Book Review

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Hello, friends!
I want to share a book that delighted me with its beautiful storytelling, historical detail, and deeply Biblical message.
The Book: Isaiah’s Daughter ~ A Novel of Prophets and Kings by Mesu Andrews
From the Back Cover:
The Hebrews are a divided nation. Israel in the north – ten tribes strong – has bowed to pagan worship. In Judah’s two tribes, an evil king mocks King David’s legacy while a remnant of Yahweh’s faithful cling desperately to their one true God.
Caught in the middle of the warring is an orphaned girl named Ishma – meaning “desolation.” Her short life already mirrors the name. Yet Yahweh’s plan for her has only just begun.
Ishma enters the prophet Isaiah’s home as a household servant, but her quick mind and lively spirit gain the friendship of Prince Hezekiah. When Isaiah sees their relationship mature, he adopts Ishma, giving her a royal pedigree and a new name. Ishma becomes Hephzibah – “delight of the Lord” – and the desolate captive becomes Judah’s queen.
But loving Hezekiah will require more of Hephzibah than she ever imagined. From Ahaz’s terrifying reign to the Assyrian threat and Isaiah’s own perplexing prophecies – Zibah remains trapped by fear, facing an uncertain future. Will palace life lead to freedom from her past? Or can she trust everything to the only One who gives life and delivers both a captive heart and a desperate nation?
My Thoughts:
Ishma’s story – and, in their turn, each of the characters’ – captured my heart and mind from the first chapter and has still not let them go. Mesu has crafted an exquisite novel of Biblical fiction in Isaiah’s Daughter, fleshing out the narrative of Hezekiah and Isaiah that Scripture gives, hence the “prophets and kings” in the sub-title.
I loved getting to know each character: Ishma/Hephzibah – who developed from a sweet-yet-straightforward little girl into an bold-yet-gentle woman, dedicated to Yahweh; Hezekiah – whose dilemmas felt so applicable to modern life and who by turns frustrated and charmed me as a king whose heart was in the right place, so to speak, but who waffled stubbornly at times, too. Each character felt remarkably full and richly real, as well as rooted thoroughly in their time period.
One of my “dreads” in opening this novel was, how was Isaiah going to be portrayed? Another was, will the Scriptural account be tampered with? Yet the author adhered strongly to the Scriptural account, even when our contemporary mindset might prefer otherwise. This is something I have come to love about Mesu Andrews: Her high, reverent view of Scripture as God’s holy and inspired Word comes through so strongly in how she tells each story. Yet she also portrays the human beings in the story as just that – human beings, with great weaknesses, whose strength to overcome can come from God alone.
Other things I loved:
  • the historical details regarding idol worship gave an excellent context for the Biblical account
  • the subplot of Ishma’s friend Yaira ~ so beautiful
  • the symbolism of Ishma’s doves and their nesting ~ I love doves (mourning ones, in particular), so this part was such a delight for me.
  • the way Mesu draws attention to the way that prophecies can have multiple fulfillments and/or not be fulfilled in the time/place we thought they would be, yet God still keeps His Word.
Find it HERE.
Grace and peace,
Alicia Ruggieri

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was in no way required to provide a positive review. 

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Happy Friday, friends!

I’m glad to have you here for First-Line Friday. A little background on the book I’m sharing today…
Over at my sister’s home, I picked up a book off her bookshelf and soon found myself entirely engaged in it: amused, edified, and moved with the real-life emotion on the pages. I mentioned the book to my mom, who said that she had read and loved it.
A couple of weeks later, when I was visiting my mom, she handed me a copy of that same book. It’s an older book – 1982 – but the words and wisdom and humor in its pages are evergreen. I know that I’ll be visiting it often in the years to come.

The Book:

It’s My Turn by Ruth Bell Graham

(One of the) First Lines:

The thirteen-year-old girl lay in the stifling heat of the old missionary home at Number Four Quinsan Gardens, in the port city of Shanghai China, praying earnestly that she would die before morning.

Dawn broke over the great, gray city, and obviously, God had not seen fit to answer my prayer.



