A Brighter Destiny: The Blog

Hello, friends! 🙂

By special request today, I’m featuring 10 books – that’s about 1 for every week of the sticky summer season – that your 11-14-year-old girls will love to read… and for which you won’t have to worry about the content! 🙂

Please Note: Books that made it to my list for this age group may contain some light descriptions of violence, thought-provoking (but age-appropriate) themes, and a smidge of romance (Little-House-on-the-Prairie-style). If you have any questions about content, feel free to e-mail me! 🙂

1. This is a beautiful, historically-researched account of Pocahontas that especially highlights how she came to believe in the Living God. Highly recommended!

2. A heart-pounding tale of how a young Jewish man finally forgives his enemies… by the power of Yeshua.

3. I loved this series when I was in late elementary and middle school! They remind me of a mix between Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. Be sure to check out the rest of the books in the series – There’s one for every age!

4. One of my favorite books when I was in middle school! I also love the sequel to this, The Golden Road. {I loved these more than the Anne books by the same author!}

5. What is not to love about Beverly Lewis? Her stories are solid Biblically, and no one can quite tell a tale like she can! This is a great series for this age group and even a bit older. I love how the publisher has now grouped the series of 10 books into 2 large 5-in-1-volume books.

6. I recently re-read this as an adult and see with fresh eyes how excellent this simple, sensitive, and honest novel is for young teens. This is the first book in a series, but it can definitely be read alone as well. {For those of you who love Love Comes Softly, this book is about one of Marty’s granddaughters!)

7. One of the best Christian-themed fairytales I have ever read, this will remind you of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia! There is also a sequel: The Princess and Curdie, which just simply gets more lovely the older you get!

8. I love Amanda Tero’s short stories and am looking forward to the release of the second book in her faith-influenced fairytale novella series! Girls will love this fresh, interesting take on Cinderella.

9. You can trust Michael Phillips for an excellent story, fine writing, relatable characters, and worthy Biblical themes woven throughout! I highly recommend this wonderful series, starting with this book:

10. This is an out-of-print series {as far as I know}, but it is well-worth snatching up what copies are available! In Colonial America, Sarah learns about her family, her God, and her world in deep, enriching, and engaging ways in these beautifully-written books. Highly, highly recommended!

So there you have it! I hope that you’ve found some good books to bless the girls in your life with this summer. Do you have any other suggestions? Please leave them below ~ I’d love to hear them! And join me again soon for another reading list – this one aimed at boys 11-14! 🙂
Grace and peace,
Alicia

You may find this post at the following link-ups: Literacy Musing Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings, The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Modest Monday, Mommy Moments, Tuesdays with a Twist, Messy Marriage, UNITE, RaRa LinkupTestimony Tuesday, Homemaking Link-up, Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, The Homemaking Party, Porch Stories, Christian Blogger Link-up, Coffee for Your Heart, Women with Intention, Oh My Heartsie Girl, Amanda’s Books and More, Tell His Story, Grace at Home, Heart Encouragement, Encouraging Hearts and Home, Booknificent Thursday, Friendship Friday, Faith-Filled Friday, Counting My Blessings, Fresh Market Friday, Sitting Among FriendsNo Rules Weekend Blog Party

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The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis

When a well-to-do family asks Sallie Riehl to be their daughter’s nanny for the summer at their Cape May, New Jersey, vacation home, she jumps at the chance to broaden her horizons beyond the Lancaster County Amish community where she grew up. Sallie has long dreamed of seeing more of the world, but her parents are reluctant for her to put off baptism yet another summer, and the timing is unfortunate for Perry Zook, who has renewed interest in courting her.

Though she loves nannying, Sallie has free time on the weekends to enjoy the shore. It is there that she meets Kevin Kreider, a marine biology student who talks freely about all he’s learning and asks about her interests, unlike most of the guys she grew up with. Time with Kevin is invigorating, and Sallie realizes she’s never felt quite this alive around Perry. Then again, Kevin is Mennonite, not Amish.

Sallie tries to brush aside her growing feelings for Kevin, but she fears what her parents would think about her new friendship. Just as concerning, however, is Sallie’s realization that her time in Cape May is increasing her desire to see the world, challenging her plans for the future. Has she been too hasty with her promises, or will Sallie only find what her heart is longing for back home in Paradise Township?

