Archive for the ‘Biblical fiction’ Tag

The Prince and the Prodigal by Jill Eileen Smith   Leave a comment

So here we are with Jill Eileen Smith’s newest novel, “The Prince and the Prodigal”. After her last work which felt a little strained and not knowing where to go with the plot, this one is more a return to the excellent form Jill usually writes her books in.

Joseph’s story is written beautifully. I was a bit surprised at how humble Jill made him to be before being sold into slavery. I always felt Joseph was a bit more arrogant and spoiled due to being the favored son. Why else would you go bragging on your dreams? But it’s a minor quibble and didn’t detract from me enjoying the story or Jill’s version of the character.

Joseph, despite being the favored son, is the good kid. He loves and respects his father, tries to honor God, and genuinely is looking to mend the rift between him and his brothers, even though he doesn’t know where to start. Despite his efforts not to stir up strife, just the difference between his behavior and that of his brothers is added fuel to the resentment already brewing because of Jacob’s love and favor towards Joseph.

When Joseph is sold into slavery by his own brothers, he’s faced with not only fears for his own life, but also trying to understand how his own siblings could hate him so much to inflict that kind of misery and pain on him. He’s now alone in a strange land and worse, as a slave. He’s gone from being a prince, to a drudge. Even though God’s favor seems to follow him in his new life, it’s not enough for him. Because he was meant for so much more, to be a leader among his people. But here he is doing daily tasks as just a slave. He’s still trapped, still alone with no one he can trust.

And still far from the father who means everything to him.

And then there’s Judah. I’ll admit that one was a surprise as there’s not as much info in the Bible on him to work with as there is with Joseph. But Jill managed to pull it off with showing a man who hungers for his father’s love deep down but sees everything going to Joseph. The brother he once comforted when his mother died, he now can’t even stand to look at. After betraying Joseph, guilt drives him to leave everyone and try to forge a new life. But is one really able to make a new life and family after committing so terrible a deed?

It’s a powerful and story, one that makes you think and consider your own circumstances in life. And how God is always there holding your hand through it all.

Final verdict: A definite buy. It’s a worthy addition to your book shelves.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed are completely my own.

Review of Miriam’s Song by Jill Eileen Smith   Leave a comment

In her eventful lifetime, Miriam was many things to many people: protective older sister, song leader, prophetess, leper. But between the highs and the lows, she was a girl who dreamed of freedom, a woman who longed for love, a leader who made mistakes, and a friend who valued connection. She navigated the challenges of holding on to hope, building a family in the midst of incredible hardship, and serving as a leader of a difficult people, all while living in her brother’s shadow. Follow Miriam’s journey from childhood to motherhood, obscurity to notoriety, and yearning to fulfillment as she learns that what God promises He provides–in His own perfect timing.
***

I am a huge fan of Jill Eileen Smith’s work, so I make it a point to try to collect all her books. When I saw Miriam’s Song, there wasn’t any hesitation on my part to request the title. We all know the story of Moses, how he was placed in a basket and sent over the Nile to save his life, raised as prince of Egypt, fled to the wilderness, and then sent by God to deliver Egypt. But what were things like from the eyes of Miriam, his sister?

There really isn’t a lot in the Bible on Miriam, other than she was a prophetess and then later condemning Moses for marrying a woman from Cush before getting punished by God with leprosy. So I have to take my hat off to Mrs. Smith for being able to create an entire story with little to work with.

I have to say this is one of her weaker novels which I warrant to the limited amount of info she had to work with. The beginning started out great, with us being treated to the perspective of Hatshepsut, the Egyptian princess who would become Moses’s adoptive mother.

Then on to our main protagonist Miriam as she tries to help her family hide Moses and has to take on a lot of responsibility early in life. Which grows even more as she gets older and starts her own family.

But then we start having time gaps. Sometimes it’s months, then years, and even decades. Mrs. Smith tries to cover the entire story of Exodus, so we end up speed-traveling through the novel. Adding to the problem is that a large portion of the book is actually from the perspective of Moses. His character is probably the most developed, and therefore, also the most interesting. When we do get back to Miriam, all she can do is worry and obsess over Moses.

Despite all that, there’s still several strong points in the story I enjoyed. Miriam loves her family and God, and she does all she can to encourage the women around her to follow Him, in spite of the distrust and resentment some of the Israelite women have towards her because they think she and her family are privileged. She feels discouragement wondering if God has forgotten about them and if His promises would ever come true. And then even her relationship with God is put to the test as she sees Moses bask in His presence more and wonders why Moses is being so privileged while she is forgotten.