Composed of extremely short chapters of Ruth Bell Graham’s memories, this book provides a behind-the-scenes, very real look at the hows and whys and ways of this remarkable woman of God and wife of evangelist Billy Graham. I didn’t expect her to be so funny – much of it in a self-deprecating way – and yet every one of the memories has a little tidbit of spiritual and real-life wisdom that struck me as or after I read it and encouraged me to go further in my own walk with Jesus Christ. I highly recommend this to you, friends ~ After you read it, you very well find yourself buying extra copies to give as gifts to friends ~ It’s that good.
Now it’s your turn, friends! Share the first line of a book you’re reading with us! 🙂

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Hello, friends, and Merry Christmas, in case we don’t get to chat again before then! What a special time of year this is… Before we leap into First-Line Friday, may I share with you a beautiful old poem I came across recently by one of my favorite authors, George MacDonald?

Babe Jesus lay in Mary’s lap;

The sun shone on His hair;

And this is how she saw, mayhap,

The crown already there.

For she sang, “Sleep on, my little King,

Bad Herod dares not come;

Before Thee, sleeping, holy thing,

The wild winds would be dumb.

I kiss Thy hands, I kiss Thy feet,

My Child, so long-desired;

Thy hands shall never be soiled, my sweet,

Thy feet shall never be tired.

For Thou art the King of men, my Son;

Thy crown I see it plain;

And men shall worship Thee, every one,

And cry, Glory! Amen.”

Babe Jesus opened His eyes so wide!

At Mary looked her Lord.

And Mary stinted her song and sighed.

Babe Jesus said never a word.

I love the poems of old, don’t you? George MacDonald can make the most kingly scene homey and real.

Now onto First-Line Friday, followed by a mini review of that book! 🙂
The Book:
Monster by Frank Peretti
First Line:
The Hunter, rifle in his hands, dug in a heel and came to a sudden halt on the game trail, motionless, nearly invisible in a thicket of serviceberry and crowded pines. He heard something.
Mini Review:

I’m not much of one for suspense and thriller-type books, but I make exceptions for Frank Peretti! He is, above all else, a fantastic storyteller, and this comes through so strongly in Monster! Peretti manages to weave a tale of a hunt for monsters with a well-formulated scientific argument against an evolutionary explanation for the existence of the world and everything in it. This book had me curled up tightly in my armchair, practically racing through to find out where the next believable-but-I-never-saw-it-coming twist was going. This is a wonderfully exciting, slightly horrific, and very sobering tale of a night of camping in the woods that went really, really wrong… or did it?

Highly recommended! Find it HERE.

Now it’s your turn ~ What’s the first line of a book you’re reading this week?

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Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Back Cover:

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm. 

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

My Thoughts:

Where We Belong was my first Lynn Austin book… but I don’t think it will be my last, good Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise. 🙂 This beautifully-told, often-funny story brings us back to Victorian-era Chicago, spanning nearly fifty years in the lives of the Hawes sisters, whose middle name appears to be “adventure.”

I loved many things about this stand-alone novel (which is deliciously long!), but one of the things that really stood out to me was the way that these sisters are not merely the same cliched “women ahead of their time” that I’ve found in many a novel. Rather, these women ultimately move forward in their specific calling as Christians, regardless of whether society approves or disapproves – because they are following the will of God for them, not because they are trying to be rebels. That was refreshing!

Another wonderful part of this novel regarded a strong emphasis on us as Christians showing the love of God through our actions. At one point, when Rebecca is contemplating adoption, she explains to her sister that the person she wishes to adopt has never experienced human love, so how can the person understand God’s love? Rebecca desires to adopt out of a passion for sharing the Gospel through it – knowing that actions speak louder than words, as the old saying goes. This attitude of following your words with actions permeates the book and really added a great deal of depth.

There is also a hilarious story thread involving an “amorous sheik” that runs throughout the book. I can’t say more for risk of spoiling the surprises and humor of the situations, but it definitely provided some genuinely funny, light-hearted moments in a more-serious novel. I loved it!

Austin’s manner of storytelling reminds me of one of my very favorite authors, Michael Phillips: slow but not dull, methodically peeling back and adding layers, bringing several different storylines together seamlessly to show one grand spiritual theme.  This was really well done, and as with Phillips’ novels, I was saddened to see the last page! 🙂

If you love fascinating historical fiction with only a smidgen of romance (another refreshing bit!), a strong but not forced Christian theme, and a well-told, well-woven story, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Where We Belong, available HERE.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Hello, reading friends!

Awhile ago now, I came across the announcement that several authors – some of whom I knew – were embarking on (what I think is) a really wonderfully fun project – taking Jane Austen’s classic novels and adapting the stories to fit into 1930s America. My sister Londie introduced me to Jane Austen’s work long ago, and, like many of you, no doubt, I’ve loved each one of Austen’s novels as I’ve read them, ever since.
Thus, when the opportunity came along to be a part of the blog tour celebrating this Vintage Jane Austen collection’s release… Of course, I wanted to join! 🙂 Below you’ll find out what I thought of Perception by Emily Ann Benedict, as well as a giveaway.

