an allegory about dealing with one’s baggage – the kind that you carry around with you unknowingly as it alters, changes, and disrupts your life. Using the slang word heck and darn, topics of adultery may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes a note from the author, discussion questions, acknowledgments, and advertisements.

In this current day allegory, three different characters’ lives are challenged when their similar-looking luggage is erroneously switched at the airport. While young Michael wants to break away from his father’s proposed footsteps, Gillian wishes for a perfect life like her sister’s, and David’s deep-rooted anger obstructs forgiveness, they all encounter the Baggage Handler, the one person who can help them eliminate their unwanted, unneeded, and damaging baggage. As each deal with their issues differently, they must make the choice of getting rid of their burdens or continue to carry their emotional load.

~ Why ~
Since we all carry some sort of baggage with us throughout our lives, this is an eye-opening book that may stop one in their tracks to circumspectly examine their own lives and consider what baggage they carry. I enjoyed the diversity of the three characters and how they approached or refuted their flawed personalities. The common problems of pleasing others instead of oneself, envy by comparison, and hurtful bitterness show how pride plays an important part in holding on to the past. The story is well-written and gripping.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like modern day parables with a supernatural twist of a being who can help lighten life’s load will not appreciate this book. Without mentioning God or Jesus, the reader is left to guess the role of the Baggage Handler is only to help a person get rid of their baggage and not be the only One who can save them. There is no eternal plan of salvation, only choices offered to rid themselves of not standing up for who they are, hating themselves, or holding grudges.

~ Wish ~
I did indeed enjoy this read, but my conscience knawed at its lack of mentioning Jesus is the only Way, Truth, Life, and the propitiation for sin and our ever-present faults. How much better the book would have been if it included praying to the Almighty for forgiveness, realizing God’s incredible love for us, and accepting others as He has us.

~ Want ~
If you are dealing with baggage of your own such as self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-pity, this tale of learning respect, finding inner beauty, and letting go is heartwarming, but it may not explain the True Baggage Handler who died on the cross for you.

Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2TIA54O

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Filed under *** OK - Don't Love It, Don't Hate It, Book Review, Fiction

A Silken Thread

Title: A Silken Thread
Author: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Publisher: Waterbroook
ISBN: 978-07352-9012-9

“Someone will need to care for Mama into her dotage, and we believe the right person is you,” Laurel is told in Kim Vogel Sawyer’s novel, A Silken Thread.

~ What ~
At three-hundred-and-fifty-two-pages, this paperback targets those who enjoy a historical romance with the 1895 Atlanta Cotton Exposition as a backdrop. With no profanity, topics of false accusations, racism, bigotry, and physical abuse may not be appropriate for immature readers.

Set in the South, eighteen-year-old Laurel Millard wants to be married and in love like her parents were, but when her older siblings demand she be the one to take care of her widowed mother, she longs for marital bliss as well as financial security. Being allowed to weave silk at the famed exposition, she not only enjoys the task but also is thrilled when she catches the eye of the son of the wealthy owner of the steam-powered-engine empire. Only when those she works with and who watch over her protect her interests, does she realize the path God wants for her life.

~ Why ~
This is an interesting read that blends learning about friendship and love with the distinct differences between classes of people, but it focuses on how hatred and racism were prevalent during the late nineteenth century. The information on how silk is made is intriguing.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not believe in God and have no faith in Him may not be interested in this book, but it does concentrate on how the Almighty has plans for our lives. Some may not like some of its stereotypical characters.

~ Wish ~
While I appreciated the story’s depth in showing respect for others, no matter their skin color, and the loyalty of friendship, I wish the true romance that developed were more thorough as it seemed rushed at the end.

~ Want ~
If you like an old-fashioned romance of one searching for a loving relationship while weaving devotion to family and friendship during the 1890s in America, this story is worth reading.