Final verdict: Buy if you’re looking for a decent read.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of The Heart of a King: The Loves of Solomon by Jill Eileen Smith   Leave a comment

 

King Solomon was wealthy and wise beyond measure. He could–and did–have anything he wanted, including many women from many lands. But for all his wisdom, did he or the women in his life ever find what they searched for all of their lives?

In this engrossing novel, you’ll find yourself whisked away to ancient Israel, where you’ll meet Solomon and four of the women he loved: Naamah the desert princess, Abishag the shepherdess, Siti the daughter of a pharaoh, and Nicaula the queen of Sheba. As you experience the world of Solomon through his eyes and the eyes of these women, you’ll ask yourself the ultimate question: Did Solomon’s wisdom ultimately benefit him and those he loved . . . or did it betray them?

***

At last, my collection of Biblical fiction from Jill Eileen Smith on the shelf is about complete. I’m happy now. 😀 I’m a huge fan of her work, having collected all of her Daughters of the Promised Land, Wives of King David, and Wives of the Patriarchs series. So I was happy to get her collection of the loves of Solomon, which before was only available as an ebook.

So for the story itself. It focuses on Solomon, of course and 4 women (out of a thousand) who loved him. Naamah, the Ammorite who has come to accept God; Abishag the Shulamite who is first wife to King David and then his son and entrances Solomon with her passion for songs and poetry; Siti, the spoiled Eygptian princess whose intelligence and desire to challenge his belief in God; and lastly Nicaula, the great queen of Sheba who alone he felt to truly be his equal in life.

What I have always liked with Jill Smith’s work is how she manages to portray the people we read about in the Bible and in my opinion, captures their essence perfectly. Solomon’s life was filled with abundance and love, his wisdom unmatched with any. But with all that he had, it was never enough, and Solomon could never find true peace. Even the gift of wisdom he so desired felt like a burden.

I felt both annoyed and sorry for him. Honestly, you can’t help feeling at least a little disgusted how he reuses the same lines of mushy poetry you read in the Song of Solomon on each woman he comes across. But reading on, you can see how in his own way, in those moments he really did love the woman he was with, but his heart was never content.

In this you can’t help but feel for him. For how many times have we made “things” in our own life more important than the One who made them and allowed us to have them? And in so doing, we feel nothing but emptiness inside, only able to feel some spark for the briefest of moments before seeking some new pleasure to try to awaken it back in us again.

Jill portrays that accurately with Solomon, a man who had it all and sought to have so much. He became so enamored with his own wisdom and power he forgot to honor and seek the One who gave it to him. And so nothing in his life satisfied him. Not even love.

Of the women who loved him, Siti was probably my least favorite because she was so whiny and spoiled. But I did like in the end how she started to question her belief in the Egyptian gods and was beginning to make an effort to understand the one God. Naamah was a like a promise that went unfulfilled. She loved Solomon since they first met as children, and marrying him was like a dream come true, even though she knew he would take other wives. In the end, she had to stand off to the side and watch as he went with woman after woman, and ended up forgetting her.
And poor Abishag. She had a lot of love to give, and was probably the most understanding woman ever. She knew what her fate was, but didn’t complain. Even though her moments with Solomon were few, she was happy for them. Because of her gentle nature, she ended up even befriending Naamah, who before was seeing her as just another rival.

And then there is Nicaula. She is beautiful and intelligent, with enormous wealth and power. But she longs for the one things denied her: love. When she hears the tales of Solomon’s wisdom she sets forth to not only see if the tales are true, but find the answers to the burning questions in her soul.

While the story lagged a bit in spots and some moments lost their impact because they were chopped short, Heart of a King is a great read that shows how empty life can be when pursuing things and ignoring God. Because without Him, everything truly is meaningless.

Verdict: Buy

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author from the blogging program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

 

Review of Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar   3 comments

 

First-century Corinth is a city teeming with commerce and charm. It’s also filled with danger and corruption—the perfect setting for Ariadne’s greatest adventure.

After years spent living with her mother and oppressive grandfather in Athens, Ariadne runs away to her father’s home in Corinth, only to discover the perilous secret that destroyed his marriage: though a Greek of high birth, Galenos is the infamous thief who has been robbing the city’s corrupt of their ill-gotten gains.

Desperate to keep him safe, Ariadne risks her good name, her freedom, and the love of the man she adores to become her father’s apprentice. As her unusual athletic ability leads her into dangerous exploits, Ariadne discovers that she secretly revels in playing with fire. But when the wrong person discovers their secret, Ariadne and her father find their future—and very lives—hanging in the balance.