The Book: Perception by Emily Ann Benedict

An Adaptation / Retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen


Upstate New York, 1930. Thirteen years ago, Abbey Evans was persuaded to break off her engagement to a penniless soldier headed to the front lines of the Great War. A daughter of one of America’s wealthiest families could never be allowed to marry so far beneath herself. But Black Tuesday changed everything. With her family’s prominence now little more than a facade, Abbey faces the loss of her childhood home. As if that weren’t enough, the only man she ever loved has returned after making his fortune – and he wants nothing to do with the young woman he courted before the war. With the past forever out of reach, the time has come for Abbey decide her own fate, before it is too late…

What I Thought:

This adaptation follows the beloved tale very closely. While I’ve not read Persuasion for a few years, it’s my favorite of Jane Austen’s classics, and so I appreciated that Ms. Benedict didn’t take too many liberties with an already-perfect 🙂 plot. Many of the characters translated beautifully into 1930s New England and retained the really humorous slant by which Austen portrayed them. Austen enthusiasts will recognize and relish (and want even more of!) Charlie and Miriam, as well as Holly and Lilly. Austen’s “Anne” becomes Benedict’s “Abbey”, and her character is highly recognizable as well. This very close following of the original may not be every reader’s cup-of-tea, but, as a reader, I delight more in the way a story is told than in the unexpected elements, so this was just fine for me! 🙂

The author highlights the personal growth of Anne/Abbey as well as Freddy/Captain Wentworth, something that sometimes is more difficult to understand in the original. This propelled the story beyond being “merely” a romance, and I appreciated the authenticity of its portrayal.

One of the only qualms I had with the novel was the way that Anne/Abbey rolled her eyes quite a lot in response to the (often-ridiculous) behavior of her family members. This was a little thing, but it seemed out-of-character for an otherwise-polite young woman, and it struck me as disrespectful toward those at whom she was rolling her eyes. Thankfully, this tapers off as the book continues, and there is enough good to strongly outweigh this. 🙂

As someone who lived in New England for much of my life and has visited some of the areas depicted in the novel, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the sea and of 1930s Boston. This is not a “heavy” historical novel, but it gives the place/time feeling of the 1930s in a light and entertaining way.

Some quotes that I relished and that reminded me of Austen’s original were:

Abbey nearly laughed. “Mr. Martin, do you know what’s even more attractive to a girl than ‘dash’? … Love. Real love that is honest and open and committed.”


“I would much rather walk slowly beside the man I love than dance with a man I care nothing for.”


“I fear for anyone unwilling to stand by his convictions, or even unable to stand up against the weight of another’s opinion. How can life be happy unless we know who we are, and stay true to ourselves?”


“A lifetime alone by her own choice was infinitely better than marrying for the sake of being married.”

In all, I really enjoyed reading Perception, and, if you’re a Jane Austen fan, I think you might, too! Overall, it was refreshing and entertaining. It would also be a good introduction to Austen for people for whom the originals might be too dense. It’s available HERE as an e-book and HERE as a softcover. {Personally, I may be getting it for Christmas for a Jane-Austen lover in my family! 🙂 }

To learn more about Emily Ann Benedict, the author of Perception, click on the graphic below:

And Now for a Giveaway! 🙂

As part of this blog event, the authors are giving away a $25 Amazon gift card ~ Please feel welcome to enter below! 🙂 And after that, come over to my house so that we can all watch a nice Jane Austen film together 🙂 ~ Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth, of course!), anyone? 😉

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author and was in no way required to post a positive review.

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Hello, friends! 🙂

It’s not only First-Line Friday {which I haven’t had the chance to participate in for awhile, so it’s nice to be “back” 🙂 }, but I’m also reviewing and giving away the FLF novel featured below!

The Proving by Beverly Lewis


And the first line is:

“My first-ever night away from home, I struggled with sleeplessness, having abruptly left with two other Amish girls.”

