“Destined to become a classic” is such a cliché, but Seeker of Stars has become the Christmas story I will read each year to prepare my heart for the...more“Destined to become a classic” is such a cliché, but Seeker of Stars has become the Christmas story I will read each year to prepare my heart for the TRUE meaning of Christmas. This powerful little book—read in a single afternoon—touched me in a profound way. I felt about this book much like the author described the Magi’s response to their first glimpse of Jesus, “There was nothing religious about this; it was holy and true.” Granted, the book is fiction, a biblical novel. But it was biblical storytelling at its finest. Rich word pictures and deep spiritual truths leapt off the page and nestled into my heart. Exceptional research and truly likeable (and unlikeable) characters created a rich tapestry of story to savor and enjoy. I’m sure there were knots and broken threads beneath the tapestry that only the author knew, but to her credit, she mastered my questions and distractions so flawlessly, I followed these characters through decades and miles without a hiccup. Beautifully done. Perhaps one of the reasons I loved this book so much was the tying together of Old Testament promises and New Covenant hope. The main characters—Melchi and his family—live in the East, a land the Old Testament would recognize as Babylon. Bible history buffs will recall that as God’s judgment for worshiping false gods, the northern kingdom of Israel was exiled to Assyria, and years later, the southern kingdom of Judah—the rest of God’s people—were exiled to Babylon, and Solomon’s great Temple was destroyed. Many Israelites returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, but some Jews remained in Babylon for generations. The author weaves together these Babylonian Jews with the story of the Magi, and suddenly the “wise men” we’ve seen in every Christmas play since grade school become real men on an arduous journey to find Israel’s new king. For those who revel in bridging Old Testament stories with New Testament fulfillment and present day application, Seeker of Stars is especially rewarding. This unique Christmas story touches every human relationship. Marriage. Sibling love and rivalry. Parent/child yearning and emotion. It’s a timely reminder of the frailty of earthly relationships—when we have opportunities to unpack old baggage during holiday travels. Don’t let another Christmas pass with unspoken sentiments looming over your family. Be a Seeker of Stars, and experience the true miracle of Jesus—the Child, born King.(less)
Engaging. Inspiring. Heart- stopping and heart- rending. Harvest of God takes readers on a journey from ancient Persia to the broken-down walls of Jer...moreEngaging. Inspiring. Heart- stopping and heart- rending. Harvest of God takes readers on a journey from ancient Persia to the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, re-building our hope as Nehemiah’s story is woven through a complex plot with multi-layered characters we love and hate and then love some more. A fabulous biblical novel that sent me straight back to God’s Word!(less)
Desired: The Untold Story of Samson and Delilah is written from the point-of-view of three women in Samson’s life: his mother, a young Philistine girl...moreDesired: The Untold Story of Samson and Delilah is written from the point-of-view of three women in Samson’s life: his mother, a young Philistine girl (who becomes his wife), and finally Delilah. Ginger Garrett’s writing is phenomenal—a mastery of words and phrases that painted pictures and stole my breath. This story depicted Samson, a complex, bigger-than-life biblical character, in ways that I could apply to my daily walk with the Lord. A Samson-sized feat, indeed.
This story was not what I expected. Seeing Samson through his mother’s eyes was an unsettling conundrum. Amazon’s description labeled her as nagging and manipulative, which didn’t scratch the surface of this Hebrew mama’s impact on her miracle-boy-turned-renegade. At times, I felt embarrassed for the woman—so overbearing were her maternal instincts. I didn’t really like Samson’s Philistine wife or Delilah. I generally pitied the whole bunch! But I found myself unable to stop reading because I needed to know the fate of each one. This is where Ginger’s superb writing excelled.
The Book of Judges glimpses a time in Israel’s history when heroes were hard to find: “At that time the Israelites…went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 21:24-25
The extensive research and biblical accuracy helped explain many questions from Samson’s story in Judges 13-16. But be forewarned. This is not a novel for the faint-of-heart. Just as the stories in Judges are graphic in content and description, so Ginger’s novel describes the characters’ activities realistically—without sensationalizing.
I can sum up the message of this book with words from Samson’s mother that challenged me for days. (Don’t you love it when a book has that kind of impact?)
