Historical fiction based on real people and events

If you are looking for action, adventure, and romance, Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt has it all. Based on the life of Judah Maccabees, Judah’s Wife is a fictional novel based on real events as told through the eyes of Judah’s wife. I am not all too familiar with the books of Maccabees as it is not included as part of my denomination’s Biblical canon, but this novel does have me interested to read it to find out more about the life of Judah and see how close the novel is to the actual events. As with the other stories I have read by Angela, I’m sure she has definitely done her research and based it as closely to the real events as possible with it still being a fictional work.

Growing up in a rough childhood with a father who was abusive to her mother, Leah wanted something better for herself. She didn’t want to become like her mother and, in her eyes, weak and not willing to stand up for herself to a man. And above all, Leah wants a marriage where she can feel safe not have to worry about anger and constant fighting. One day on the street, she happens to cross paths with Judah Maccabee who stands up for her against a group of boys who want to take advantage of her. From that point forward, Judah invades Leah’s thoughts.

Growing up, Judah didn’t have much of a desire to marry. To him, following HaShem (God) and standing up for his beliefs were more important to him that finding a women. When Judah’s father says that they are going to move to Modein to escape the religious persecution that the Jews were facing in Jerusalem around 168 B.C., he encourages Judah to find a wife from the many ladies that are an option in Jerusalem to take to Modein with them. Like Leah, Judah cannot get her off his mind either and decides that she is the one he would like to take for a wife. Leah agrees seeing that Judah is a noble man, and does not initially marry for love, but for the safety and security Judah can provide her away from her father.

Starting out on their journey of life together, Leah learns that being married to Judah is more than she ever anticipated, and while he is a good, honorable man, she does not agree with his fighting for his beliefs and contemplates leaving him. Can Leah learn to love a man who treats her well but desires to fight for what he feels is right?

Judah’s Wife is a good book and well written, but it is honestly not my favorite book by Angela; the reason is not due to anything that was written wrong with the book, but just for the fact that this book was based in a time period when there were a lot of religious freedom fighters and I’m not a huge fan of to war and fighting stories. This is a great book for those who enjoy reading fictional accounts of historical wars and it does a great job in adding the touches from what kind of armor the armies of the time would use to including the use of war elephants. Due to some of the graphic war images, I would not recommend this book for the faint of heart or young readers.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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A Deep Novel Based in the Time of Isaiah

It was a time when the kings of Judah were wicked and paganism ran rampant throughout the land, including in the Holy Temple of Yahweh. When all that was truly Holy was disregarded and replaced with idols that man had made that required sacrifices of the most horrible sort. During the reign of Ahaz, one of the most wicked rulers, a child was born who would prove to be a righteous king unlike his father. The novel Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews focuses on the life of King Hezekiah and Queen Hephzibah. While it is a fictional story based on Biblical events and passages, it is a story in a time that the author has very thoroughly researched and done a phenomenal job writing on.

The story starts around the time when Israel and Judah are at war with one another. Ishma (future Queen Hephzibah) and her friend Yaira are trying to escape to Jerusalem after the murder of Ishma’s parents by Israeli soldiers so they can live with Yaira’s brother Micah. Due to the horrible image of seeing her parents murdered in front of her, Ishma is left temporarily unable to speak. Upon finding Micah, he recommends that they actually go live with the prophet Isaiah who can take care of them and give them the best chance of having the life they need. Around this time, Isaiah is also summoned to be a teacher to the children of royal heritage in the palace.

Hezekiah has witnessed more than most children his age should have to witness in his few short years of life. One such incident was so horrifying that he has all but lost the will to live and by the time Ishma meets him, he is essentially reduced to a breathing corpse and unwilling to talk. One day, Isaiah’s wife, Aya, meets with her friend (and Ahaz’s wife) Queen Abijah and encourage Ishma and Hezekiah to spend time together and develop a friendship. Turns out that Ishma is the only one who is able to coax Hezekiah back to full life and over the years, the friendship grows and strengthens and develops in to something more, but knowing that she is not of royal blood, Ishma finds herself content to be Hezekiah’s friend for life.

In the meantime, Isaiah and Aya have grown to love Ishma as their own and see the love Ishma and Hezekiah have for one another. Upon prompting from Yahweh, they decide to legally adopt Ishma as their own daughter so that she can have the royal pedigree needed to marry Hezekiah. Ishma’s name no longer is “Desolate”, but instead, they change it to “Hephzibah” which means “delight of the Lord”. Together Hezekiah and Hephzibah become a couple who work to eradicate the idols out of Judah and bring the country back to worship the one true God, Yahweh.