The Back Cover:

Amanda Dienner hasn’t seen her Old Order family in five years when she receives word that her mother has passed away and left her Lancaster County’s most popular Amish bed-and-breakfast. Now an Englisher, Mandy is shocked: Her twin sister should have been the obvious choice! What’s more, the inheritance comes with a catch: The farmhouse inn will only truly be hers if she is able to successfully run it for twelve consecutive months.
Mandy accepts the challenge even though it means returning to Gordonville and the painful memories she left behind at eighteen. Still, she’s determined to prove she is more than capable of running the bed-and-breakfast, no matter that its loyal clientele are expecting an Amish hostess!
The inn isn’t Mandy’s sole test, however. Rubbing shoulders with her married twin sister reopens wounds that Mandy isn’t ready to forgive. And an Englisher guest with a difficult past of her own just complicates matters.
Can Mandy fulfill the terms of her inheritance? Or will this year in Amish country prove a dreadful mistake?

What I Thought:

I can always count on Beverly Lewis books to provide a heartwarming story. Though I prefer Lewis’ series to her standalones, I’ve found that even her standalone novels – which can appear simple at times – even predictable – always give a carefuly-wrought message interwoven seamlessly into the storyline.
And her newest novel, the standalone The Proving was no different in this regard. Mandy’s mishaps as she tries to run a B & B singlehandedly at times – all in an effort to spite her sister and prove that she is capable of succeeding independently – were funny enough at times to make me chuckle and smile, and her justifiable hurt feelings over the wrong done to her was depicted so well that I as a reader could definitely sympathize with her anger and grudge.
What I really loved was the way that the author took a situation that was “unfixable” – literally, there was nothing, aside from the death of one of the parties that could undo the wrong that had been done – and showed that God can make something very good from great wrong – can redeem it, in fact, and shower it with His blessings – as long as we forgive.
While this wasn’t my favorite Beverly Lewis novel – her Abram’s Daughters series takes that prize 🙂 – The Proving is still well-worth reading for Amish fiction fans and for anyone who loves a well-told, heartwarming tale.

And Now for the Giveaway! 🙂

I’m giving away my copy {like-new} of The Proving! If you’d like to win it, enter by leaving a comment below. If you share this post in some way, let me know and you’ll get another entry. 🙂
Have a blessed weekend, friends!
Grace and peace,
Alicia G. Ruggieri

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Proving from the publisher and was not required to provide a positive review. All thoughts are, of course, my own! 🙂

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Hello, friends! I have a review for you today for a historical Christian fiction novel, The Promise of Dawn.
The book:

From the back cover:

When Signe, her husband, Rune, and their three boys arrive in Minnesota from Norway to help a relative clear his land of lumber, they dream of owning their own farm and building a life in the New World. But Uncle Einar and Aunt Gird are hard, demanding people, and Signe and her family soon find themselves worked nearly to the bone in order to repay the cost of their voyage. At this rate, they will never have land or a life of their own.

Signe tries to trust God but struggles with anger and bitterness. She has left behind the only life she knew, and while it wasn’t an easy life, it wasn’t as hard as what she now faces. When a new addition to the family arrives, Signe begins to see how God has been watching over them throughout their ordeal. But after all that has happened, can she still believe in the promise of a bright future?

My thoughts:

I haven’t read a Lauraine Snelling book for years, but I have really enjoyed them in the past, so I was excited when the opportunity arose to review her newest release, The Promise of Dawn, the first book in Snelling’s new Under Northern Skies series. The backcover blurb interested me, especially because boy-meets-girl romance didn’t appear to central to the storyline – Rather, it appeared to be more a family story of real life, which I often love. 🙂

While the beginning of this novel felt a little slow to me as it skimmed and summarized Signe and Rune’s immigration to America, the story picked up its pace about 40 pages into it, and I found myself deeply involved in the vividly-portrayed struggles of Signe, Rune, and their boys as they attempted to carve a new life for themselves in a land of opportunity. The story has a Little-House-on-the-Prairie feeling to it – I love Little House! 🙂 – and I really enjoyed following the characters’ little moment-by-moment difficulties and solutions.

Now, for the bit that put a bad taste in my mouth for me… I understand that life on a farm is not just hayrides in October. 🙂 Death is a very real part of it. But a very sad part of it. 🙁 A part of it toward which we should not callous ourselves or our children. And unfortunately, The Promise of Dawn sometimes does encourage an insensitive and ugly attitude toward living creatures that God has made for His joy. This is so unfortunate that this was included and even highlighted at times… In all honesty, this insensitivity and grim pleasure in suffering caused to other creatures ruined the novel for me. 🙁 Which made me sad as a reader because I *loved* so much where the book was heading – I wanted to find out what happened with Signe, Rune, the uncle, the ailing aunt, the boys… (*spoiler*) But my mind kept coming back to what Signe forced her boys to do to the baby mice – She tells her children to throw the live baby mice to the cats. (Completely unnecessary, as she has no problem killing the mother mouse quickly with a broom, so why not kill the babies quickly as well?) Later, this attitude toward them is “justified” when it is explained that, when Signe tried to rescue a mouse as a child, it bit her in fright and so, out of revenge, she locked that mouse in a grain barrel with a cat. Awful and nasty, obviously, but an attitude that Christ will set us free from if we will let Him.