My Thoughts:

Wow! This was a beautiful book in many ways, straight from its ethereal, ocean-splashed cover down deep into its strong, hearteningly Biblical message. Friends, you know how eagerly I await each new Beverly Lewis release – always with bated breath, always with a slight feeling of trepidation that maybe this new one won’t live up to what I’ve come to expect from this gifted author.

The Ebb Tide was not a disappointment! Lewis draws life-like characters, from our main character Sallie to her Mamm and Dat to her would-be beau Perry.  My favorite character of all, though, was Cousin Essie – a single older Amish woman full of life and true wisdom. In Essie, the author truly depicts a woman of dignity and strength.

I also really appreciated the way Lewis shows that sometimes God calls someone to move outside the sphere into which they were born ~ and yet she manages to depict this without giving her heroine a headstrong, rebellious streak. Instead, Sallie – with the guidance of her elders and not without error at times – begins to listen not to her own heart nor to the voices of everyone around her, ultimately, but to the Lord God Himself.

Lovers of the ocean {I’m smiling myself here!} will really enjoy Beverly Lewis’ descriptions of Sallie’s days at the shore – They are so realistic that I could nearly taste the salty sea! 🙂 Along with this, Lewis adds details to the everyday lives of her characters that many authors skip — and so she adds a strong feeling of authenticity to the novel. I really loved that!

Though it is written for adults, The Ebb Tide seems appropriate for readers 14 and up to me ~ Young adult readers will love it just as much as older readers!

Find The Ebb Tide HERE.

Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this novel. I was not required to provide a positive review ~ As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 🙂

You might find my posts at these link-ups: 

Literacy Musing Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings, The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Modest Monday, Mommy Moments, Tuesdays with a Twist, Messy Marriage, UNITE, RaRa LinkupTestimony Tuesday, Homemaking Link-up, Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, The Homemaking Party, Porch Stories, Christian Blogger Link-up, Coffee for Your Heart, Women with Intention, Oh My Heartsie Girl, Amanda’s Books and More, Tell His Story, Grace at Home, Heart Encouragement, Encouraging Hearts and Home, Booknificent Thursday, Friendship Friday, Faith-Filled Friday, Counting My Blessings, Fresh Market Friday, Sitting Among FriendsNo Rules Weekend Blog Party

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I love birthdays, don’t you? 🙂 Doesn’t it give you so much joy when the birthday girl or boy opens the gifts and finds delight in them, when the deliciously sugary cake is cut, and the celebratory song is sung over the person of honor?

Today, we’re celebrating a birthday here, and the honored guest is… {drumroll, please} The Sound of Emeralds, the third novel in Rachelle Rea Cobb’s Reformation-era Steadfast Love series. Read on to learn more about this enticing historical trilogy and its talented author, as well as to enter a lovely giveaway!

About the Steadfast Love Series

In 16th-century Europe, the Reformation rages between Protestants and Catholics. Gwyneth, half-Dutch, flees from England to Holland to escape the man who murdered her parents. When he follows her there and insists he came to rescue her, will she trust this man called Dirk? When tragedy strikes, will their steadfast love erode?

About the Author

Times gone by snatch Rachelle Rea Cobb close, so she reads and writes about years long ago–her passions include the Reformation, Revolutions, and romance. Rachelle wrote the Steadfast Love series during college. Five months after she graduated, she signed a three-book deal with her dream publisher, WhiteFire. She’s a homeschool grad, Oreo addict, and plots her novels while driving around her dream car, a pick-up truck. In June 2016, she married a man with the same name as her fictional hero, and they live happily ever after in Small Town, South. She is also the author of Write Well, a guide for writers, which released on March 4th!

Find out more:

Websitehttp://RachelleReaCobb.com/

Facebookhttp://facebook.com/RachelleReaCobb

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/RachelleReaCobb

Pinteresthttp://www.pinterest.com/RachelleReaCobb/

Instagram: @RachelleReaCobb

Author Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/Rachelle-Rea/e/B00RZHIL1Q

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8144149.Rachelle_Rea_Cobb

And Now for the Giveaway! 🙂

Enter below for the opportunity to win *all three* of the Steadfast Love series, signed by the author. {Softcover giveaway is open to continental U.S. residents only; however, one international entrant will win the entire series in e-book format.}

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I have a recommendation for a much-loved book today for you, friends… and a giveaway! 🙂

A Woman Named Damaris by Janette Oke

From the back cover: 

She was almost fifteen on the night she dared for the first time to think of what life might be like away from home. Pa again had come home drunk and mean; the trauma of the subsequent scene had been repeated as long as Damaris could remember. The idea that she no longer needs to tolerate this, that maybe she’s old enough to manage on her own, is planted in her mind and begins to grow. She must plan her escape carefully, but she must get away from him.

