Tag Archives: Biblical fiction

Book Review: On This Foundation

8 Jan

When news that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire, Nehemiah, Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia, seeks God’s guidance. After fasting and prayer, he’s given leave to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, not anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and halt the work. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is a powerful exploration of faith in the midst of oppression, and hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.

 

Lynn Austin is the author of many Christian fiction novels and holds the record for most Christy Awards won: eight. One of her books, Hidden Places was turned into a Hallmark Channel movie. She and her husband have three children and live in the Chicago area.

 

My Impressions:

On This Foundation, the third and concluding novel in Lynn Austin’s Restoration Chronicles, has been on my shelf way too long. I read the first two books, Return to Me and Keepers of The Covenant, in quick succession. Why, oh why, did I wait so long to read this wonderful novel? I can only plead ignorance — ignorance to how great this thoroughly researched and beautifully constructed book is. I expect writing Biblical fiction can be a daunting task, but Austin makes it look effortless. From the opening page to the last sentence, I devoured this book. It gets a highly recommended rating from me!

On This Foundation tells the story of Nehemiah, cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, who takes on the challenge of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He is heartbroken by the state of his nation and the city that houses the worship center of the Almighty One. His determination to glorify God fuels the project threatened by obstacles from without and within Jerusalem.

Because On This Foundation is a re-telling of a Biblical story, it had to be accurate. As I read, I referred to the Biblical record to ensure that Austin had her facts straight. She did! The novel also did what all great Christian fiction should do — it pointed me to what God had to say on the matter. Nehemiah is believably written. He is an heroic figure, but has flaws common to all men. That’s important to portray, since God always chooses regular people to achieve his goals. I liked that Austin had Nehemiah struggle with trusting God and focusing on His goals. There are two other storylines that added depth to the story. Austin’s use of women characters makes the novel real and relatable. Trust in God is a major theme for these characters as well. As one character puts it — “All our lives, we’ve believed that Abba’s decisions were for our own good. We have to trust our heavenly Father the same way. Everything He does is for our good and for His purposes, even if we don’t understand it.” Prayer also plays a significant role in the life of the characters, and they have the same doubts and fears as the modern-day reader. Although On This Foundation takes place in 445 BC, its message is spot-on for contemporary readers.

On This Foundation is part of a series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. I am using it in my Faith And Fiction Bible study later this month and am looking forward to its being a great compliment to our Bible study.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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Top 10 Tuesday — Winter TBR

28 Nov

Although winter is officially a few weeks away, it is never too early to make a list for those long evenings when only a cup of something warm, a cozy chair and afghan, and a good book will do. Here’s my Top 10 Winter TBR — including review books and book club selections. Looks like I have a lot of good reading ahead! For more reading lists for the long winter months, check out The Broke And The Bookish.

 

Top 10 Winter TBR

The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall

Guilt by Association by Heather Day Gilbert

The Heart Between Us by Lindsey Harrel

Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman

In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

Life on The Porcelain Edge by C. E. Hilbert

A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith

A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner

Stars in The Grass by Ann Marie Stewart

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris

 

What’s on your winter TBR list?

 

 

Book Review: Delilah

6 Oct

A Complex and Compelling Glimpse at One of the Bible’s Baddest Girls

Life is not easy in Philistia, especially not for a woman and child alone. When beautiful, wounded Delilah finds herself begging for food to survive, she resolves that she will find a way to defeat all the men who have taken advantage of her. She will overcome the roadblocks life has set before her, and she will find riches and victory for herself.

When she meets a legendary man called Samson, she senses that in him lies the means for her victory. By winning, seducing, and betraying the hero of the Hebrews, she will attain a position of national prominence. After all, she is beautiful, she is charming, and she is smart. No man, not even a supernaturally gifted strongman, can best her in a war of wits.

Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With nearly five million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to novels.

Now that her two children are grown, Angie and her youth-pastor husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watching Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards–one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City. Afterward, the dog gave out paw-tographs at the airport.

When she’s not home writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.

Readers may visit her web site at http://www.angelahuntbooks.com.

My Impressions:

Whether it’s contemporary women’s fiction or Biblical fiction, I have found all of Angela Hunt’s novels to be excellent choices. Her writing style suits me, and she always has well-developed characters. So when it came to choosing a novel for a Faith And Fiction Bible study I lead, my first choice was Delilah: Treacherous Beauty. Taking a well-known story, Hunt has created a novel with a credible backstory and a lead character more human than the evil harlot most often depicted. My group found the book highly readable, and found it caused us to re-read the Scripture — a double win for us. We rate Delilah highly recommended.