Again, it is not the killing of the mice that really bothered me – obviously, if your house is infested, you have to get rid of the mice in the most humane way possible. My problem was with the calloused attitude Signe had toward the mice and which she encouraged in her children, as well as her not being merciful (in an otherwise fairly merciful character) in the way in which she killed them. No one should *torture* something to death. Period. And that is what would have happened to those baby mice. (See Proverbs 12:10 for a Biblical passage on kindness vs. cruelty to animals.)

I dislike saying so much about this aspect because a lot of the rest of the story really did fascinate me, especially up until that happened with the mice, but after that, it was difficult for me to enjoy it, as I felt a strong dislike for Signe as a character. The other Snelling books that I have read I have really enjoyed and never noticed this insensitivity in them. This one just was not my cup of tea for the reason I noted above.

I received a copy of this novel from Bethany House Publishers. All thoughts are my own.

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Hello, friends! Thanks for coming over for another Friday Reads! I have a treat of a book for you today!

The Book:
The Back Cover:

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?

My Thoughts:

The first Roseanna M. White book I’ve read, I found myself in for a real treat! 🙂 The author immersed me in the time period immediately with just enough, but not too much, detail ~ I really enjoyed the amount of WWI history – and an “everyday” type of history – that peppered each page. From the way Roseanna described the scenes and characters, I was able to “see” them in my mind, as if a film played – lovely! – which made it hard to set the book aside when reading time was over for the day! 🙂 Though the novel takes place in the 1910s – same as Downton Abbey – the feel of the book is a little more gritty and less escapist… For one, our heroine/villainess is a “street rat” turned thief-for-hire, rather than a lady of noble birth.

Which brings me to an intriguing twist the author chanced – and which, for me at least, as a reader, worked. Rosemary Gresham is not only the heroine; she is also the villainess. Her goal throughout is to take down our hero, Peter, proving him a traitor (whether he is or not)… but not everything works out as planned. 🙂 Actually, Rosemary’s dedication to working against Peter throughout much of the book made it a little difficult to connect with her as a reader at first. (*spoiler!*) However, as her spiritual sensibilities waken, Rosemary becomes a much more sympathetic character, and by the end, I was rooting for her just as much as for Peter. 🙂

For in Peter, Roseanna White has crafted one of the best Christian fiction heroes I have ever met… To put it succinctly, he reminds me of Daniel Deronda ~ who, of course, we all know, is one of the best heroes ever to live within the pages of a book. 🙂  {If you don’t know this, you should grab a copy of Daniel Deronda and devote the next couple of days to finding this out! Haha! 🙂 } I think that what stood out to me most about Peter – though his virtues were many – was the deep integrity that filled his thoughts, actions, and motives. While he was by no means perfect, Peter’s sincerity and dedication to living out Biblical truth was unusual, yet entirely believable, and his discipleship strongly touches the hearts and lives of those around him.

I loved the way that the romance is somewhat restrained throughout much of the novel. This felt very life-like, given the characters and time-period. I also really appreciated the way that the spiritual journeys of the Peter and Rosemary provided the backbone of the novel… This is getting rarer and rarer, and so what a joy to see!

You may want to know that, while Peter doesn’t make a verbal commitment to Rosemary until she has become a Christian (which scene I loved – beautifully written and expressing the heart of the Gospel so well!), he does clearly express romantic feelings toward her and acts on those feelings by kissing her before that time, which I felt a little iffy about (and which actually seemed to be a rare out-of-character moment for him as a committed Christian man). 

On another note, fellow writers are going to love the little story within-the-story that happens, as Peter is writing a novel somewhat inspired by his experiences with Rosemary. His writerly quirks and habits amused me and felt so life-like ~ lots of fun! 🙂

I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, and I recommend A Name Unknown to older teen and adult readers who like historical fiction with suspense and romance.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers. All thoughts expressed in this review are my own.

