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

Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story, by Jill Eileen Smith

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

One devoted woman is about to discover the power of love

When famine visits Bethlehem, some hold out hope for rain, while Naomi and her family make a long journey to Moab in search of greener pastures. The harvest there is plentiful, and for a time it appears the Lord is blessing them. But when calamities strike, one after another, Naomi is left alone in a foreign land with only her widowed daughters-in-law for comfort.

Downhearted and destitute, Naomi is determined to return to Bethlehem alone. But her daughter-in-law Ruth refuses to leave her side. Despite the fact that she and Naomi will almost certainly live out their days in widowhood and poverty, Ruth holds out hope for a better future . . . and maybe even a second chance at love.

First Thoughts:

It’s an honor to review any novel by Jill Eileen Smith. I’ve been highly impressed with many of her previous titles and they’ve often helped me look at the featured Bible story with fresh eyes. I’m hoping for the same with her interpretation of Ruth.

My Take:

Once again, Jill Eileen Smith has taken a well-known Bible story and brought it to life. The story of Ruth begins with her future mother-in-law assisting Boaz’s wife in childbirth. It establishes Naomi as a woman who is familiar with Boaz and his family, placing Boaz as her husband’s cousin and creating a brother-in-law as well to act as the relative closer to Naomi than Boaz.

After reading Redeeming Grace I had to review Ruth’s story for a Bible study. Thanks to this novel, I saw the story with new eyes. We don’t know why she was so willing to leave her home and everything that she knew to go with Naomi. Here, Smith has given her a realistic reason, as well as an interesting theory on how and why Naomi’s sons might’ve died. It was refreshing to see Ruth portrayed as a Moabite, as some authors I’ve read have gone out of their way to ignore this aspect of her character. Ruth was a foreigner, although it’s acknowledged that her people were descended from Abraham’s nephew, Lot.

I found Redeeming Grace difficult to put down. As well as being entertaining, it was also thought provoking. For example, why did God let Naomi’s husband and sons die? Was it punishment for moving away from the Kingdom of Judah? The final paragraphs hint, however, of what was to come from Bethlehem and the line of Boaz and Ruth: the Messiah Himself.

Thank you to Revell and the author for my complimentary copy of Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

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

Excerpt

Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 14 February 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Jill Eileen Smith’s Website   Revell’s Website

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

Shadow of the Storm, by Connilyn Cossette

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

In the darkness of the storm’s shadow, only truth can light her way.

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mount Sinai. When the people rebel by worshipping a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to assist a midwife. When the experience awakens a new desire in her, she defies her mother’s wish for her to continue in the family weaving trade and pursues her heart’s calling as an apprentice midwife.

But when a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself in an impossible situation and bound to a man who betrayed her. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira comes face to face with the long-hidden pain of her past. Can she let go of all that has defined her to embrace who she truly is and believe in a hopeful future?

First Thoughts:

This is the second book in Connilyn Cossette’s Out From Egypt series. I hoped it would be as good as the first.

My Take:

The Israelites are four months into their exodus from Egypt and they are camped in the wilderness. Moses went up Mount Sinai forty days previously and some of them now believe he isn’t coming back. They’ve constructed a golden calf to worship and are carrying out pagan rituals. As Shira and Kiya sit in their tent, they can hear the sounds of false worship but don’t go outside. It’s just as well because, in a moment, the partying turns to death. Moses has returned and has ordered the Levites to kill anyone partaking in the rituals. It’s a powerful start to the second book of Connilyn Cossette’s Out From Egypt series.

This book focuses specifically on Shira, the kindly Hebrew slave from Counted With the Stars. She appears to have a talent for midwifery, but her unmarried status means that many women are reluctant to trust her. She’s paired up with Dvorah, who’s from a different tribe and also has a son. Their stories could not be more different, and the rivalry between them is representative of the tension and divisions existing within the multitude. This is also the time when the Tabernacle (or ‘Mishkan’ as it’s referred to throughout the book) is being built and just before spies from each tribe are sent to scout out the land of Canaan.

Shadow of the Storm is an engaging mix of romance and drama. There’s plenty of tension and horror as the Lord punishes the disobedient. We know the story of the Exodus, but Cossette’s writing enables us to see it through the eyes of those who experienced it. I didn’t find this book as powerful as its predecessor, but I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.

Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Shadow of the Storm.

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

Excerpt

Author Q & A

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)

Publication Date: 18 October 2016

Page Count: 352

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

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