Book Recommendation ~ Jewel of Persia by Roseanna M. White

Book Description:

How can she love the king of kings without forsaking her Lord of lords?

Kasia grew up in a poor Jewish home with more siblings than luxuries. But when a chance encounter forces her to the palace of Xerxes, she becomes a concubine to the richest man in the world. She alone, of all Xerxes’ wives, loves the man beneath the crown. She alone, of all his wives, holds the heart of the king of kings.

Traveling with Xerxes through Europe as he mounts a war against Greece, Kasia knows enemies surround her, but they’re not the Spartans or Athenians. The threat lies with those close to the king who hate her people. She determines to put her trust in Jehovah–even if it costs her her marriage.

Years of prayers are answered when Kasia’s childhood friend arrives at the palace after the war, but even as she determines to see Esther crowned in place of the bloodthirsty former queen, she knows the true battle is far from over. How far will her enemies go to see her undone?

Combining the biblical account of Esther with Herodotus’s Histories, Jewel of Persia is the story of a love that nearly destroys an empire . . . and the friendship that saves a nation.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Jewel of Persia is Roseanna M. White’s exciting Biblical fiction novel set in Persia around 480 BC during the reign of King Xerxes. Historical events from the Book of Esther are included in the story.

Kasia, a young Jewess, is bathing her feet in the icy river water in Susa when she has an unexpected encounter with King Xerxes. She doesn’t recognise the charming King, and she is more concerned about protecting her young charge, the future Queen Esther, than hiding her own identity.

King Xerxes is captivated by Kasia’s beauty and, much to Kasia’s father’s displeasure, decides he wants Kasia as his wife. Kasia is moved to the palace, and her friends and family assume her disappearance is caused by drowning in the river.

Twelve year old Esther is devastated by the loss of her best friend, only a few years after her parents passed away and her cousin Mordecai became her guardian.

Kasia falls in love with the King, and her life is in jeopardy because she is the King’s favorite wife. Palace life in the harem is a culture shock for the young Jewess, and her faith is tested and strengthened during the story. Drawing on historical events, the love story between Kasia and King Xerxes unfolds and provides a fascinating insight into the danger, jealousy and intrigue of life in the Persian Palace.

Jewel of Persia is a compelling story about royalty, fidelity and love, in the context of a society that expects their King to have numerous wives and concubines. The differences between Jewish and Persian society create conflict between Kasia and King Xerxes, who are from different worlds and hold diverse values and religious beliefs. I recommend Jewel of Persia for those looking for a powerful and challenging Biblical fiction story.

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Book Recommendation ~ So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley

Book Description:

In a city teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I loved reading this book. The first few chapters hooked me into the story and I couldn’t put it down. Daria and Lucas are intriguing and multi-layered characters. I wanted to see them triumph over their problems and achieve their seemingly impossible happily-ever-after ending.

I enjoyed seeing the city of Ephesus, with a rich cultural heritage, brought to life on the page. Paul, Timothy and other Biblical characters we learn about in the book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians play a crucial role in the story.

The spiritual warfare element in the story is fascinating and I liked seeing the early church from the perspective of outsiders who were seeking to learn the truth. I highly recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and gripping Biblical fiction story.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ Reign: The Chronicles of Queen Jezebel by Ginger Garrett

Book Description:

Beyond the Drama, Her Heart Was Real

From the moment her marriage to prince Ahab thrusts her into the intrigues of palace life, Jezebel’s exotic beauty opens doors and her will breaks down walls. Torn from her homeland and wed to power in a strange country, Jezebel vows to create a legacy and power all her own. Some might call her a manipulative schemer, bent on having her way. But they don’t know the whole story, and she was much, much worse.

As she moves through the halls of power, her heart struggles between devotion to the gods she worships, the prince who loves her, and her thirst for revenge. She sparks a battle between her strangely powerless gods and the God of palace administrator Obadiah—a God who confronts her with surprising might. She will fight, though victory may cost her everything.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I found Reign a fascinating story to read. It was a little confronting to walk in Jezebel’s shoes as she became the princess and ultimately queen of Israel with her husband, Ahab. Her despicable and evil acts including idolatry, child sacrifices and killing the Lord’s prophets are covered in the book. We gain an insight into her hatred of the prophet, Elijah, and her unquenchable desire for power.

Ahab is stuck in the middle. He is unable to please his wife and the people who have remained faithful to the Israelite God. He allows Jezebel to encourage the Israelites to worship her foreign gods. Both Ahab and Jezebel suffer the consequences of God’s wrath and judgment.

We are given a fictional perspective on their dysfunctional marriage and family life, and plausible reasons to explain their life choices. I recommend this book to those looking for insightful and challenging Biblical fiction.

Many thanks to NetGalley and David C. Cook for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ The Stones: A Novel of the Life of King David by Eleanor Gustafson

Book Description:

With comprehensive detail and flowing prose, Eleanor Gustafson crafts the retelling of King David s life from his teenaged anointing to his death as seen through the eyes of Asaph, a Levite historian. Fictional in scope, yet with amazing scriptural accuracy, The Stones provides a revealing, behind-the-scenes glimpse into biblical history with all the twists, turns, thrills, and romance of the world s great drama.

You will be there as:
A young teen collects stones to take on a giant.
A prideful rebel takes count of his fighting men.
A fallible leader succumbs to lust, temptation, and deceit.
A poet and musician grows closer to God through prayer and worship.
A man after God s heart discovers the unfailing love and forgiveness of his Creator.

The Stones is an epic adventure of man s innate need to worship God and rely on Him for strength and how badly things can go when he fails to do so.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading The Stones. The fictionalised story of King David’s life provided a fascinating insight into a famous Biblical character that could be equally enjoyed by male and female readers.