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Hello, friends! Welcome to another Friday Reads! 🙂

Today, I have the very great pleasure of sharing this space with my author-friend A.M. Heath… and her newest release, Out of the Ashes, which happens to be one of my favorite books of this year thus far. First, we’ll have an overview of this Civil War/Reconstruction novel, followed by my thoughts on it ~ Then we’ll pour a cup of tea {or coffee, if you prefer!} and chat with A.M. a bit ~ Last, but not least, is the giveaway! 🙂

The book:

Sometimes peace is won through battle.

Haunted by the memories he can’t escape, Ralph Williams wants to be left alone to lick his wounds. He doesn’t understand why he’s forced into the company of the one woman he least desires. Can God bring him healing through such uncomfortable circumstances?

Frank Harper thought he had left the war and its turmoil behind, but the home to which he has returned is anything but peaceful. When racial tensions arise in Maple Grove, Frank finds himself on a battlefield once more. He’s desperate for peace, but at what cost?

When George Chandler heads off to wed his beloved bride, things don’t go as expected. Just as George starts to get comfortable with what he believes is God’s new plan for his life, history threatens to repeat itself. Will he fight for the woman he’s come to love, or will he let her go?

The War Between the States has destroyed more than just a nation. In four years, it has damaged bodies and wounded souls until the people think that nothing is left. Will they find the healing they so desperately need from the God that loves them?

My thoughts:

Out of all three {thus far – two more are coming!} Ancient Words novels, this one was my favorite – which is saying something, since I really liked the other two, as well. In this third book in the series, A.M. Heath brings satisfactory closure to the storylines of characters who left my heart aching for them in the last book, In the Shadow of Thy Wings.

There are so many things to adore about Out of the Ashes, but just a few of them are:

  • The seamless way the history is woven into the fictional story.
  • The clear yet unforced Christian themes thoroughly woven throughout, not just “tacked on” ~ I love how A.M. does this in every novel, and this one is no exception: The title comes from the overall theme that God does and will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • The well-developed supporting characters ~ each one rich and full in motive and background.
  • The multiple storylines that ended up intertwining at the end and throughout.

A.M. Heath is gifted at bringing flawed characters to life… By the end of these first three books, I felt as if I truly knew the characters, as if they had really lived. (Actually, when I came across a nonfiction history book about the area they lived in recently, I immediately thought, That’s where the Harpers lived! as if they might appear in the pages of the book!) If you love historical fiction, especially Civil War fiction, this series is a wonderful one to read. It is also great for high school age kids, in my opinion. While there is a good amount of “romance” in the storyline of some (not all) of the characters, it is carefully and organically included and steeped in the context of the story. The Ancient Words series effectively and creatively blows the dust off the historical account of the Civil War. At the same time, it convincingly helps us to see God’s hand at work in the midst of individual tragedy during that time.

From what I understand, Out of the Ashes brings the main historical section of the Ancient Words quintet to a close, and the first three can (at this point, in my opinion) be read as their own series ~ though I am, of course, anticipating the release of the final two books eventually! 🙂

Recommended for:

Young adult (14+) and adult readers, both men and women. The Ancient Words series would be a great literary complement to history classes and homeschooling. This series also makes wonderful gift for unbelievers who love historical fiction – The Gospel is very clear throughout all 3 books, yet, as I’ve noted above, not “heavy-handed.”

Now, would you like to pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee (or coffee milk, for you Rhode Islanders!), and we’ll visit with the author of Out of the Ashes?

How did you come to write fiction?


For my part, it was an accident. Lol I started a campfire story game with a group of friends online. The idea was to tell part of the story and take turns, creating something quirky and fun. But oddly enough, there were only 3 ladies involved in the story even though there were well over 20 active women in the group. And in time, it was clear that the story we had crafted was anything but quirky. It was actually pretty good. And I was hooked. I began plotting out the direction I would steer the story in and the characters became a part of me in a way that fiction authors can relate to. In time, the Lord broadened my horizons and my ideas.

That is fascinating! And how did the idea for Ashes come to you?