When the opportunity comes, Damaris carries with her the strength of her mother’s love. Two treasures hidden for years from her father her grandmother’s lacy golden brooch and her grandfather’s lovely watch are Damaris’ only legacy from her past. That and her name. Her mother said it came from the Bible and had a special meaning that she can’t remember anymore. What difference might it make?

But Damaris can’t escape the “aloneness” that haunts her life or the bitterness she feels when she sees others suffering, particularly children. Ultimately, she must come to terms with her past, learn to live in her present circumstances, and trust her future to another Father.

A Woman Named Damaris is perhaps my favorite Janette Oke novel… yes, even eclipsing the Love Comes Softly series. 🙂 I only read it because I enjoyed that series {The Love Comes Softly series} and another one of Oke’s series {the one beginning with the book The Tender Years}, and to my great delight, I found out that A Woman Named Damaris was connected to those series through a character who is a minor one in those and the main character in this one. {Connected series are wonderful! You get to keep going and learn more about characters you didn’t get enough of in the last series.} So, I got my hands on a copy – Actually, I think I bought it originally for my sister, who loved The Tender Years even more than I did!

What a beautiful story Janette Oke has crafted in this unadorned, simple story of a young girl who runs away from her ugly past… and runs into the refuge of love and grace God has prepared for her. Each time I read this novel, my heart rejoices with Damaris as she learns the “secret message” of her name and then goes on to extend the great mercy she has received from Christ to others. A Woman Named Damaris shows how God pours out His love upon us – not because we are deserving, but because He is gracious – and how He in turn makes us gracious.

I’m giving away a copy of this wonderful novel – Enter below, and please feel free to let others know about the giveaway as well!

{Note: This novel is out-of-print currently – sadly! – and so the giveaway copy is a pre-loved one. 🙂 }

To enter, do ONE or MORE of the following

  1. Leave a comment, letting me know if you have a favorite Janette Oke book.
  2. Subscribe to updates from this blog – You’ll hear about each Friday Reads giveaway as they occur. I love sharing about books that I love, so thanks for subscribing to hear about them! 🙂
  3. Let someone else know about this giveaway by sharing it in some way.
Each action = 1 entry… Please be sure to let me know in your comment what you did so that I can give you credit for your entries! 🙂

Giveaway ends on 3/17/17. Winner will be contacted by e-mail and will have 2 weeks to respond.

 

All comments are moderated and may take a couple of days to display. 🙂

 

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Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink / illustrations by Fermin Rocker

From the inside flap:

It is the fall of 1930, the beginning of the Great Depression. Thirteen-year-old Minty Sparkes is already aware that she has a large responsibility for her family’s well-being, for although she loves her poetry-quoting father, both he and she realize that his verses and charm will not feed or house them and Eggs, Minty’s younger sister. 

How the Sparkes family manage during this penniless winter – and the unusual experiences they have – make a story that young girls will read with understanding, sympathy, and delight. A double-surprise ending adds to the reader’s pleasure, and the handsome drawings by Fermin Rocker capture the feeling of the characters and the locale.

My thoughts:

This is the sort of book that I want to hug when I’ve finished it. Though written for middle-grade children, Winter Cottage holds a story so lovely and timeless and sweetly simple that it is appropriate for all ages. Indeed, though it will enrich a child’s imagination and mind and heart, this book may become even more dear to older readers than to younger.

I first read this book just last week. Though I loved Carol Ryrie Brink’s Caddie Woodlawn as a child, I didn’t know Winter Cottage existed until I stumbled across it on a below-eye-level shelf in my tiny local library. The sturdy hardcover has obviously seen a good deal of joyful wear-and-tear over the years, and on the pocket inside (the one that holds the “date due” card), someone has noted in red pen, “Shelve with Wisconsin books.” I really enjoy reading good children’s books (As C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.” 🙂 ), and so I didn’t hesitate to add this one to my TBR stack.