I maintain that writing Biblical fiction is extremely difficult, more so than a more typical historical novel. The writer has to maintain authenticity and keep true to scripture while creating not a dusty commentary, but an intriguing and readable book. Hunt showed she did her homework in her depiction of the culture of the time of the Judges. Her re-telling of the Biblical narrative was faithfully rendered. She didn’t limit her story to only what was going on in Judges 13-16, but included details from other contemporary scripture creating a well-rounded view of the life and times of the characters. Characterization was excellent in Delilah. The story is told from the first person viewpoints of Samson and Delilah giving insight into their motivations and feelings. Yes this book is fiction and some liberty had to be taken, but I never felt anything was inappropriate or unbelievable. As a compliment to the Bible study, Delilah really was a great choice. Even the non-readers of the group enjoyed a fresh look at the Bible. And as stated above, this novel had us double checking what we read in our Bible. We had missed or overlooked some things, that proved to be important to understanding what God was actually doing. One member of my group stated that the story we learned as children was more complex than thought. And God does show up in this novel. Hunt weaves His presence and His truth throughout the book.

For fans of Biblical fiction, Delilah is a must read. It is part of the Dangerous Beauty series, but each book in the series is a standalone novel.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Book Review: Lydia: Woman of Philippi

5 Oct

About the Book:

Name of book: Lydia

Author: Diana Wallis Taylor

Genre: Biblical Fiction

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Smart, strong, and a follower of the Jewish God, Lydia has nonetheless quietly conformed to the expectations of the wealthy Roman society into which she was born. Her father marries her off at age fifteen to a much older man whom she dislikes. Despite an unpleasant wedding and a marriage that doesn’t improve with age, Lydia remains a dutiful and faithful wife. When her husband is killed, years later, Lydia vows to remain single and returns to her father’s house in Thyatira with her twelve-year-old daughter.

There, a new life begins to emerge as she is trained in the family dye business. Lydia displays an aptitude for trade in the male-dominated world of first century commerce. Her brother, who had chosen service in the Roman army rather than work in his father’s business, is at odds with his sister. Jealous of her quiet success as she learns the dye business, he’s especially befuddled by what he considers to be Lydia’s obsession with the Jewish religion. When their father dies, Cassius inherits the family’s home; Lydia inherits the business, and unbeknownst to her brother, a small villa in the city of Philippi.

Lydia flees with her mother and daughter to Philippi where she sets up shop. At the mercy of a patriarchal society, Lydia needs a man to serve as the public face for her business. She discovers the right person in the handsome face of Greek man she’d hired — an employee with whom she develops a close friendship. The plot thickens as Lydia meets a strange man named Paul the apostle who is stirring up crowds in town. When Lydia’s brother shows up in Philippi, determined to force her to sell the business, he discovers plenty of fuel to accomplish his goals.

Click to purchase your copy.

About the Author:

Diana Wallis Taylor is best known for her creative stories based on women in the Bible. Thousands have read and enjoyed her books including Mary Chosen of God, Ruth, Mother of Kings, Martha, Journey to the Well, Mary Magdalene, and Claudia, Wife of Pontius Pilate. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors with the San Diego Library naming her one of 12 “Writers to Watch” in 2017 for Mary, Chosen of God. Her books have received Gold and Silver Medallion Awards for Christian Fiction and she is a San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild “Writer of the Year.” Mary, Chosen of God is a 2017 Christy Award nominee. An inspirational speaker, Diana also leads creative writing and poetry workshops. She lives in San Diego with her husband, Frank. They have six grown children and ten grandchildren

 

My Impressions:

For me, a Biblical novel should create a sense of the cultural and political atmosphere relevant for the time and place, include characters who are faithful to their time, but are relatable to a modern reader, and have a strong foundation in scripture. Lydia:Woman of Philippi by Diana Wallis Taylor achieves all three. From the opening pages I became immersed in the world in which Lydia lived. The patriarchal society was a strong influence in Lydia’s life, yet she endeavored to be an independent woman, both in her finances and thought. Taylor created a very credible backstory for Lydia in which her upbringing, unhappy marriage, and business struggles shaped her into a woman ready to meet her Savior. There are, of course, many historical figures within the novel — Paul, Silas, Timothy, yet the fictional characters that surround Lydia are wonderful additions to the narrative. I especially liked the romance that Taylor adds to the story. Lydia’s encounter with Paul and the subsequent change in her and her household’s life was depicted in a beautiful way. Throughout the novel, Taylor endeavored to be faithful to scripture, and I feel on the most part she was successful. There was only one scene in which I felt she strayed a bit from what the Bible teaches. It did not keep me from enjoying the novel and in turn recommending it to those who enjoy Biblical fiction.

