Bread of Angels, by Tessa Afshar

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant’s daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father’s secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances—along with her father’s precious dye—help her become one of the city’s preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can’t outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

First Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the first novel I read by Tessa Afshar, so I’m looking forward to her characterization of Lydia.

My Take:

What do we know about Lydia? Her story is encapsulated in just three verses in the 16th chapter of the Book of Acts. She’s described as a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira. When she met Paul, she was in Philippi. She must have doing reasonably well in her business, enough that the home to which she invites Paul is described as being hers. In Bread of Angels, Afshar paints a vivid picture of life in Philippi during Lydia’s time and includes a varied cast of characters, from Roman generals to slaves.

The tale opens with a prologue set in AD51. Lydia is writing a letter in her mind and two sentences immediately spoke to me. “How laughable our plans sometimes seem in the light of eternity. How blessed when they are destroyed.” People who know me have often heard me groan when plans don’t go as they should. How often I’ve had to remind myself about God being in control. The narrative then takes the reader back to AD25 and we are formally introduced to Lydia, the motherless daughter of a well-known purple merchant. An injury to her father causes Lydia to meet a Roman citizen who seemingly takes a shine to her. Knowing from the overview that Lydia was to face betrayal, I felt a sinking in my stomach when his mother offered to financially assist Lydia and her father.

The overriding theme of Bread of Angels is about placing your full confidence in God and trusting in Him to provide. Lydia learns to see His provision daily, not just for her but for those around her. Her guide is a young Jewish woman named Rebekah and, it is through her, that Lydia becomes the Godfearer she’s described as in Acts. The title comes from a description of the manna God provided during the Exodus after the Hebrews complained of hunger. He gave them the manna, but they had to look to Him to provide it. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of it as being “that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” He then went on to say that he was the bread of life, which Lydia ultimately received when she met Paul.

Thank you to Tyndale and the Tyndale Blog Network for my complimentary copy of Bread of Angels, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Bread of Angels? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Tyndale

Publication Date: 06 June 2017

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Tessa Afshar’s Website   Tyndale’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

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Wings of the Wind, by Connilyn Cossette

book cover Wings of the WindPublisher’s Overview:

Can vengeance give way to forgiveness when one woman’s destiny becomes entangled with the very enemies she sought to destroy?

Motherless and raised alongside her brothers, Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting. When her father and brothers are killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.

Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, has spent his share of time on the battlefield and is shocked to find an unconscious woman among the casualties. Compelled to bring her to a healer back at the Hebrew camp, he’s unprepared for the consequences of what he intended as an act of compassion.

In order to survive, Alanah must unite with her enemy. But will a terrible revelation drive her toward an even greater danger?

First Thoughts:

I chose to read this book because it followed on from Counted With the Stars and Shadow of the Storm. It does, however, appear to be set much later in the Exodus, and I’m wondering how much commonality there will be between the books.

My Take:

Wings of the Wind is one of those Biblically-based novels that reminds me how little I really know the Old Testament. I didn’t know about many of the battles they faced, and my eyes have often glazed over the various rules by which they were expected to abide. The premise of this novel is that Tobiah is compelled to marry the female warrior he captures on the battlefield. On the one hand, marrying a captured woman was permissible according to Deuteronomy 21 but, on the other, it would’ve been forbidden according to Deuteronomy 7 since Alanah was a Canaanite. I’m still slightly confused, but Connilyn Cossette seems to have taken a middle ground by describing Alanah as a Canaanite who had no faith in the Canaanite gods and hated the pagan rituals of her people.

This is the final book in the Out From Egypt series and takes place approximately 37 years after the previous two. The majority of characters are new, but it was good to see at least one familiar figure. It isn’t necessary to read the series in chronological order, but I’d suggest doing so anyway. It does follow the Biblical narrative of the Israelites’ time in the wilderness, as described in Numbers 21 and Joshua chapters two through six. There are mentions of God providing fresh water and manna, of their growing boredom of His provision, of Korah’s rebellion and fate, the various battles fought, and the vital action around the walls of Jericho. And, not to spoil things too much, but I was surprised to see Cossette weave another important Biblical figure into the story. It isn’t so much that the character appears, but how they feature.

While I don’t think Wings of the Wind is the best book in this trilogy it is, nevertheless, a good read. The young Hebrew woman, Moriyah, becomes a sympathetic character in the novel and I closed the book wanting to know what happened to her. The good news for me is that it looks as though she’ll appear as the main character in a new book by Cossette next year.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Wings of the Wind, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Wings of the Wind? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 02 May 2017

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Connilyn Cossette’s Website  Bethany House’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Alabaster, by Chris Aslan

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Maryam is stuck in an abusive marriage, living with her in-laws in a conservative, toxically religious village. A few years back, her father was given a jar of priceless perfume by a dying leper and it seemed as if their fortunes would improve, but then Maryam’s father contracted leprosy and was exiled from the village. Maryam and her siblings, Eleazar and Marta, experience the shame and ostracism this brings. The precious jar that was meant to bring them freedom has only brought destruction. But rumors abound concerning a new doctor; perhaps hope is on the horizon…

First Thoughts:

This had such an intriguing description that I just had to read this debut work of fiction.

My Take:

Alabaster begins ominously with a young woman experiencing an earthquake and its aftermath. We learn immediately that she’s treated like a slave by her husband’s family, is a mere 15 years of age, and has an older sister who lives alone. While the earthquake has caused some damage in the village, and a nearby family has suffered a fatality, Maryam is relieved to find that her family’s most precious possession has survived. From there, the first person narrative goes back to the time when Maryam and her father came across a dying leper in their olive grove. Her father’s choice of grace over Mosaic Law came from a good heart, but when he paid for it later the family was plunged into shame. The story continues to go back and forth in time, which I found confusing until I realized that the tense changed with each switch.

Aslan’s debut work of fiction has some wonderful moments. When the sisters learn they’re to host an important visitor you can feel the excitement. When a woman is found guilty of adultery and the sentence is carried out you understand her mother’s pain. I had read three-quarters of the book when I came upon a scene I immediately recognized. I don’t want to give anything away, but at that point I realized who the sisters were and I looked at them differently from then on. Other familiar scenes followed. I read Alabaster during Holy Week and found it to be a very appropriate tale. Overall, I loved reading this novel, found it far too short, and am looking forward to its follow-up whenever it’s released.

Thank you to Kregel for my complimentary copy of Alabaster, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Alabaster? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Kregel Publications

Publication Date: 27 March 2017

Page Count: 208

Read more on:   Chris Aslan’s Website   Kregel’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com