This is not one of those light reading books that you can sit down with and read in one night. While it is very interesting, it is also very complex and gives you a lot to think about as you read, and honestly, some of the content is heavy. It is neat how Mesu integrates Scripture in with the book. At the beginning of each chapter, she includes a chronological scripture reference to the time of Hezekiah and Hephzibah and bases that part of the story about what happens after that particular passage or in direct relation to. I truly enjoy when authors take a character from the Bible and without taking away from what the Bible directly says about them, also tries to fictionalize the character a bit, not to take away from the Bible, but to maybe imagine what the character’s life was like and maybe what drove some of their motives. These characters and the time frame has been well researched by Mesu down to details like different customs of the time and even research into rabbinical literature and Bible text saying that Manasseh (Hezekiah and Hephzibah’s son) was the maternal grandson of Isaiah and putting that all together and really bringing it to life in the person of Hephzibah.

While I truly enjoyed this book, this is not a novel that I will be allowing my children to read until they are older and it is not one that the faint of heart will want to read. There is nothing that they can’t necessarily read in the book, but being true to the time frame it was written in, there are a lot of concepts in it that would be extremely difficult for the less mature reader to understand and grasp its place in the novel. Also, there was one scene especially that was really graphic and horrific (and probably very true to that time) that made me cringe and just about in tears after reading it at the very beginning. If you want a good, solid read about a Biblical character, I do recommend this book.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

 

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A Charming Historical Romance

Lovely Lola Bell has been the dance hall singer at the Cat-Eye Saloon for years and is secure in her position and has fans that adore her, until the saloon’s owner, Tim-Bob, brings a newer, younger singer in to take her place, just as she had done to the singer before her. Tim-Bob promises a place to stay briefly while she looks to find a new job, but Lola denies his offer because she does not want to find herself in a compromising position of a lot of the upstairs girls. Knowing she has a brother out west in the army who has had a bit of a scrape with some of the higher ups due to reckless behavior, she decides to head to Fort Reno in hopes of at least securing a job providing entertainment to the soldiers there and keeping an eye on her brother.

The last stop in a town before Fort Reno completely changes everything for her. While waiting for her ride to the fort, she happens across a widow named Mrs. Townsend who was going to be a governess at the fort but has decided that going out west is a bit much for her health and has decided to go back to Kansas. Once Mrs. Townsend finds out Lola is going to the fort, she asks if Lola could at least bring the books she was carrying out there to Major Adams for her and Lola consents. The stage to the fort is running a bit behind, so a young boy decides to take Lola out fishing with him, but only brings one pole not anticipating Lola wanting to fish; instead, she takes the opportunity to burst into song in the open meadow and sees a man riding standing on the horse in the distance. Unbeknownst to her, it is Major Adams, who is so taken aback by hearing a women singing in the middle of nowhere that he falls off his horse and is injured. Lola quickly rushes to his side and he is smitten by the beauty of the angel he thinks has rescued him.

Upon arriving at the fort, with books in tow, Lola is mistaken for a governess, Miss Louisa. And not only that, but Louisa finds out that she is not just a governess to anyone, but to Major Adam’s daughters. Everyone quickly recognizes that she is not the widow Mennonite who was sent to be the governess, but a replacement. This is not a problem for Louisa because she is the dance hall singer Lovely Lola Bell and she has amazed and captivated audiences before, so this will be one more part she has to play, at least until she can find a way to get on her feet. The Major is not too utterly convinced that Louisa is a governess as she says she is, but she urges him to give her 1 week to prove that she has what it takes for the job.

Apart from her studying every night to get ahead of the girls in their lessons, since she was never much into to schooling herself, she comes across as a normal governess, but Major Adams still senses something is a bit amiss. He writes to the Mennonite Missionary Agency where Louisa supposedly came from to get her credentials and references to see if she really is who she says she is. In the meantime, Louisa is doing a fantastic job with the girls and they are actually enjoying being her pupil and Major Adams finds that Louisa has a bit of a knack for chess and has been moving his pawns to continue on the game- an equal to the game of chess that he has not had in awhile. He decides to start inviting her into his study on an evening by evening basis to play the game with him, which has begins to enjoy.

When the letter finally comes from the missionary agency, will he want to even know what truths the letter exposes and will Louisa be able to keep up her guise much longer, especially when her heart is at stake.

You will be drawn into the novel Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings. This was a fast read because it was so entertaining and had a well developed story line. Even though it does deal with some scenes in a saloon and Louisa being a dance hall singer, there is nothing in this book that is not appropriate for any age reader.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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Comedy and Romance Rolled into One

When you are the paid companion to an elderly lady who has a bad habit of “borrowing” expensive items and requesting that you return them to their rightful places at another time, it causes you to look mischievous and causes a lot of misperceptions about your person; this is exactly what Gertrude has found out while working for Mrs. Davenport for several years, especially when she is caught trying to once again put something back on a yacht that belongs to her good friend Harrison Sinclair.