Thanks to WaterBook and Multnomah Book Launch Team for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2HC55Mj

#asilkenthread #kimvogelsawyer #atlantacottonexposition1895

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Filed under **** Good - Will Be Glad to Pass On to Others, Book Review, Christian, Fiction

Half Finished

Title: Half Finished
Author: Lauraine Snelling
Publisher: FaithWorks
ISBN: 978-1-4789-2007-6

“That’s what friends are for. I mean, after all, we are all UFOs when you think of it. God said He would do the finishing,” Amalia tells Roxie in Lauraine Snelling’s novel, Half Finished.

~ What ~
This three-hundred-and-thirty-six-page hardbound targets those who like simplistic tales about family, friendship, and relationships while living in a close-knit town. Containing words such as dang and darn, topics of divorce, illness, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers.

Set in current-day Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, three women decide to organize a group that promotes finishing unfinished craft projects. Whether knitting a decades-old afghan, crocheting a baby’s outfit for a now-grown child, or completing a boat, the participants, both male and female, enjoy the weekly get-togethers while some individuals learn how God is the one who completes them through life’s struggles, differences, and challenges.

~ Why ~
The contagious idea of having a UFO (unfinished objects) group is charming and unique as many may need camaraderie, prompting, and accountability to complete a project or task. I liked the tenderness between Ginny and Amalia as one helped the other through a difficult time. The mother-daughter and grandmother-granddaughter interweaved relationships were well-written.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not have a personal relationship with Christ may not understand the importance of relying on God throughout our lives. Some who have no interest in small town living where everyone knows everyone else’s business may find the story tedious as it is painted with the minutia such as windshield bugs, acid reflux, and grocery lists.

~ Wish ~
While I appreciated the group’s artistic concept, I felt one of its three original creators was rarely mentioned, focusing mainly on only one creative leader and two different women. Due to the plethora of characters, including a list of them at the beginning of the book might be helpful for procrastinating readers. I prefer no slang words in Christian books.

~ Want ~
If you like an easy read about a small town’s somewhat flawless residents who are half-finished in life and crafts, this may engage you, but I struggled through it, wishing for more excitement and less of the mundane.

Thanks to Hachette Book Group for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2tWVSGr

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Filed under *** OK - Don't Love It, Don't Hate It, Book Review, Christian, Fiction

Harriet’s Monster Diary

Harriet's Monster Diary: Awfully Anxious (But I Squish It, Big Time)Title: Harriet’s Monster Diary
Author: Dr. Raun Melmed
Illustrator: S.E. Abramson & Arief
Publisher: Familius
ISBN: 978-1-64170-127-3

“I love manglemane lions, but that doesn’t mean I want to stand up in front of everyone and talk about them. That sounds absolutely terrible,” Ari confides in Dr. Raun Melmed’s children’s book, Harriet’s Monster Diary: Awfully Anxious.

~ What ~
Part of Monster Diaries series, this one-hundred-and-sixteen-page paperback targets seven- to eleven-year-old children who want help overcoming anxiety. With no scary scenes, it would be best read to beginner readers based on some complicated words. Cartoon-like black and white illustrations are every few pages with a hand-written designed small font. The beginning has a note about ST4, an applicable anti-anxiety concept, while the ending includes instructions on making ST4 badges, a parent’s guide to stress and anxiety in children, and author, illustrator, and publisher biographies.

In this short tale, young monster Ari Hairstein enjoys going to monster school, especially when she is in Monsterology class. When the teacher assigns a report, she is excited to do it on the manglemane lions but devastated she must read it in front of the class. Acknowledging she worries about everything, the girl makes herself sick with anxiety about the upcoming task. With the help of her grandma, parents, and friends, she learns how to breathe deeply, stop to take time to think, and gauge how she is feeling when gives her report.

~ Why ~
This fun monster book is a clever way for a young child to learn about dealing with stress and anxiety. I like how Ari had to come out of her shell to share her problem with others. Learning the ways to breathe, the ST4 acronym of Stop Take Time To Think, and how to make a four-color temperature gauge of feelings are helpful ways to deal with anxiety.