One night after supper, I peeked inside – started reading the first chapter – and couldn’t stop! Winter Cottage enchanted me. Minty Sparkes (who was named Araminta after her great-aunt, in the vain hope that this would secure a share of that aunt’s inheritance) and her sister “Eggs” (named by her sentimental and poetry-quoting father “Eglantine,” a “name worthy of the poets”) began by securing my concern for them when – stranded in the northern Wisconsin wilderness with their father, their rickety car breaks down. What will they do? Where will they go?

Then they come upon a “summer cottage” – abandoned by its rich owners until the next summer season, nearly 9 months away. Surely, no one will mind if the Sparkes live there and take care of it? Surely, they can earn the rent to pay for their stay – even though they have no permission to stay at all? Eggs and Pop optimistically believe this; practical-minded Minty isn’t so sure…

But there’s nowhere else to go, and so an adventure ensues – one that hums with the molasses-sweetness of childhood, that makes your mouth water for one of Pop’s secret pancakes (after all, as he says, pancakes are the only thing he’s ever been successful at!), that inspires you to try a shadow play for yourself one of these snowed-in winter days.

And the ending! Though everything wraps up well, you will long for a sequel (there isn’t any 🙁 ) — which I take as the sign of a very good book, indeed. 🙂

If you’ve enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, Caddie Woodlawn, or All-of-a-Kind Family, you will love Winter Cottage! Unfortunately, it is out-of-print, but many libraries still carry an old copy – as was my happy discovery. 🙂 (There are some  old copies for sale in various online stores, but they are expensive, so I’m not even going add a link to them.) This is also a great, great book to read aloud to the entire family.

Happy reading, friends!

Grace and peace,

Alicia Ruggieri

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The Wish by Beverly Lewis

From the back cover:

Leona Speicher got the “sister” she’d always dreamed of the day Gloria Gingerich and her family moved to Lancaster County Amish farmland. The Arkansas newcomers seem to be everything a devout Plain family should be, and Leona can’t help comparing Gloria’s engaging young parents to her own.

Leona’s cousin shows a romantic interest in Gloria around the same time as Gloria’s older brother expresses his fondness for Leona–it seems likely the two young women will marry into each other’s families, remaining close friends for life. Thus, Leona is shocked when the Gingeriches suddenly pack up and disappear after being expelled from the church for reasons no one will discuss. Despite Leona’s pleas, Gloria goes with them, leaving more than one broken heart behind.

When Gloria unexpectedly contacts Leona after a silence of several years, Leona makes up her mind to persuade her friend to return to Lancaster County and the Amish ways. Leona’s fiancé, the deacon’s son, is alarmed when Leona decides to go after Gloria. Will Leona’s dearest wish lead to her own undoing?

My Thoughts:

As I’ve probably said once (or twice 🙂 ) before, Beverly Lewis is my favorite “Amish author”. I’ve always loved Lewis distinguishes herself from many other Amish fiction authors by the way she explores, on an often-deeper biblical basis, the spiritual implications of the Amish faith (especially the Old Order) – She does this deftly, weaving the spiritual journeys of her characters into an often deceivingly-simple yet gripping storyline bedecked with characters who end up lodging deeply in my heart.

Now, on to The Wish…. Upon starting this one, a little disappointment dripped into my heart. Much of what the blurb promises as a major part of the main story takes only a couple of chapters at the beginning, and – because everything was so quickly explained – felt a little rushed. HOWEVER, persevere, my friends, if you pick this one up! As soon as the first couple of chapters go by, the book’s pace gets much better and I began to understand and sympathize with Leona – a sympathy that only deepens as the story continues.

Leona is a bit different than a lot of Amish fiction heroines – at least the ones I’m familiar with. 🙂 She’s very strong, but she has no questions about her loyalty to the Amish church at all, no true curiosity in her about the outside (“English”) world. Her outer journey, as it says on the back-cover blurb, centers on getting Gloria back to the Amish. Simple enough – deceivingly so. It is Leona’s inner journey that Lewis so beautifully crafts – one which I didn’t realize was happening until the last couple of chapters. Then I could look back and see how interesting and insightful the path Leona had taken was.