Gertrude and Mrs. Davenport are attending the engagement celebration of their friends Permilia and Asher (from Jen Turano’s book Behind the Scenes), and Gertrude does her best to keep track of Mrs. Davenport, but she encounters a problem while she is trying to find Mrs. Davenport- the birdcage bustle that Mrs. Davenport (believing she has an exquisite taste for designing the latest trends) fashions for her gets caught on a fainting couch and gives her an ordeal to try to escape the bustle and couch. For the briefest time, Clementine Flowerdew (cousin of her friend Temperance) offers to help get her unstuck in exchange, she wants Gertrude to help her gain the affections of Harrison since they are such good friends. Gertrude does not agree and Clementine is on her way. Thankfully Permilia happens to walk by and see that she has herself in a bind and helps her out. Gertrude finds Mrs. Davenport and believes they are clear of her pilfering, until a few days later when she is asked to return the items to the yacht.

Fed up with having to return things for Mrs. Davenport all the time, Gertrude puts in her resignation as the paid companion and hesitantly goes to return the items to the yacht, gaining access by claiming that she was to meet Harrison’s sister onboard the yacht. Well, in the process of returning the items, she is caught by none other than Harrison’s mother and promptly whisked off to jail. She tries to explain to the detective for hours that she is not the actual one stealing the items, but instead returning them. She is rescued by Harrison and the detective believes none of their story, but is convinced that Gertrude is a disgruntled employee looking to frame her employer. Harrison decides to literally just pick her up and whisk her away from the police station.

Harrison and Gertrude go to find Mrs. Davenport and find her at a church cleaning a stained glass window high up on a ladder. She has a terrible fall and almost injures herself, but Harrison rushes in again to save the day. Harrison finds he has fallen for Gertrude as more than a friend and she him, but when he goes to declare his intentions, he finds out some elderly ladies want to take her in to prepare her to be introduced in to society. Mistaking a look in her eyes for horror of what he is going to do, he decides not to and leaves them both disappointed. After that issue, Harrison searches for several ways to try to win Gertrude’s heart back.

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano is a book her readers will enjoy. Incorporating old characters and new characters, it allows you to see what is going on with old favorites as well as taking a new twist on the setting with new characters. Filled with laughs and adventure and romance, this is a book that is plenty suitable for readers of any age.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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Not Just for Homeschoolers

When I first saw Tim Tebow’s book, Know Who You Are, Live Like It Matters: A Homeschooler’s Interactive Guide to Discovering Your True Identity my first thought was “I don’t homeschool my children, will this really be something that they can relate to”. My second thought was “I do want them to know who they are apart from what this world says they are though”. So after a slight bit of hesitancy, I figured I would get this book to see what it was about and if it could apply to my children as well.

As a guy who was homeschooled as a kid himself, Tim can easily relate to homeschoolers. In the aspect I am looking at the book in, as a guy who was once a teen, he can also relate to that stage in an individual’s life as well. This book is divided into 36 chapters for 36 weeks of lessons and each week falls into one of 4 parts he has laid out: “Who Are You”, “Don’t Sweat It; God’s Got It”, “Other’s Matter”, and “Live Bigger”. Each weekly lesson starts off with a Bible verse and from there, Tim goes in to discuss the verse a little more in a way that a teen can understand, complete with a relatable story from his life that demonstrates something about the verse. Believing in the power of writing to help teach, Tim poses 2 questions at the end of each chapter and asks the student to describe what they thought, or what they have/would do in such situations. He encourages the student to use the whole space to write, but not take longer than 30 minutes and not to think too hard on the topic so it loses the honesty of the answer, but to answer truthfully with what first comes to mind. After the student is through writing, he presents a thought for the student to think about for the week.

Tim’s faith definitely shines through in this book. He inspires the teen not only to know who they are to themselves, but most importantly know who they are through God’s eyes. He is raw and honest sometimes in the book too, admitting he is not a perfect person and has his flaws too (like at times being over competitive), but he uses those instances to show how God can mold and shape a person and how they can learn to rise above those instances to be the person that God intended them to be.

I have to admit, due to a very busy holiday season, I have only done one of the lessons with my kids, but once things calm down a little bit, I intend to keep going on it. So far from the one lesson, my kids thought he was very easy to understand and like how he “talks” directly to them through the book. I even got a bit of a chuckle out of them at some points he said. Tim Tebow is definitely a great role model to look up to for homeschool and public school kids alike and this book makes it almost seem like he is the big brother giving his little sibling some sound advice.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

 

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An Interesting Biblical Character Study

Not often do I recommend a book to someone before I finish reading it, but The Most Important Women of the Bible by Aaron and Elaina Sharp is one that I knew my grandparents would enjoy for a Bible study and so when we were at a Christian bookstore recently, that is exactly what I did. This little book is packed full of interesting facts and tidbits and studies about some of the most impactful women in the Bible.