~ Why Not ~
While the book focuses on stress during a school situation, it does not address other problems where young children may experience anxiety. Some may not find the scenario applicable and be confused that the “monsterizing” of words are not real. The multi-syllable words that may frustrate beginner readers, but it also is a way to learn new words.

~ Wish ~
While I think this read would be good for a shy third or fourth grader who has issues standing in front of the class, I wish it mentioned other situations of Ari’s friends dealing with anxiety. As a Christian, offering the idea of praying to God for calmness and peace would be appreciated. I did not care for the font as sometimes it looked like words were incorrectly spelled.

~ Want ~
If you have a pre-teen who is awkward or uncomfortable in standing out in social situations and want to help them feel accepted and less nervous, this would be a positive way to encourage them.

Thanks to Familius and the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harriets-monster-diary-raun-melmed/1129117020

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Filed under **** Good - Will Be Glad to Pass On to Others, Childrens, Fiction

The Treasure of Granzella Ranch

The Treasure of Granzella Ranch: Large Print EditionTitle: The Treasure of Granzella Ranch
Author: Joan Bannan
Publisher: Joan Bannan
ISBN: 978-0-9627624-5-1

“Yes, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Sheree is told in a dream in Joan Bannan’s novel, The Treasure of Granzella Ranch.

~ What ~
At two-hundred-and-seventy-six pages, this hardbound targets those who like contemporary Christian romance with suspense. Using words such as darned and heck, topics of alcoholism, divorce, pornography, erectile dysfunction, murder, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The beginning includes a genealogy and map, while the ending has five recipes, acknowledgments, and seven discussion questions.

In this short tale, the Granzella Ranch in California is failing after four generations producing olive oil. Separated from her husband, Sherre returns to the homestead to help with the farm after her father dies. While her mother considers remarrying a strange man only nine months after her spouse’s death, the rest of the family deals with issues that include faltering marriages, getting over past mistakes, and learning to fall in love again.  As Sherre realizes her mistrust in herself, she learns about the real treasures of life.

~Why ~
I enjoyed learning about a generational business and how it strived to survive. Including the history of many of the family members and relationships with others was interesting. Learning about millrooms, voles, insects, and growing olives was engaging.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ may not appreciate this read. Others may feel the family is too dysfunctional, some conversations are trite, and the main character tries to solve all problems herself.  Some may feel the story predictable and the flow anti-climatic.

~ Wish ~
While I enjoyed the writer’s style, I had trouble with the many punctuation errors that included missing end quotes or commas that confused the reading. I had to mark it down a full point for this specific problem. I wish all the pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a quick read that focuses on how “God works all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” this may keep you entertained.

Thanks to the CWA Review Crew and author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-treasure-of-granzella-ranch-joan-bannan/1126483015

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Filed under *** OK - Don't Love It, Don't Hate It, Christian, Fiction

Never Let Go

Never Let GoTitle: Never Let Go
Author: Elizabeth Goddard
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2984-4

“I want justice. Do you hear me, Austin? I want this person found. Why don’t the police do something?” Willow pleads in Elizabeth Goddard’s novel, Never Let Go.

~ What ~
The first in the Uncommon Justice series, this three-hundred-and-sixty-five-page book targets those who enjoy contemporary Christian romantic suspense involving a missing person and family secrets. Using the word heck several times, topics of arson, kidnapping, murder, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes author’s notes, acknowledgments, biography, and advertisements.

Set in Washington and Wyoming, Willow Anderson has made it her quest to solve her recently deceased grandfather’s final forensic genealogist project by searching for a baby that was stolen over twenty years ago. After Willow becomes the target, she works with her past love, even though he has always kept secrets from her. As the two track down leads in rural Wyoming, they try to find the girl while protecting their hearts from being hurt again.