We gain an insight into what made David tick, including his close walk with the Lord and the very public consequences of his sin. We discover a man who had a difficult relationship with King Saul before receiving a kingship and multiple blessings from the Lord. Yet David was human like the rest of us and we witness his struggles to remain obedient to God in all areas of his life.

The story follows the events in 1 and 2 Samuel. I liked learning more about the lives of the people who were close to David, especially his wife Abigail and David’s commander in chief, Joab. Joab was a fascinating and complex character, and the narration provided by Asaph added an authentic flavour to the story.

The battle scenes were realistic and we are given a birds eye view of the mighty warrior men and the people who surrounded David, both friends and foe. We learn about David’s complex relationships with his many wives and children, and how his deceit with Bathsheba led to dire consequences. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a fast paced and action packed Biblical fiction story about one of the greatest men in Israel’s history.

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Book Recommendation ~ Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith

Book Description:

Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her devout husband away fighting the king’s wars for many months at a time, discontent and loneliness dog her steps–and make it frighteningly easy to succumb to King David’s charm and attention. Though she immediately regrets her involvement with the powerful king, the pieces are set in motion that will destroy everything she holds dear. Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God–and David–forever?

With a historian’s sharp eye for detail and a novelist’s creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David’s most famous–and infamous–wife. Smith uses her gentle hand to draw out the humanity in her characters, allowing readers to see themselves in the three-dimensional lives and minds of people who are often viewed in starkly moralistic terms. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba in the same way again.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Jill Eileen Smith’s fictionalised account of Bathsheba’s story. The story opens with Bathsheba’s struggle to overcome loneliness and disappointment over not providing an heir for her husband, Uriah. Uriah was one of King David’s mighty men who was often away at war, and Bathsheba didn’t have children to distract her from missing her absent warrior husband. We journey with Bathsheba as she makes choices that will ultimately have devastating and deadly consequences.

We also gain an insight into both King David and Bathsheba’s faith and relationship with God. We meet two people who, despite loving the Lord, are human and flawed like the rest of us. I recommend this book to those looking for a fascinating and insightful Biblical fiction story.

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Book Recommendation ~ Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith

Book Description:

He promised her his heart. She promised him a son. But how long must they wait?

When Abram finally requests the hand of his beautiful half sister Sarai, she asks one thing–that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even Sarai’s father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if she makes a promise in return–to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.

But as the years stretch on and Sarai’s womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain, lest Abram decide that he will not fulfill his. To what lengths will Sarai go in her quest to bear a son? And how long will Abram’s patience last?

Combining in-depth research and vivid storytelling, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the beautiful and inscrutable Sarai in this remarkable story of love, jealousy, and undaunted faith.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I found this fictional story fascinating for a number of reasons. In the book of Hebrews Sarai (later known as Sarah) was commended for her faith. If we take a closer look at her life circumstances we realise she struggled in her faith, especially in believing God’s promise that she would provide her husband with an heir.

Sarai was a woman who shared a deep love with her husband. She was known for her beauty and appeared to have it all. Her beauty even attracted the attention of a Pharoah, with disastrous consequences. I recommend this book to those who like Biblical fiction and want to gain a greater insight into the lives of Abraham and Sarah.

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Book Recommendation ~ Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Book Description:

Created, not born. Her name is Eve. Myth and legend shroud her in mystery. Now hear her story.

She knew this earth when it was perfect—as she was perfect, a creature without flaw. Created by God in a manner like no other, Eve lived in utter peace as the world’s first woman, until she made a choice, one mistake for which all of humanity would suffer. But what did it feel like to be the first person to sin and experience exile; to see innocence crumble so vividly; and to witness a new strange, darker world emerge in its place?

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the epic dawn of mankind through the eyes and heart of Eve—the woman first known as Havah.

Narelle’s thoughts:

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee is a speculative fiction love story. The early chapters in the book of Genesis outline Adam and Eve’s story. We know the basic plot. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were banished from the Garden of Eden. Later on in the story their eldest son, Cain, murdered his younger brother, Abel.

The beauty of this book is the way the author has interpreted the events outlined in Genesis and brought these characters to life on the page. The story is a fascinating and thought provoking fictionalised account of what may have transpired during Havah’s lifetime. We look at the world through her eyes, and gain an insight into the life of the first woman and mother of all the living.

I was fascinated by the contrast between Adam and Havah’s idyllic and harmonious life in the Garden of Eden and their life in exile as they live with the consequences of their disobedience to ‘The One’. They shared this amazing relationship with ‘The One’ in the Garden that we can only dream about and suffered the pain of silence from ‘The One’ after they sinned and were exiled.

The book highlights the consequences of original sin, for Adam and Havah and their descendents. Things we perceive as a normal part of life eg. disease, ageing, death, difficulties with childbirth, nature being out of harmony, were foreign concepts to Adam and Havah until they were exiled into a broken world. Their harmonious and loving relationship drastically changed after they ate the forbidden fruit.

I was challenged to question the ideas and concepts raised in the story. Havah faced many problems and issues in her relationships with Adam and her growing family. She knew what life was like before sin entered the world and yearned to return to her former life in the Garden of Eden. Havah and Adam lived with incredible guilt as they and their descendents bore the consequences of their sin in the Garden of Eden. Their guilt put additional pressure on their relationship because they knew what they had lost.

This story also contains adult themes that are handled in a tasteful manner, and I give the story a PG rating for children and younger readers. I wouldn’t call this story a romance in the traditional sense because it is the original human love story turned sour. The story explores how Adam and Havah picked up the pieces after their idyllic relationship was shattered. I recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and challenging speculative fiction story.

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