“I could not understand why everyone devoted themselves to understand the secret of his strength. Why did it matter? Why did no one care what his strength was for, why it had been given to him? Why did no one seek that answer? No one wanted to know. They preferred the excitement of miracles to the hard work of change, the hard work of breaking away from a culture that enslaved them all so comfortably.”(less)
Walter Wangerin writes like he speaks. I heard him speak at a conference in the late 90’s and thoroughly enjoyed his dramatic, poetic flare. He swept...moreWalter Wangerin writes like he speaks. I heard him speak at a conference in the late 90’s and thoroughly enjoyed his dramatic, poetic flare. He swept his audience into the biblical world with his rich, deep voice and lyrical prose. Breath-taking. Heart-stopping.
But 400 pages of it was a little more than I had bargained for.
I found myself tempted to skip over portions of the book because I knew that portion of the story, or I wasn’t interested in the character he was portraying at the moment. However, as I continued reading, I was captured by some outrageously wonderful description or seized with such emotion for Mary that I couldn’t see through my tears.
This book was the first of Wangerin’s work I’ve read from cover-to-cover. I’ve often read his fabulous Book of God to read a chronological retelling of a portion of Scripture. No one can write a description in the gritty, unspeakable obvious like Walt Wangerin.
He describes Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus: “Her great neck was so ringed with folds of flesh that they drove the lobes straight out below her ears.” Can’t you see a chubby Martha bustling around a house? He describes Jesus, deep in thought: “…something was on his mind, some driving conviction which he seemed, by the fierce bunching of his jaw muscles, the muscles in his temple, to be chewing, chewing, never swallowing.”
But the most precious—and soul-searching—descriptions were of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. I’ve never before been so moved by the changes she endured as the mother of a miracle, and a boy, and the Messiah: “Mary doesn’t hate the holy mysteries; but they shut her out; and if they are capable of love, it is a love too noble and composed to care about white hairs or the flab above a woman’s elbow or the insufficiencies of her soul.”
Perhaps this book affected me so deeply because, a little like Mary, I'm discovering the exquisite pain of changing relationships with my children. They're growing older, becoming less dependent on me...and I'm becoming less relevant in their everyday lives. They're now the experts on culture and the world in which we live. I've become "cute" and "precious." When did that happen? ;)
Jesus: A Novel, was a good read for me during the Fall season of the year and this season of my life. Perhaps it can speak to others during their own changing seasons.(less)
First, let me say that I seldom read YA fiction—and never speculative. However, R.J. Larson's ability to weave Old Testament tales with imaginary king...moreFirst, let me say that I seldom read YA fiction—and never speculative. However, R.J. Larson's ability to weave Old Testament tales with imaginary kingdoms and lovable monster-horses has been an incredible journey that I’ve enjoyed immensely.
Book #1 of the series, Prophet, introduced us to Ela of Parne, a young girl charged with the huge task of speaking the Infinite's message to whomever whenever He commanded. Also in that first offering, we met Kien Lantec, a spoiled and brash nobleman who matured through suffering and became the main character of Judge, Book #2 of the series. Now, in Book #3, we meet a friend of both Kien and Ela's, King Akabe, who finds himself in a circumstance similar to that of one of the Old Testament kings. Akabe of Siphra never wanted to be king in the first place.
QUICK! Can you think of an Old Testament king that was crowned unwillingly? Give up? Check out 1 Samuel 10, and there may be others.
Prophet, Judge, and King use subtle Old Testament inferences to keep Bible-lovers alert for golden threads of biblical stories woven throughout. Each book is a biblical treasure hunt, challenging the reader to apply scriptural truths in a make-believe world that then translates meaning into our daily lives.
Why make-believe? Why fantasy? Larson’s kingdoms of Siphra and Parne seem quite Victorian, and though some of the woodland and desert “creatures” are most definitely speculative, they’re used appropriately for the lessons being taught and learned. The best reason I’ve discovered for reading speculative fiction? Because when I see a concept at its barest level, without real life complications, I can then apply it more effectively to my life. Applying biblical principles to a completely fictional circumstance allows me to focus more keenly on the principle.
Here’s one example: As the book description says, Akabe of Siphrah doesn’t want to be king, but because the Infinite commands it, he obeys. A young princess, Kien Lantec, and Ela of Parne are similarly reluctant in areas of their lives—facing choices between their will or God’s will. As the story plays out, I can assess each character’s struggle to obey or disobey with utmost objectivity because I’ll never be a king, a princess, a warrior, or a prophet. I’ll never fight scalns, be held captive in a dungeon, or bring down an empire. But I WILL be called to obey my God, and this utterly fantastic story taught me more about obedience.(less)
This is the first biblical novel I’ve read by Brock and Bodie Thoene, and it engaged every element I hope for in a great Bible story. The historical d...moreThis is the first biblical novel I’ve read by Brock and Bodie Thoene, and it engaged every element I hope for in a great Bible story. The historical details were masterfully woven into the story, seasoning every character and scene perfectly—not so much that they overwhelmed or so little that they felt like an addendum.