There were two different legs of this idea. The first was the fact that Ralph’s story wasn’t complete at the end of In the Shadow of Thy Wings. He needed a happy ending. I had an ending in mind, but at the time I was planning to publish it as part of a spin-off series, but one of my critiquers recommended that I bump it up and write it next. So I did!
As for Ralph, his story came through my own experiences. My oldest son occasionally sleep walks. It’s amazing how they can move and talk and yet not know what they’re doing or remember it afterward. Then there’s my youngest son who was prone to nightmares whenever he was sick. He used to call out for me in his sleep but when I went to him, he wouldn’t respond. He had no idea I was there because he wasn’t awake at all. And lastly, there is my husband who grits his teeth in his sleep. I used to nudge him to get him to stop, but one night, I learned that I had only to lay my hand on him and he’d stop immediately. One particular week, all three of my men were active in their sleep and I was mulling these things over in my mind when the idea of a haunted soldier in need of a gentle hand came about. And I knew just the haunted soldier for the role too. ?

I’m one very glad reader that you didn’t wait to give poor ol’ Ralph his happy ending! 🙂 Now, can you let us know a bit about what your goal is for the series?

The overarching goal of the series is to draw people to Christ. For those who know Him to grow closer to Him during their seasons of struggle. But also for those who don’t truly know Him at all to become saved. The first, fourth, and fifth books are more evangelical, while the second and third feature lessons on trusting God with your fear and pain.

That’s something that I love about this series: There is food for both believers and unbelievers in it.

What was your favorite part of Ashes to write?

The epilogue!! I have walked the trenches with these characters in a very special way. As you can relate to, having just finished a continuous series yourself, I have watched them struggle with God and come out on the other side. It was a blessing to me to sit back and type out the epilogue showing a complete healing for this family. Fun Fact: Where Can I Flee begins with a prologue from Olen Harper’s perspective. In this prologue, Olen is shaking his fist at God over his wife’s grave. It seemed fitting that I should end it from his perspective, only this time with joy in his heart. His circumstances didn’t change because his wife remained dead, but his attitude toward God had changed and that made all the difference. He could now look around and count the blesses where as before he could only count the injustices as he saw them.

What do we have to look forward to in the next two books of the series?

PLENTY! Although I plan to take a break before finishing the series, I’m looking forward to continuing the tale in Maple Grove. In the last two books of the series, we’re going to fast forward 150 years. It’ll be 2012 the next time we revisit Maple Grove. Allie Redman is the “main” main character of the remaining books. She finds and reads the letters written by Claire and Frank during the war and Claire’s message to Frank will impact Allie. Allie will also get a hold of Rachel Chandler’s diary and Rachel’s lesson on forgiveness will touch Allie’s life in the 5th book.

I can’t wait! But I must! 🙂 But back to the 1860s for now: Was there anything that surprised you when you researched for this series?

There were so many, many, many surprises. One of the things that surprised me was how the Lord had expanded my mind and enabled me to learn about things that I didn’t think was possible. I spent a lot of time reading first-hand accounts via letters, journals, and such. There were so many strange but true tidbits I had come across. But one of the most remarkable things was proof of a spiritual revival that took place in Bragg’s army while they camped out right here in my county. Bragg, himself, was reaffirmed at one of the churches in my hometown. As a Christian, it comforted my heart to know that God was moving in the hearts of these men who many of them would die within the following two years. But it was a fun fact that tied local history into what I was already doing in my book.

In future writing endeavors, do you see yourself coming back to the Civil War era?

ABSOLUTELY!! I think the 1860s would probably be my pet era. I love how you don’t need to create drama because the war itself brings it onto the page. I love that you don’t always know what’s going to happen next. War fiction, in general, doesn’t always “play by the rules” of Christian fiction and I find it refreshing. Fellow Civil War fans will be happy to know that I have a rather large Civil War series in development. Only the Lord knows when we’ll see any of these come into publication, but, at the moment, I’m planning to begin them after the Ancient Words Series is complete. Keep in mind that I’m about to venture off with a brand new series so it’ll be some years before Ancient Words is complete. But the upcoming Civil War series is 100% stand alone and will focus on the different aspects of the war: slavery, plantation life, nursing, spies, smuggling medicine, and carpet bagging to name a few.

Well, I simply must ask, for those of us who grieved at the untimely death of a certain character… {*spoiler alert for those who haven’t read Where Can I Flee} will Eddie come back from the dead in the sequel?

LOL Sadly, no. He won’t be. But I have some new charming heroes coming up that know a thing or two about being noble. While no one could replace Eddie Chandler, hopefully, you’ll find some more leading men to appreciate. ?

Quick Answers from the author:

1. Book you’re reading right now?

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin. Now here’s a grand example of a war fiction author that doesn’t “play by the rules.”