Sure, we all know about Mary and Elizabeth and Rahab, but this character study also delves into some of the lesser known (or thought of, much less preached on) ladies in the Bible, such as Lydia and Phoebe. There are 31 chapters total in this study and each chapter features a different lady. Each chapter begins with a quote from a well-known source (such as writings of Charles Spurgeon or John Milton) some background information on the woman and perhaps the area she is from or the customs of the time and of course where exactly she is found at in the Bible for your reference. After you become a little more familiar with the lady, Aaron and Elaina explain what makes this lady important and what we can take away from each lady’s life and how God used that particular’s life for His purpose. If you are a numbers person, they give a list of significant numbers in this characters life (ie how much money the widow who gave 2 mites actually amounted to in currency the modern reader can understand). At the end of each chapter are some questions to ponder that would also make good discussion questions for a small group study or just for the reader to think about.

While some of the chapters are quite a bit shorter than others, The Most Important Women of the Bible is not a shallow character study. It is chocked full of interesting information and many times I wished I had my highlighter or a pen with me as I was reading because there were several points that struck a chord with me and really got me to thinking about situations in my life. And some of the points, I felt God tugging on my heartstrings. Now that I have fully read it, I will still say that I do recommend it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, young, or old; there is something everyone can take out of and being written by a husband and wife team, it is not overly flowery to where it would lose a guy, but it add richness to the context of the study.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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Two Interesting Stories Woven into One

Three years ago, Jessica Bachmann left the Amish way of life and her family because of a clash with her half-brother on how to best utilize their farmland upon their father’s passing. Once in the English world, she begins researching the effects of fracking on the land to learn as much as she can to try to prevent it. When her boss and beau, Tom, gives her the opportunity to write an article on fracking and to interview a local Amish man who claims his wife developed cancer and other health problems because of it, she jumps at the opportunity and is grateful to finally be able to put her knowledge of the subject to use. An unexpected call from her sister, Leisel, informs Jessica that her father struggled with a cough over the winter and eventually passed. Not wanting to miss the funeral, Jessica decides to take a week off of work to travel to her home right in the middle of Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Old feelings begin to stir within her as she arrives in Lancaster, both good and bad. She sees her old beau, Silas, talking what she assumes exclusively with another girl and hears that they may be courting and she can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy and remorse remembering what they were at one time. Several things on the farm remind her of him, including a large oak tree in her family’s yard that they considered “their tree”. During her visit, she also learns, from a piece of paper that was strategically placed by her sister, that her older half-brother is indeed planning on fracking the land. Can her article about the Amish family whose water got contaminated and made them ill from the fracking persuade more people to find ways to make money from their land that doesn’t involve fracking, including her brother and can she cope with the idea of living apart from her childhood upbringing for the rest of her life?

Seeing her confusion, her Aunt Suz decides to tell her a story about a family member, Ruby Bachmann, who lived during the American Revolutionary War. Since the Amish are pacifists, some of Ruby’s brothers and her beau, Paul, travel to find new land in Canada so they are not required to fight in the war or pay the war tax to keep out of the war. Ruby is expected to stay behind with her ailing mother and her brother Zachary and keep guard over the farm while they are away. Going against the Amish beliefs, her brother Zachary feels a pull towards supporting the Patriots’ cause and enlists in the military leaving Ruby and her mother alone. Eventually, their mother passes away and Ruby is left to work on the farm all by herself. Their neighbor, Old Man Wallis, has a nephew who came to help out with his farm and agrees to help Ruby out with her farm until someone returns for her or to sell the land. Duncan is a wounded war veteran himself and they start to hit it off well. When they get word that Zachary is wounded in Valley Forge, Duncan agrees to go with Ruby to bring Zachary home and they agree to let Zachary return when he is better, but instead Duncan tells the general that he will take his place. Ruby and Zachary feel greatly indebted to Duncan. Along the way, Duncan and Ruby realize that they have feelings for one another, but Ruby is torn between being with a man she loves who does not necessarily share her Amish faith, although he believes in God, or to stay with a man she does not love and live in the world she was raised in.

Both Jessica and Ruby have a choice to make, will they choose to be with the one they love or the one they know will provide them security without much love. And when is it that childhood traditions are overridden by what the heart longs for.

A Plain Leaving (The Sisters of Lancaster County, Book 1) by Leslie Gould is a very fascinating story in that it is actually two stories in one; and both stories are excellently written and interesting. Even though it is two stories written into one story, they blend well into the overall storyline and plot of the book. Leslie definitely has a lot of talent being able to create a work like this and managing to keep the stories separate, yet woven together. The stories of Ruby and Jessica will keep the reader turning the page. This is a beautifully written novel that is suitable for any age.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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