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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Each Friday, I recommend a book that I think you’ll enjoy, too. Do I include books I don’t like? Nope – only ones that I believe will refresh, encourage, and challenge you in your walk with Jesus Christ. {Often, there’s also a giveaway… because I like giveaways!}

Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes

Here from Marjorie Holmes, one of the most  beloved authors of our day, is the extraordinary  bestselling novel that tells the story of Mary and  Joseph as it has never been told before–the greatest  love story of all.

This is the  story of two real people whose lives were touched by  God: two people chosen by God to provide an earthly  home for His Son. Here are Mary and Joseph-a  teenage girl and a young carpenter-alone, frightened,  in love, faced with family conflict, a hostile  world and an awesome responsibility. It is a story  for young and old alike; for everyone who finds the  Christmas tale a source of timeless beauty and  wonder, a compassionate, emotional novel of divine love.

I have been waiting on the edge of my seat to share about this little novel with you, friends. I’ve read it several times now, and each time it touches my heart and spirit and mind in a fresh way.

I came across it out of boredom one day when I was a teenager ~ I must have not had any new books out of the library and the contents of my own shelves must have lost their sparkle. Thank the good Lord for a book-loving mother ~ I headed over to her shelves and perused their contents. Two From Galilee sat there. I asked my mama if I could read it {the unspoken rule being to ask because some things are better read at different ages}, and she said, “Oh, yes!”

What I opened that day was an intimate, real-life look into what it might have been like for that very real-life couple, young Mary and her carpenter-betrothed Joseph, as they found that they’d been chosen by God to raise His Son. What it could have been like for her family and for his, neither of which are painted here with halos.

Marjorie Holmes draws the veil back carefully but reverently, something I strongly appreciate. Through the story she gently tells, she reminds us that God uses ordinary people, people who are afraid at times, who doubt and lack faith to believe, who don’t always make the right choices. She reminds us that there is grace to uphold us – to fill in the cracks of our broken earthen vessels.

And Two From Galilee reminds us that we have an extraordinary God. One Who loves and tenderly cares for each individual person. One Who wants us to believe that He will do what He says. One Who will *always* come through for us if we follow Him in obedience, though we stumble ~ even when outward circumstances seem dark.

This novel is well-worth reading, friends, and to encourage you to do just that, I’m giving away a softcover copy of it.

How to enter: Comment below ~ Do you have “favorite” person in the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth? Mary? Joseph? The Wise Men? Someone else? Let me know why. 🙂

Giveaway is open to the continental U.S. only due to shipping costs. Giveaway ends on Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 8 p.m. EST.

Please note that I haven’t read any of Marjorie Holmes’ other books and so cannot vouch for them in any way. 🙂

 

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My heart is full of joy today, friends.

Joy and relief and, yes, a little sadness. 🙂

Today, A LOVE TO COME HOME TO is officially available for you to read in both softcover and as an e-book.

This is the final volume in the A Time of Grace Trilogy.

Which means that, at the end of this novel, Grace and Paulie (Paulie!) and Sam and Sarah and Ben and Emmeline and Geoff – well, they must part ways with us. And that makes me sad. Just a bit. 🙂

But…

Excitement also fills me up – I am looking forward to the way that God, by His all-consuming grace, will use this little bundle of “five-loaves-and-two-fish” {Matthew 14:13-21} to feed the people whom He has made – whom He has loved – whom He has given His Son for.

Which is one of the bigger themes of A Love to Come Home To – the lengths to which God goes to bring us in from the hedges and the bi-ways of life. And the lengths to which we should be willing to go – willing to give of ourselves and our own comforts and desires – to do the same for those He has loved and died for.

May you be blessed in the journey of A Love to Come Home To. May it challenge you, inspire you, and refresh you, friends.

Grace and peace,

Alicia

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Each Friday, I recommend a book that I think you’ll enjoy, too. Do I include books I don’t like? Nope – only ones that I believe will refresh, encourage, and challenge you in your walk with Jesus Christ. {Often, there’s also a giveaway… because I like giveaways!}

The Princess by Lori Wick

In the Land of Pendaran, Shelby Parker lives a humble but good life. Her special qualities are eventually noticed by the king and queen of the House of Markham,who seek a new wife for their widowed son, Prince Nikolai.