~Why ~
With the theme of overcoming the past, this romantic story is filled with suspense as the duo search for a missing person while deciding to reignite a past relationship. I enjoyed how the two protagonists had to rely on God to get them through their disappointments and trials.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like Christian romances will pass on this story that promotes God’s protection while learning to forgive oneself and others. Although no eternal plan of salvation is discussed, it does have references to the Bible and sporadic prayers to God. I found some of the scenarios a bit far-fetched and the main relationship wishy-washy, with both characters tediously trying to decide what they want.

~ Wish ~
The scene where someone is pushed out the door seems flippant and unrealistic. I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you like a mystery of a woman’s desire to be like her beloved grandfather and find someone’s daughter decades later while being forced to reconnect with an old flame, this may interest you, but I found my eyes sometimes rolling with the repetitiveness of emotions.

Thanks to Revell for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/never-let-go-elizabeth-goddard/1128873070

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Filed under *** OK - Don't Love It, Don't Hate It, Book Review, Christian, Fiction

American Omens

American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith: A NovelTitle: American Omens
Author: Travis Thrasher
Publisher: Multnomah
ISBN: 978-0-7352-9178-2

“I want to help wake people up. To show them the lies they’re being fed. To show how every single person out there is being manipulated. And I want them to hear the truth. To at least hear God’s truth,” Cheyenne is told in Travis Thrasher’s novel, American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith.

~ What ~
At three-hundred-and-fifty-two-pages, this gripping paperback targets those who enjoy futuristic Christian fiction regarding America’s faith in God or growing lack of it. Using several versions of the Holy Bible, it is a story of Christians standing up for their faith and beliefs while dealing with demeaningness, deception, danger, and dying. Using the word hell once, topics of torture, murder, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers.

Set in 2038, young Cheyenne Burne loves her job as a programming genius at the well-known mega-tech company in Chicago. When she receives a note about her missing father who has converted to Christianity, she is forced to quit her job and go off the grid to find him. After learning about the Reckoner, a strange prophet who challenges her past company’s owner and plans to tell the world the truth, the woman teams up with a quirky ex-coworker and rogue rock star to find her father while becoming a part of something that will hopefully change millions of minds about God.

~ Why ~
This riveting tale may make you question your privacy using everyday electronics, social media, and artificial intelligence. The realistic characters who face making a decision for Christ are a call to action of readers who want to make a difference. I loved the feasible and believable scenarios of what our future may hold in regard to Christians being accused, tortured, and killed for “hate crimes,” interactive touch-screens that manipulate decisions, security watching robots, and personal mind-engaging assistants. Without becoming paranoid, I came away wondering who was recording my latest smartphone conversation, if our Alexa should be disconnected, or what governmental flags were popping up due to my blog postings due to my relationship with Jesus Christ. Linking the 1960-70s rock bands to the story was entertaining.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not believe in God and have no faith in Him may not be interested in this book, but it could be life-altering if the Holy Spirit is pricking the reader’s soul. Some may wish the ending was not anti-climatic, making them consider this could be the first book in a series due to many unanswered questions. Others may be unsure where the author stands on the Biblical rapture being imminent as it is not mentioned.

~ Wish ~
Including a list of characters might be helpful since the chapters jump around a bit. I wish the capitalization of all pronouns of God for reverence were consistent throughout the book.

~ Want ~
If you are questioning your faith in God or want to be one to stand up for Him, this tale puts the topic of faith and trust in the Almighty in the forefront. Although we know God is in control of all, the fast-reading story will grasp your spiritual attention as it shows how America may further try to degrade, dismiss, and deter believers in Him in the near future.

Rated: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Thanks to WaterBook and Multnomah Book Launch Team for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/american-omens-travis-thrasher/1128688754

#americanomens #travisthrasher #futuristictechnochristiannovel

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Filed under **** Good - Will Be Glad to Pass On to Others, Book Review, Christian, Fiction

The Seamstress

The SeamstressTitle: The Seamstress
Author: Allison Pittman
Publisher: Tyndale House
ISBN: 978-1-443-9046-8

“Better to live by the instinct God gave you than to be fooled by tricks and manners,” Gagnon instructs Renee in Allison Pittman’s novel, The Seamstress.

