Archive for the ‘Jill Eileen Smith’ 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.)

 

Book Review of A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith   4 comments

Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, share a deep and abiding love, for each other, for their God, and for his tabernacle at Shiloh. Greatly disturbed by the corruption of the priests, they long for restoration and pray for a deliverer. But nothing changes as the years pass. Years that also reveal Hannah to be barren.

Pressured by his family to take another wife, Elkanah marries Peninnah, who quickly begins to bear children. Disgraced and taunted by her husband’s new wife, Hannah turns again to prayers that seem doomed to go unanswered. Do her devotion and kindness in the face of Peninnah’s cruelty count for nothing? Why does God remain silent and indifferent to her pleas?

Travel back to the dusty streets of Shiloh with an expert guide as Jill Eileen Smith brings to life a beloved story of hope, patience, and deliverance that shows that even the most broken of relationships can be restored.

***

This is my first book from Jill Eileen Smith. Though this is the fourth book in the series, each book focuses on a certain character from the Bible, so the stories are self-contained. With this book, the author brings Hannah’s story to life.

It’s very rare to find good Biblical fiction. This book joins that list of amazing and beautiful works that you will not only want on your shelf, but want to revisit over and over again. Smith paints a poignant and moving story. Hannah’s greatest wish is to be the mother of Elkanah’s sons. But year after year goes by, and she wonders if God sees her, if He even bothers to listen to her prayers, though she has loved and obeyed Him her entire life. She feels worthless, even though her husband loves her.

Elkanah is a great character who loves Hannah with all his heart, in spite of receiving no children from her. You, like me, are probably going to shake your head and wish he’d grown a spine in resisting his family who pressured him to marry Peninnah. But then again, it’s hard to judge when you’re not in the person’s shoes. And I think we all know how hard it is when you have family pressuring you to do something. From the beginning Elkanah regrets his decision, and with Peninnah’s unpleasant attitude and nasty behavior towards Hannah, you can feel his doubts and grief as he wonders if his family will ever be at peace and why God could not have allowed Hannah to bear his children.

Peninnah is spoiled, demanding, and lives in continual bitterness over the affection she longs to receive from Elkanah, but who instead gives it all to Hannah. No matter how many sons she gives him and how she derides Hannah and points out her barrenness, she cannot gain Elkanah’s love.

I’d already read through half of the book before I decided to just take the day off and blast through the rest because I couldn’t wait for the next part any longer. I enjoyed reading of Elkanah and Hannah’s love for each other, and the drama in Elkanah’s family with the friction Peninnah causes will definitely keep you turning those pages. And you will root for Hannah as, through all her doubts and sorrow, she holds onto God even when she thinks He doesn’t listen to her. And in the end, her faith is rewarded.

You will see this multiple times in the reviews posted on here, but I have to agree with the consensus. It really is a beautiful and moving tale of faith, forgiveness, of letting go of your doubts and despair, and allowing God to make your heart whole again.

This is a book that gets my highest recommendation. And on a side-note, I gave this to my mother to read, and she loved it so much, she’s rereading it a second time.

Verdict: A compelling and poignant retelling of Hannah that deserves its place on the shelf.

(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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