The Thoenes presented familiar Bible characters in ways that challenged my long-held assumptions, making me re-think the identity of the woman caught in adultery, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Bethany. Who were these women, and what was their relationship with Jesus, Lazarus, and Lazarus’ sisters? Scripture gives some detail, but what does Jewish tradition say? What could we imagine to be true—given the cultural information that Brock and Bodie bring to life in such a realistic way?
I expected to find a quaint story about Lazarus and his two sisters but discovered a truly moving account of a godly, less-than-perfect, hard-working man who dealt with unforgiveness and searched for answers to the same hard questions I’ve asked my Creator. At one point, while helping his hired hand deal with a matter of revenge, Lazarus asks this searching question: “Could it be that [your current] happiness [is] more important than revenge?”
Other poignant and challenging themes run through this novel, drawing us to look deeper into ourselves and God’s Word through the eyes of these characters.
With biblical novels, we always begin reading with some knowledge of the book’s direction and ending, right? I knew When Jesus Wept would detail the scene when Jesus stood before Lazarus’ tomb and wept with Martha over her brother’s death—but I wasn’t ready for the emotions I’d feel when I read those words.
After reading this book, I understand the shortest verse in the Bible differently. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) for so much more than Martha’s grief or even His own grief at losing an earthly friend. The Thoenes describe Lazarus’ reaction to hearing Jesus’ weeping from the grave: “…his holy sob ripped me loose from the timeless conversation with the ageless ones.”
Have you ever wondered what/who Lazarus saw first when he walked out of that tomb? Brock and Bodie Thoene imagined it this way: “I [Lazarus] spotted Jesus over Mary’s shoulder. Sorrow for me filled his eyes. Of all those who witnessed my return from the vineyards of heaven to fallen earth, only Jesus knew what joy and beauty I had left behind.”
Beautifully written. Well researched. Spiritually challenging and uplifting. When Jesus Wept is a great addition to your biblical novel collection. Buy it. Read it. And then read it again.(less)
In the Shadow of Sinai tells the familiar story of the Exodus from the point-of-view of an obscure biblical character, Bezalel. Creative. Fascinating....moreIn the Shadow of Sinai tells the familiar story of the Exodus from the point-of-view of an obscure biblical character, Bezalel. Creative. Fascinating. Well-researched. Carole Towriss’ debut novel was a tantalizing snack, leaving me hungry for more from this talented author.
If you’re expecting a re-telling of Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments, don’t look here. Carole Towriss unwraps the intriguing world of Egyptian royalty, subtly inserting crucial facts and descriptions that bring scenery and landscapes to life. I SO appreciated her extensive research on the ten plagues and the herbal medications available at the time. She also answered those niggling details that I’ve often puzzled over—like: how did the Israelites win the Egyptians’ favor to ASK them for gold before they left Egypt (Ex. 12:35-36). This question and others she satisfies with creative and believable plotlines.
Shadow of Sinai gives Moses and Aaron only a minor role in the major life lessons our main character, Bezalel, must learn. As a talented young artisan in Pharaoh’s palace, his relationships draw us deep into each character’s heart. Each conflict and joy help us examine motives and emotions just like Bezalel inspects the specific metals and stones for Pharaoh’s works of art—another process in which Carole’s research shines. There were no easy answers as characters struggled with the LORD’s methods of deliverance, and I found myself asking the same hard questions—and ultimately having to rest in the same trust they had to rest in.
I’ve given this book four stars, rather than five, because though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I believe Carole’s future books will continue to improve. She’s already grabbed my attention with her passion for biblical fiction, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, By the Waters of Kadesh. For more information about Carole Towriss and her ministry, you can find her at: www.caroletowriss.com. (less)
I would give it a 3 1/2 starts if I could... I enjoyed her first book, PROPHET, more, but this one has a great ending. I'm a biblical fiction buff and...moreI would give it a 3 1/2 starts if I could... I enjoyed her first book, PROPHET, more, but this one has a great ending. I'm a biblical fiction buff and never read YA or fantasy, but I'd read the author's first book in this series, PROPHET, and was asked if I'd be willing to read the second and give an honest review. So, here goes...