All in all, this book is a great addition to my library.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Celebrate Lit for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Blog Stops

A Bakers Perspective, October 3

Carpe Diem, October 3

Moments Dipped in Ink, October 4

Books, Books, and More Books., October 4

By The Book, October 5

A Simply Enchanted Life, October 5

Red Headed Book Lady, October 6

Blogging With Carol, October 6

A Reader’s Brain, October 7

A Greater Yes, October 7

Just the Write Escape, October 8

Simple Harvest Reads, October 8 (Spotlight)

Aryn the Libraryan, October 9

Cordially Barbara, October 9

Pursuing Stacie, October 9

The Fizzy Pop Collection, October 10

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 10

Zerina Blossom’s Books, October 11

Mary Hake, October 11

Radiant Light, October 12

Singing Librarian Books, October 12

Lights in a Dark World, October 12

margaretkazmierczak, October 13

Pause for Tales, October 13

Tell Tale Book Reviews, October 14

Cafinated Reads, October 14

To Everything A Season, October 14

Bigreadersite, October 15

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 15

Henry Happens, October 16

For The Love of Books, October 16

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, October 16

Giveaway

In honor of her tour, Diana is giving away:

Grand Prize Package: Lydia, Woman of Philippi, “Give Thanks” painting on plate by Donna White for The Hearthside Collection, Inc., commemorative Whitaker House/Anchor Distributors coloring book (not in photo).

1st Place Package: Lydia, Woman of Philippi, abba Jerusalem pillar candle, cassia scented, commemorative Whitaker House/Anchor Distributors coloring book (not in photo).

2nd Place Package: Lydia, Woman of Philippi, abba Jerusalem Spikenard candle tin with lid!

Click the link to enter! https://promosimple.com/ps/c173

Top 10 Tuesday — Fall TBR List

19 Sep

Can you believe that in two days it will be Fall?! Here in middle Georgia the department stores are sporting Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decor for sale, but the temperatures are hovering in the Summer-range, so Fall doesn’t seem that imminent. But what is imminent is my Fall TBR list (or pile!). The folks at The Broke And The Bookish are asking bloggers to share what they will be reading in the next few months, and I am always eager to oblige. I have a wide variety of reading ahead of me — historical, romance, contemporary, mystery/suspense, and interestingly enough, a couple of Christmas novels! So without further ado, my Fall TBR List!

Top Ten Books on My TBR List

The Case of The Clobbered Cad by Debra E. Marvin

Charming The Troublemaker by Pepper Basham

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Christy by Catherine Marshall

Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport

Deeds of Darkness by Mel Starr

How Sweet The Sound by Amy Sorrells 

Lydia by Diana Wallis Taylor

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris

What are you reading this Fall?

 

 

September Book Club Selections

1 Sep

Big news this month!

First, By The Book is celebrating its 15th Anniversary! Woo hoo! We will be reading a novel by South African author, Irma Joubert, titled Child of The River. I read and loved The Girl from The Train and am excited to dig into this book.

Second, Page Turners is combining Bible study and book club for the next three months in what we are calling The Faith And Fiction Study. In September we are studying the story of Samson and Delilah from Judges 13-16 and reading Delilah: Treacherous Beauty by Angela Hunt. I am very much looking forward to this combo of my two favorite things — fiction and the Bible.

Check out both of our selections!

Persomi is young, white, and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm in the South African Bushveld. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her, escaping the brutality and squalor of her family home through the newspapers and books passed down to her from the main house and through her walks in the nearby mountains.

Persomi’s close relationship with her older brother Gerbrand and her fragile friendship with Boelie Fourie—heir to the Fourie farm and fortune—are her lifeline and her only connection to the outside world. When Gerbrand leaves the farm to fight on the side of the Anglos in WWII and Boelie joins an underground network of Boer nationalists, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, a native country that values justice and equality, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of war and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is, where she belongs, and why her life — and every life — matters.

The English language publication of Child of the River solidifies Irma Joubert as a unique and powerful voice in historical fiction.

 

Life is not easy in Philistia, especially not for a woman and child alone. When beautiful, wounded Delilah finds herself begging for food to survive, she resolves that she will find a way to defeat all the men who have taken advantage of her. She will overcome the roadblocks life has set before her, and she will find riches and victory for herself.

When she meets a legendary man called Samson, she senses that in him lies the means for her victory. By winning, seducing, and betraying the hero of the Hebrews, she will attain a position of national prominence. After all, she is beautiful, she is charming, and she is smart. No man, not even a supernaturally gifted strongman, can best her in a war of wits.

Top 10 Tuesday: Best of 2017 (So Far)

27 Jun

The folks at The Broke And The Bookish have charged bloggers with a hard task this week — pick 10 Best Books of 2017. Even though 2017 is just 6 month old, this has a been a great year of books for me and picking just 10 was a challenge. So of course, I narrowed the list to an even dozen! Six historical and six contemporary (post-1960) gems filled with wonderful characters, beautiful writing, and themes of grace, mercy and faith. I am sure you will love these books too. (Click on the links for my reviews.) For other bloggers’ lists, be sure to visit HERE.

 

Top 12 Books I Have Read in 2017 

Historical

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd

Redeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith

The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton

 

Contemporary (post-1960)

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

True to You by Becky Wade

Why The Sky Is Blue by Susan Meissner

 

What are some of your fav reads from 2017?