To uphold the tradition of their country, Shelby and Nikolai agree to an arranged marriage. But while Nikolai is a perfect gentleman in public, he remains distant at home, leaving Shelby to wonder what is in his heart. Will the prince ever love her as he did his first wife? Can the faith they share overcome the barriers between them?

I found this book as an early teenager and fell in love with it. It was over a decade ago now, while my family and I were vacationing in Lancaster, PA – so you would think that I’d be picking up a Beverly Lewis book, right? 🙂 But, no, in a Lancaster-area Christian bookstore’s blowout sale, I found this gem of a novel. I re-read it once a year. And I swoon. And, like Jo March, I’m usually not the swooning type.

What I love: So many things! Where to start, is the question: the hints of “Cinderella” via the prince marrying a commoner; the vulnerable but strong-hearted heroine; the hurting, struggling, but gentlemanly hero; the unusual feeling of a contemporary kingdom (which Lori Wick depicts well); the journey we take as Shelby and Nick learn that love – real love – is not a rush of emotion or the result of finding the perfect person for you, but the result of asking God to give to you – and then obeying Him as He does – the unselfish love you know you should have for your spouse. I don’t usually find this theme too often in contemporary or historical Christian romance, and while I enjoy the fizzle-and-firecracker type of love stories, where the two main characters are “just right” for each other, perfect fits – sometimes – no, many times – I appreciate the type of love that Lori Wick depicts in this novel. Not only a sweet love story, The Princess is a strong encouragement to married couples to choose to love with the good of the other spouse in mind. It’s also (and I have to be careful how I word this, lest I spoil the story’s twists!) a great reminder for men that once they make their wives feel unloved, they may need to do some heavy, prayerful work to get their marriage back on track. Finally, it’s a wonderful steadying type of read for a teenager – a touching fairytale that gives a Biblical perspective on love.

What I wasn’t fond of: The epilogue somewhat precludes a sequel! Seriously, I have wished for a sequel to The Princess since the first time I read it – the sign of a *really* good book!

Side note: Funny as it sounds, after you read The Princess, you might want your husband or boyfriend to try it too. 😉 My brother-in-love *really* likes this book. He can’t resist a good story! Hmm… Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve had my husband read it yet! 😉

Ages: Anyone 14 and up. There’s no overt sensuality and little violence.

Now for the GIVEAWAY!

I have a lightly-used softcover copy – not mine! 🙂 – of The Princess that I’d like to give away. {Unfortunately, Harvest House is no longer publishing this novel in softcover – thus the used copy.}

HOW TO ENTER: Do you have a favorite arranged-marriage story or fairytale-style novel that you’d like to recommend? Let us know the title in the comments below – Be sure to leave your e-mail address as well in this type of safe format: name (at) gmail (dot) com to protect yourself from spammers. 🙂

Giveaway runs through 7/18/2016. Open to the continental U.S. only due to shipping costs.

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Friends, I’m so delighted to reveal the cover for the final book in the A Time of Grace Trilogy!

This novel – A Love to Come Home To – holds a special spot in my affections because not only does it conclude the story of our beloved Paulie and Grace, but it also features one of my favorite characters: Ben Picoletti, Grace’s rough, rebellious older brother with a hurting heart he’s kept secret through pushing everyone else away. I hope that this novel will bless your soul as you read it.

ALovetoComeHometo_Ebook (1)

It’s release date? July 22, 2016.

You may order it HERE.

About A Love to Come Home To:

Hardened Ben Picoletti thought he’d turned his back on Depression-era Rhode Island years ago. Nothing remains there for him, except for haunting memories of an abusive childhood. Yet when a criminal accusation shatters his ambitions, Ben has nowhere to flee but back to his stepfather’s home.

There, he finds that redemption yet waits for him… but the sacrifice required to attain it may exceed the limits of his family’s hearts.

Meanwhile, his musical sister Grace continues her studies in New York. She longs to hear a word of affection from her high-school beau… yet only Paulie’s silence greets her. Grace must decide whether she wants to live in the past or move into an unknown future with unexpected love.

Lyrical and sensitive to the aching heart, A Love to Come Home To affirms that God delights in being a stronghold in times of trouble; that He renews His mercy every morning; and that He will work every bitter thing together for the good of His children.

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