The only reservation I had was the scene in which Gloria asks if she can be obedient to Christ and not join the Amish church. There’s a little murkiness when Leona replies along the lines of, “You were raised to know what’s right,” implying that being Amish is the best expression of Christianity. This is an accurate depiction of the Amish mindset, from what I’ve observed and read, but I wish that there could have been some way to show that Leona isn’t correct about it.  However, in the large scheme of the novel’s story and themes, this murky bit is very small.

Other things I loved about The Wish:
  • One of the really lovely and unique things about this novel was the way that the romantic aspects were secondary – very much so – and yet complemented the whole so well, especially the relationship of Leona and Tom.
  • The depiction of the older characters – This was very real, well-orbed. I feel as though I could travel to Lancaster County and meet them at the market!
  • The foods – Lewis’ descriptions always encourages me to try my hand at shoofly pie! J
  • The setting – Through the pictures her words painted, I could see and enter the rooms and meadows and roads in this story.
  • The way Lewis draws my attention to how God works in every detail of our lives to bring us to the point we are now, to continue to give us opportunities to draw nearer to Him. “Connect the dots backward,” she says. And when we do, we begin to see a picture that will only be completed perhaps in eternity.
  • The theme of real, Christ-like human love drawing us closer to Christ – both in a church community and in a family. This is really beautifully depicted.
  • The way Lewis turns the expected meaning of the title inside-out at the end – I really loved that!

I recommend this one for adult readers, as well as teens 14+.

What are you reading? Is there an Amish-based novel you’ve read and loved?

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Hello,  friends!

Unlike it may appear, I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth. 🙂 I have, however, as I mentioned in a social media post or newsletter {not sure at this point which!}, moved to a very {well, for us, at least!} area and have limited access to the Internet right now. {I’m writing this update from a very cozy local coffee shop – the nearest access to “civilization” {haha} that I have – and by “local”, I mean about 15 miles away… a far cry from what I used to mean when I said “local” in Rhode Island! 🙂 Life here is an adjustment, to say the least… a mostly joyful adjustment 🙂 , though I do find myself sometimes missing Iggy’s clamcakes and the craggy scent of the ocean in every breath.

Ah, and of course, I miss New England’s beautiful, tree-shaded graveyards – graveyards here are situated and circumstanced differently. Sigh. Though, I have recently discovered one that reminds me of New England – I think that graveyard and I may become good friends. 🙂

So what else have I been up to, other than scouting out graveyards? 🙂 As I was sharing with a dear writer-friend of mine, December is typically a “bad” writing month for me… There is so much {happy} busy-ness in preparation for the celebration of Christmas that I end up getting little writing done. However, I woke up one morning near this past Thanksgiving with a scene playing out in my little noggin….

Well, let me backtrack….

After A Love to Come Home To hit the shelves back in July, I was ready to throw myself wholly into getting that Secret Project written – hopefully finishing the rough draft {RD} in September or October. However, our move largely interrupted that work – I was still able to keep researching, for which I’m really glad, and I did get the writing prep and some of the start of the writing itself going. Then, after some of the “dust” settled, I planned to participate in Nanowrimo {never done it before!} in order to finish off the RD. But we ended up {rather unexpectedly} finding a more permanent abode in November – and moving in just after Thanksgiving! Well, that certainly shuffled things up, writing-wise, again!

So where does the Secret Project lie right now? In mid-rough-draft. The prayer of my heart is that God would write through me – would help me to see the way He would have me write. Again, as I continually say 🙂 , I look forward with joy to the day when I am able to share more with you, reader-friends… but I don’t feel at liberty to do that until I have at least the RD finished in a satisfactory way. I am working on it again now – hard, by God’s grace – and will keep you updated as it progresses. 🙂

Now, some of you may wonder why I didn’t finish up that Secret Project RD in December. As I mentioned above, I woke up sometime around Thanksgiving with a scene playing through my mind… a scene from Chetham, involving Ben. I’ve shared very little of this on social media, partially because I just haven’t had access to it, partially because I didn’t know for sure if the idea was a good one or not. I’d thought before of doing a series of novellas set in Chetham, following various members of the Picoletti family whose stories didn’t get tied up neatly at the end of the Trilogy, but I also didn’t want to write them just because… I wanted solid stories that enhanced the Trilogy and didn’t water it down. And that scene brought such a story, I believe. I outlined and began writing it, but as I got nearer to the end, there felt like there was something “off” about the ending. I wasn’t comfortable with the twist in the message that seemed to be coming through. After praying about it, I felt urged by the Lord to change the direction of the story, and, thus, I’m rewriting much of it. It is a Christmas-y story :-), and I’d hoped to release it in time for this past Christmas… but, due to the necessary rewrite, that wasn’t possible. Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise, I plan to release it during Fall 2017.