2. Favorite fiction book you’ve read?

Hmmm. You said this would be quick but you didn’t promise it’d be easy. ? That’s such a hard question. I’m a big fan of Jane Austen and Persuasion has always been a favorite of mine. Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer also comes to mind. I read it twice in a year’s time so I’m pretty sure it qualifies.

3. You can go back to any time period and any place. Where would you go?

Oooo. Another toughie. Well, being a Civil War novelist, I’d really love to go back during that time, but I know this wouldn’t be an easy visit. On the upside, it’d be great for research! Lol

4. A Scripture verse close to your heart?

Proverbs 4:14 “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.” As a new Christian, this verse had taught me a lot about separating myself from sinful activities that I had once enjoyed.

Find A.M. Heath and chat with her {She loves chatting with readers!} at these places online:


She’s also on Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest {check out her Civil War boards!}, but she’s most often found on her blog or FB. 🙂

In celebration of the release of Out of the Ashes, A.M. Heath is hosting a giveaway! 🙂 Please click the picture below to learn more and enter:

If you would like to purchase the books in this tremendously uplifting series, here are the links that will bring you right to them:

Book 1: Where Can I Flee?

Book 2: In the Shadow of Thy Wings

Book 3: Out of the Ashes

That’s it for today, friends! 🙂 Have a lovely and blessed weekend in Christ our Lord!
Grace and peace,
Alicia Ruggieri


I may happily link this post up at:

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, Tuesday TalkHomemaking 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’m headed off on a mid-summer adventure :-), but before I depart, I thought I’d sum up what I’ve been reading this summer, in the midst of finishing/editing A Holy Passion.

Among the books I’ve read so far this summer are:

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers

My thoughts: A breathtakingly beautiful and unique depiction of redemption, The Last Sin Eater ranks up with Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Trilogy. Not only is the premise both captivating and heartbreaking – a little girl needs to find the man dubbed “the Sin Eater” so she can be released from her intense guilt – but the story is written with many “layers” – Just as you think you have it all figured out, another aspect comes to light that you weren’t expecting but fits perfectly into the puzzle the author has created. Anyone who loves Catherine Marshall’s Christy will adore this, as the setting and time period are very similar to those in Christy, though the story itself is very different. 

Courageous Faith by Charles Stanley

My thoughts: Charles Stanley’s sermons and walk with God have strongly influenced my outlook on life in general, as I’ve heard him preach since I was a little girl… My mom listened to his sermons on radio and cassette while she did housework and drove – such a blessing! (Even if your children don’t seem to be listening, I really believe, from my own experience, that hearing godly teaching is so beneficial to their walk with God as they get older.) So, when I heard that Dr. Stanley was writing an autobiography, I was thrilled. This autobiography was not a disappointment, either — Like he always has, in his autobiography, Stanley continues to give God all the credit for any “achievements” and continually points his readers to “obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.” If you are looking for incredible encouragement from a man who has withstood – by the grace of God – incredible trials in his walk of faith, pick up this not-too-long-to-read autobiography. 

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

Read the description HERE.

My thoughts: I’ve never read anything by Karen Witemeyer before, but others have long recommended her books to me. So when the option to review one came up, I thought that I would give it a try. 🙂 I loved the cover of this novel – the heroine looks like she is brimming with a very happy secret and the telegraph equipment intrigued me.

Overall, I enjoyed this easy-reading story and learned *a lot* about late 19th-century telegraphy ~ That unique historical backdrop of Heart on the Line really kept me interested. The author also includes an unorthodox hero – a “nerdy”, bicycle-riding fellow telegrapher who flirts in Morse code – which was a humorous touch that I enjoyed. Funny enough, since I could figure out what would happen with Grace and Amos fairly early on, it was supporting character Helen’s story that ended up really piquing my curiosity – I wish we had gotten to have a whole book for her! 🙂

Witemeyer has a deft touch with words, and her story is tightly-woven ~ The reading itself is really enjoyable (even apart from the story) as a result. Grace and Amos are distinctive individuals who truly felt like living, breathing people. I would have liked the Christianity of the characters to be even more involved in the storyline, but I appreciated that it was included. Taking everything into account, Heart on the Line was a fun story with a solid message of appreciating the way in which God makes us each unique.

A copy of this book was provided by Bethany House to me, and I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Currently Reading:

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection by Joanne Bischof, Amanda Dykes, Heather Day Gilbert, Jocelyn Green, and Maureen Lang

9 Things a Leader Must Do by Dr. Henry Cloud

Next up:

Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz

A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White

What are you reading this summer, friends?
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