~ What ~
Inspired by a famous Dicken’s story, this four-hundred-and-eighty-page paperback targets those who enjoy learning about life, love, and loyalty during the French Revolution. Topics of poverty, premarital sex, imprisonment, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes the author’s note, ten discussion questions, author’s biography, a chapter from another authored book, and advertisements.

In this 1788 romance told sporadically throughout the chapters in first person , orphaned Renee and her cousin Laurette live with Emile Gagnon in the small village of Mouton Blanc, France. The diminutive girl who is efficient with a thread and needle is offered to go to Paris to be a seamstress for Queen Marie Antoinette, while her relative stays behind, enticed by the wiles of Marcel, a rebellious militant of the resistance against the kingdom.

Ever-patriotic to the monarch, Renee sews beautiful and unique clothing and falls in love but misses her home. Laurette learns a lesson about love that is permanent yet forgiving. Although both women live in worlds apart, they come to grips how God directs their lives.

~ Why ~
With France’s upheaval as the backdrop, this extensive tale shows how love, loyalty, and faith in God can get one through the darkest hour. I like the detailed history of the land, impressive ornateness of Versailles, and brokenness of poverty and drought that grasped the country.

~ Why Not
Those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ may not understand how God is in control, even when we do not understand why. Some may not like the tediousness of the story, lonely heartbreak of some characters, and ending.

~ Wish ~
With many characters who are threaded throughout the tale, it would be helpful if there were a brief list of names at the beginning of the book for reference. I prefer all pronouns of God capitalized for reverence.

~ Want ~
If you are looking for a romantic fiction of two women who walk separate paths to find freedom during a revolution, this read will captivate your heart while wishing for redemption.

Thanks to Tyndale Blog for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-seamstress-allison-pittman/1129055525

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Filed under **** Good - Will Be Glad to Pass On to Others, Book Review, Christian, Fiction

Innocence Denied

innocence deniedTitle: Innocence Denied
Author: Mike Garrett
Publisher: Crosslink Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-63357-146-4

“God never gives us more than we’re capable of handling. You’ll get through this, I swear,” Derrick comforts Larissa in Mike Garrett’s novel, Innocence Denied.

~ What ~
This two-hundred-and-thirty-seven-page paperback targets those who enjoy Christian contemporary suspense while focusing on deep, unsexual love between two individuals. Using the word heck twice, topics of murder and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending contains an afterword without the author’s biography.

This current day story set mainly at an Alabama lakeside cabin, the vivacious Larissa Baxter has been accused of murdering her wealthy husband. To her rescue comes Derrick Waldon, an older man wanting to make a difference to overcome his past, offers her an unusual escape route with no strings attached.

Holed up in a remote cabin, the two protagonists learn how love can conquer the pain of past mistakes while finding solace and peace within, especially when Derrick promotes his belief in the Almighty.

~ Why ~
This book is written to those who have no faith in God, showing that trust in God can get one through the hardest tribulations. The strange relationship of the couple thrown together unexpectedly is written realistically, despite their age difference. I liked the undertone of how Derrick wanted to make Larrisa find freedom while unselfishly giving up his own.

~ Why Not ~
Those who do not like books about faith in God may not appreciate this one. Others may find some of the story unbelievable when it comes to Larissa’s escape and its aftermath. Although the book contains Bible verses and seeking God, I found it was not concise about the eternal plan of salvation (Jesus shed His blood on the cross for all our sins, rose the third day, and resides in Heaven).

~ Wish ~
I wish all pronouns of God would be capitalized as they are sporadical.

~ Want ~
If you are seeking peace in your tortured life and do not know where to turn next, the Holy Spirit may be nudging you to read this story and invite Christ into your life.

Thanks to Book Crash and the author for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.

This book can be purchased at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/innocence-denied-mike-garrett/1129618191

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Filed under **** Good - Will Be Glad to Pass On to Others, Christian, Fiction