When they befriend a Jewish rabbi named Paul, they realize that his radical message challenges everything they’ve fought to build, yet offers something neither dared hope for.

***

 

I’ve been wanting to read Tessa Afshar’s work for a long time, as I see a lot of her books in the Biblical fiction section. So at long last, I finally got my wish!

The story takes place in ancient Greece and introduces us to a young woman, Ariadne, who is forced to live with her harsh grandfather and a mother who treats her with disdain. When her grandfather tries to marry her off to a cruel man, Ariadne decides to take a risk and run away with her foster brother back to her father in Corinth where she hopes to find love and acceptance. Unfortunately, things are not so easy. Ariadne and Theo both deal have to deal with the pain and trauma left over from their parents’ divorce. Theo, the adopted one, struggles to rise above the stigma associated with an orphan child, and prove himself to be just as worthy as the next person. Ariadne looks for meaning and purpose in her life. First the games, where she develops her athletic abilities, then in parties, and finally is drawn into her father’s lifestyle as a thief. With the latter, she discovers she has a natural talent as a thief with her speed and athletic prowess. Despite the danger, she enjoys the thrill and excitement of robbing the rich to help the poor until a fateful accident occurs that puts a loved one in jeopardy.

The story is a lighthearted one for the most part, but it does explore the damage divorce leaves on children and how it effects their lives growing up. And also the consequences of wrong choices made in life and how they can rip a family apart, which Ariadne’s father has to live with.
But the best part is that God can restore what was lost and heal the broken pieces, which Tessa Afshar does a beautiful job of writing. And as Ariadne discovers God, she finds rest and contentment for her soul, as does the rest of her family.

The romance is light and could have been better in my opinion, but that’s a trivial thing. The characters are well-written and though the story has some slow spots, it keeps things going at a decent pace with the intriguing adventures Ariadne faces.

Verdict: If you are looking for a lighthearted read with great characters and a good story to enjoy that deals with loss and restoration, I highly recommend this book!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Review of A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette   Leave a comment

 

Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.

Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. Seeking safety at one of the newly-established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face, and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

 

***

Connilyn Cossette continues the stories she started in her previous series, “Out from Egypt”, with a brand new one: “Cities of Refuge”. Since reading her books, I’ve become a huge fan of Cossette’s Biblical adventures, and was excited to get the first book of her latest series, A Light on a Hill.

I’m not going to go in-depth on the plot. I think that’s been gone over numerous times on Amazon, so you have a sense of what’s going on in the book. So instead, I’ll go over the things I loved with this story.

As with Cossette’s previous books, the character development is excellent. You truly feel for Moriyah who has lived her life apart from the public, and is so afraid of the judgment of others that even though she hides behind a veil, she still quakes in fear any time an eye so much as focuses on her. Her dreams to have a family of her own have long since crumbled into dust. The mark on her flesh is also etched in her heart, and she wonders why Yahweh seems to no longer be with her. Her little happiness is gained in burying herself in cooking and helping others.

I could really empathize with Moriyah there. I think there are many of us who, because of fear or despair, isolate ourselves from almost everyone and bury ourselves in our own little world. Yes we may be lonely, but we feel safe. And that is how Moriyah is in the story.

Being accused of murder nearly undoes her. Never has she wanted to hurt anyone else, but now people are dead because of her. Even as she flees to a city of refuge to escape the avenger of blood in hopes of having a fair trial, she is torn with just letting herself be killed. Because she doesn’t believe herself worth saving anymore.

Moriyah’s journey is one of heartache and healing, as she learns to let go of the fear that has bound her and accept God’s grace. To learn that it wasn’t God who had left her, but she who had shut out His voice from her heart. And with that realization, she hears from Him once more and becomes the light He always meant for her to be.

And yes, the romance is good. 😉 For those of you who’ve been reading my reviews, you know I’m a huge fan of a good romance, and this story will definitely please those who love that.

Darek (the male lead) is thankfully not one of those hardheaded numbskulls who believe rumors instead of seeing a person’s heart for themselves. In spite of being related to the ones Moriyah has murdered, he still treats her with respect and honor, and by watching her actions in the face of danger, sees Moriyah for the wonderful person she is.

You definitely get it all with A Light on the Hill: action, suspense, romance, and a powerful story of God’s grace to us even when we don’t deserve it.

Verdict: Buy this book at once!

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt review   Leave a comment

Five decades before the birth of Christ, Chava, daughter of the royal tutor, grows up with Urbi, a princess in Alexandria’s royal palace. When Urbi becomes Queen Cleopatra, Chava vows to be a faithful friend no matter what–but after she and Cleopatra have an argument, she finds herself imprisoned and sold into slavery. 