But may I share the planned cover with you now? 🙂

I’m not sure how many novellas there will be in this Chetham-based “series” – I do know that I enjoy writing them, revisiting the Picollettis and Giorgis and the wonderful way God worked His mercies in their lives. We’ll see what ideas God brings. 🙂

For those of you who have asked about Jemima Sudbury – YES! 🙂 I am still planning to finish that series out, by God’s grace. The writing of those books goes very quickly, but the story development and research take me some time, so pray for my perseverance! I’m starting to understand C.S. Lewis’ dedication page in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “Girls grow quicker than books.”

Again and again, I’m reminded of what a blessing it is for me to write – and to write for the King of Kings. I’m reading Francine Rivers’ devotional Earth Psalms, and there’s one entry early on that talks so strongly about doing whatever we do for Christ. That’s true for me whether I’m sweeping the floor – or writing – or reading – or cleaning the bathroom – or talking to someone. It is all for the King, friends. So let us keep doing whatever He has called us to – with joy, with perseverance, and with heartiness!

With love in Christ Jesus,

Grace and peace to you,

Alicia Ruggieri

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From the back cover:

Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother.

Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate “forest child” of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland.

But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland…and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened.

In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart.

Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga.

My thoughts:

First off, let me say that Freydis’ story was different than what I thought that it was going to be – I thought it would be a violent, bloody adventure with a nod to Christianity. It was bloody and violent and it did have adventure – but it was so much more – so much deeper – with such devastating beauty coming from the ashes. My mind kept returning to the book during my non-reading time – not so much to figure out what was going to happen (though there was that, too!) but to mull over the significance of what was already happening.

I didn’t like Freydis too much in God’s Daughter (Vikings of the New World, Book 1) – I know that I’m probably in the minority of readers there. 🙂 She seemed too hard, too inscrutable, too unmerciful and uncaring about those around her – totally selfish and self-centered. But Gilbert gently cracks open that hard shell in Forest Child and has given such a portrait of the broken, proud, fierce yet fragile, afraid-to-be-afraid woman – my heart broke for Freydis – I saw something of myself mirrored in her – and I understood her, even if I didn’t always agree with her. Heather Day Gilbert carefully crafts her characters in each of her books; to me, the character of Freydis is her one of her very best thus far.

But then there are the supporting characters: Ref, Valdis, Leif – the characters are so well-orbed, unique – they provide “mirrors” into ourselves – I came away from each reading time thinking, pondering them. If I went back to 11th-century Vinland :-), I wouldn’t be surprised to find them there, living and breathing, exactly as the author depicted them.

Some have spoken of The Vikings of the New World Saga as “edgy” Christian fiction. I understand where someone might think it is – It’s definitely not for reading when you want to escape the brutality of real life. It’s no Love Comes Softly. But, to be honest, despite incorporating necessary harsh scenes, the author did well with steering away from gratuitously graphic descriptions.

This is much grittier – much more intense in every way – spiritually, thematically, even perspective-wise – than a lot of Christian fiction. And intense isn’t bad. AT ALL. We need more real, intense novels that don’t shirk away from the pain, the difficult decisions… or away from the cost of the Cross. And this story did not – It is starkly, severely beautiful. Due to the novel’s intensity, I’d recommend Forest Child to adult readers and to mature older teens.

And the ending! I loved the ending. It is totally satisfying yet leaves you yearning for more – the best kind of ending! I love the incredibly redemptive, sensitive yet uncompromising message about marriage and what love really is – I love the message that blossoms about the value of vulnerability with those who love us and the healing of true forgiveness. This is a great book not only to read yourself and ponder – but also to give to friends.