PROPHET had been such a fun read, I was looking forward to the continuing adventures of Ela and Kien in JUDGE. The appearance of the monster horses, and especially Pet/Scythe, was a welcomed sight, but I was a little disappointed when Kien and Ela spent most of the book on separate journeys. HOWEVER, as I contemplated the audience for this book, I realized the genius of Ms. Larson's story. Won't most of the youth audience be "chomping at the bit" (to put it in "destroyer" terms) to get on with their lives but find themselves in much the same waiting pattern as the little prophetess and the Infinite's new judge? When I set aside my own agenda, and began reading the story with the innocence of youth, I enjoyed the anticipation, the fresh lessons, and the reunions as if they were my own.
The author's subtle references to Old Testament stories added a level of intrigue. Like a hunt for hidden treasure, I found myself reading the story of Ela and Kien while staying alert for whispers of familiar messages that had warmed my heart in years past. The ending was worth the wait, and I'll more than likely pick up KING when it hits the shelves--even though I don't read YA or fantasy! Haha! ...Except when it's written by R.J. Larson.(less)
I started a little slow on this story, not really engaging until almost 1/3 through--and then I was hooked! Oh my! I love how Laura makes us struggle...moreI started a little slow on this story, not really engaging until almost 1/3 through--and then I was hooked! Oh my! I love how Laura makes us struggle with the characters we aren't supposed to like--but we do. The characters who aren't supposed to be heroic--but are. The Christian fiction that doesn't preach--but whispers to the depths of a soul.(less)
Laura Frantz captures the reader with her voice, her characters, and her story. The Frontiersman's Daughter is a gripping tale of a wilderness Kentuck...moreLaura Frantz captures the reader with her voice, her characters, and her story. The Frontiersman's Daughter is a gripping tale of a wilderness Kentucke that I hadn't known until I opened the pages of her book. Now, I've been there, and I've experienced the hopes and fears of those living in constant tension between the white settlers and the Shawnee tribe. If you enjoy a real journey, one laced with hard questions and imperfect answers, you'll enjoy this book and love this author.(less)
I actually give it 4 1/2 stars...It was the first of Susie's books I've read (I'm a little behind the curve), but it was phenomenally written! Contemp...moreI actually give it 4 1/2 stars...It was the first of Susie's books I've read (I'm a little behind the curve), but it was phenomenally written! Contemporary fiction has to be well done to capture my attention--and she did it. Her characters were distinct and alive. The setting was familiar to me, which helped, but even if I'd never experienced Minnesota and the Great Lakes, I believe I would have felt the wind and chill of her words. Good stuff! I'll read more!(less)
I loved this book! In fact, I think Tessa Afshar is quickly becoming a new favorite author for me. I love her wit and sense of humor. The characters n...moreI loved this book! In fact, I think Tessa Afshar is quickly becoming a new favorite author for me. I love her wit and sense of humor. The characters nearly leap off the page! The settings, emotions, scenery is real and palpable. So why did I only give it 4 stars? Because I couldn't bring myself to give it 5 stars since it didn't have a strong biblical storyline. The book refers to Nehemiah (the biblical prophet) and is based on the historical context of Israel's captivity in Persia; however, the details in the plot never enticed me back to the Scriptures. My new litmus test for biblical fiction is that it must send me searching for the details in God's Word. Which is fact, and which is fiction? Did God really say that? Did that person really DO that? I didn't have any of those questions because none of the main characters were biblical characters, and my PERSONAL PREFERENCE is to read about those folks.
Was HARVEST OF RUBIES worth my time to read? ABSOLUTELY!!! I examined my heart and let the Lord work some of the lessons in my spirit that "Sarah" (the heroine) learned herself. In fact, I'll probably read this wonderful again! I'm fascinated by Tessa's mastery of the writing craft and can't wait to get my hands on her next book! (less)
I finished this book a few weeks ago, and it took me several weeks to get through. Not especially riveting, well-written, or character driven, I found...moreI finished this book a few weeks ago, and it took me several weeks to get through. Not especially riveting, well-written, or character driven, I found it tough to stick with the lengthy terrain descriptions. It gave some sense of historical context for the prophet and his relationship with Ahab/Jezebel/other prophets, but even those contexts were weakened by the lagging storyline. I'm glad I persevered--since the last few chapters of the book impressed a meaningful spiritual concept on me; however, on the whole, I wouldn't recommend this book as engaging biblical fiction.(less)