Torn from her family, her community, and her elevated place in Alexandrian society, Chava finds herself cast off and alone in Rome. Forced to learn difficult lessons, she struggles to trust a promise HaShem has given her. After experiencing the best and worst of Roman society, Chava must choose between love and honor, between her own desires and God’s will for her life. 

As soon as I saw this book up for review, I immediately sent in my request. I have a love for biblical fiction, and reading the synopsis alone captured my attention. And yes, the great looking cover just enhanced the appeal.

We begin the story with Chava, daughter of the royal Jewish tutor, who becomes friends with Urbi, the girl one day destined to become the famed Queen Cleopatra. The story chronicles their friendship as children, up to Urbi’s rise to power.

I will admit, the first part of the story felt slow. While Chava is intended to be the main lead, we’re more often just narrated the events that occurred in Cleopatra’s life. And Cleopatra ending being the more interesting person you wanted to know more about when you watched her go from princess to Queen and married to her ten year old brother. Her war in a game of wits to stay ahead of her enemies ended up pulling your interest more than the spoiled Chava.

Chava holds onto the promise she received from HaShem one night “Your friendship with the queen lies in my hands. You will be with her on her happiest day and her last. And you, daughter of Israel, will know yourself, and you will bless her.”

To this end, she follows Cleopatra faithfully, to the point of refusing to marry out of the devotion to her friend. And yes, Chava was a touch clingy and possessive because of it.

But then Chava’s life takes an unexpected turn, and she goes from friend to one of the most powerful woman in the world to a slave struggling to stay alive. From there, we watch as Chava is stripped of everything: home, wealth, possessions, family. And left with nothing but the bitter taste of betrayal and a broken faith.

This where Angela Hunt begins the crafting of Chava’s story and her growth from a pampered and spoiled child with no care for the rest of the world, into a strong woman. Through all the hardships, and the brutality of first century BC, you see God’s hand upon her, guiding her to that one pivotal point in history she was destined for.

I will caution readers that there are some scenes that might be a little hard for those who are more sensitive to those things. The story does not dwell overmuch on them, but it’s enough for you to feel the impact of it.

The writing was excellent, and once we got over the first part, the character development picked up drastically. If you are looking for solid, well-researched Biblical fiction with strong emphasis on faith, then I highly recommend this book.

Verdict: Buy immediately.

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette   Leave a comment

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Hello, everyone! Been awhile since I’ve posted on here, but I’m finally back again. And with another book review, since I’ve finally followed one of secret desires and joined Bethany House’s Blogger Review Program. *does happy dance* So without any further delay, here we go!

I’ve always loved Biblical stories. Maybe it was because I grew up with them as a kid, and even though I am a devoted fantasy buff, the nostalgia for Bible stories has never left. When I first found out about this series, I was excited. And it just exploded when I finally got this book. This is the third and final book in the series. I was initially a little concerned about starting a series right at the third book, but after a little research, found each story is self-contained so you don’t need to worry about missing anything. Without further ado, I plunged right on in.

The story covers the Israelites long awaited entrance into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. But in their path stands the Canaanites.

Alanah is bitter over the loss of her brothers and home. Feeling she has nothing left to her in life, she dresses like a man and joins one of the battles against the Hebrews, hoping to avenge herself on as many as she can before dying in the onslaught.

But Yahweh has a different plan. Instead of dying, she is rescued from the bodies of the slain and brought back to live with the very ones she planned on destroying, and her growing attraction to a certain Hebrew warrior called Tobiah.

Alanah’s feelings of hate and revenge, and her sense of low worth are all portrayed and written vividly by the author. And Tobiah, the quiet warrior, who tries to take care of everyone and lamenting over loss he feels he could have done something to prevent. Both carry deep wounds inside, and both have to learn to surrender them to the Creator guiding their steps.

It’s rare to find good Biblical fiction, let alone a good romance. This is one of those that manages to do both justice and sticks with you long after you finish reading it. The writing was smooth, the character development solid. You’ll love the sense of companionship and family when walking with the Hebrews, and cringe when you walk through the mire of Canaanite culture.

Love and loss, grace and redemption, all weave together in beautiful harmony within the pages of this tale.

If you are looking for a solid Biblical story with a core of faith and hope, I highly recommend you purchase this series. As for me, I intend to get my hands on the first two books and add them to my collection.

Verdict: buy immediately

(I received a free copy of the book from the publisher and author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.)

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