Find out more about author Heather Day Gilbert and Forest Child {releasing 11/1/16!} here:

http://www.heatherdaygilbert.com

Grace and peace through Him who is our peace,

Alicia

As a beta reader and endorser, I received a copy of this book free from the author. As always, however, I wasn’t required to provide a positive review – all thoughts are my own. 🙂 

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Four newly-releasing books I’m itching to get my paws on this Autumn:
  1. The Cottage {Secrets of the Shetlands, Book 2} by Michael Phillips ~ A Scottish story by one of my favorite fiction writers – a man who seems able to breath depth and life into every book he writes ~ I can’t wait for this one! 🙂
  2. Shadow of the Storm {Out of Egypt, Book 2} by Connilyn Cossette ~ I loved the first book in this series – devoured it from beginning to end, in fact {see my review here}.
  3. Befriending the Beast by Amanda Tero ~ Amanda is a favorite indie author of mine, and Beauty and the Beast holds a dear place in my heart. ~ What could be better, then, than this short fairytale retelling by her? And I have this one as an e-book already, just waiting for a spare hour or two. 🙂
  4. Courageous Faith: My Story from a Life of Obedience by Charles F. Stanley ~ Dr. Stanley is one of my favorite preachers to listen to in the car or while I’m cleaning the house — I can remember his steady, fervent southern voice from when I was a little girl and my mom played his sermons on our kitchen-counter cassette player! His life of integrity is one that holds great interest for me ~ looking forward to this book for certain! 🙂

A very eclectic bunch! 🙂 Going from genre to genre keeps me alert as a reader, I think.

What books are you looking forward to reading in the red-orange-gold months ahead, friends?
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Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette

From the back cover:

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?

My thoughts:

In all honesty, I approach biblical fiction with trepidation, questions putting a hesitation in my reader-steps: Will the author stay faithful to the biblical account or play “fast and loose” with it? Even if she keeps the basic account faithful, will the author add in so much “extra-biblical” content that she changes the meaning or detracts from it? Sadly, I’ve put aside more than one biblical-fiction novel because of that.

But Connilyn Cossette’s Counted With the Stars was not one of them. At all. 🙂 I put off the lamp later than usual more than one evening during my time reading this exquisite rendering of one young Egyptian woman’s path into the Father-heart of Yahweh during the time of the Exodus.

Cossette’s in-depth research shows itself in every chapter, on every page, yet never distracts from the story but always enhances it. I loved learning about the way Egyptian house were designed and what daily routines looked like for servants and masters. The author describes places and things such as the town’s marketplace and feasting-halls and ointments in such a way that I could close my eyes and visualize them – could imagine that I heard the scrape of tools and rustle of grasses – could smell the perfumes and foods! I loved that. The skillful descriptions take the book up from being a very interesting story to an excellently-told one.

The characters — oh, I really enjoyed them and am looking forward with a big smile to reading supporting character Shira’s story this fall (here). The main character, Kiya, is flawed in such a way that I could sympathize with her plight, even if I felt frustrated with her decisions at times. Eben, the main male character, is a wonderful blend of courage, true manliness, compassion, and humility… yet he, too, isn’t “perfect” — a good part of the tension of the story comes from his own struggles with guilt and forgiveness. His relationship with Kiya is one of the most tender yet heart-aching romantic stories I’ve read lately. Though there were some characters whose backstories I would have loved to know more about, each person was well-crafted and necessary to the story told.

What I found most full of light and encouraging was the message — the beautiful, truth-brimming theme  that unfurls through the book like a morning glory: that anyone who wants to come to Yahweh – who wants to become part of His people – may come; that this has always been the case and always will be. Anyone may become one of Abraham’s children – may be “counted with the stars.” So much joy filled my heart, friends, when I saw that Cossette didn’t shirk from proclaiming the truth of the Scriptures consistently and with a bold stroke. It was really encouraging!

{A note: While the author does stay very faithful to the biblical account in Exodus, there are times (for example, with the Red Sea parting or – at least it seemed to me – later when God speaks from the mountain) when she takes artistic liberty to imagine what the Bible doesn’t describe in detail. Even though I may have a different “take” on what I believe the Bible is depicting there, especially in the mountain scene, I don’t believe that the jist of the biblical account is compromised. As with any fictional retelling, I encourage you return to the Bible for final authority.}

I highly recommend this for readers 16 and up. It’s a wonderful, worthwhile novel.

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