Ramblings

Sourdough and “Stones for Bread”

Bread making.

I’m not sure I could come up with something novel to say about the process– after all, people have been shaping loaves for centuries. My first thought was to share something poetic; I could wax on about the smell of yeast…the warmth of dough under my hands…the irresistible, velvety softness of flour.

Christa Parrish, author of Stones for Bread, manages much better than I to write a love story to the staple of human history. Tucked here and there between the pages of her book are instructions to make your first sourdough starter and recipes for Dark Chocolate Pain au Levain and Brioche Sticky Buns, among others. Regularly scattered throughout are tidbits on bread throughout the ages as well as musings on its Scriptural importance. Bread is woven throughout Scripture–in its stories and used symbolically– more than I think I realized before or thought about.

As for the fiction Christa pens, I admit: I have mixed feelings. While the tale of a bakery owner still healing from the scars of a tragic childhood resonated emotionally, I found myself a bit conflicted over some of the messages and meaning in the book. Ultimately I couldn’t resolve my differing thoughts about the novel clearly enough to feel as if I could give it a proper rating, or a fair review. Still, I thought it was worth mentioning, and if you read it I’d be interested in hearing your opinion of it.

Also…bringing up this book makes for the perfect excuse to share a favorite bread recipe, am I right?! While nothing overly complicated or fancy, I’ve really enjoyed this recipe for Garlic and Herb dinner rolls. I don’t have a KitchenAid, so I just knead them by hand for 15-20 minutes, and they always seem to turn out really well. I also speed up the rise time by turning on the oven briefly, then turning it off and putting the dough inside the warm oven. Follow the link above if you’d like to take a peek at these rolls and the rest of It’s Always Autumn’s website. Otherwise, enjoy the rest of your week– reading, or baking, or doing whatever God has for you to do. ❤

Ramblings

Dream Casting “Burning Sky” by Lori Benton

Inevitably, when I’m reading a descriptive piece of Christian fiction, I wonder what it would be like translated into film. Especially if the book has a cinematic “flavor” to it, just aching for an adaption on the big screen! Once before I had a great deal of fun putting together a dream cast for an imaginary movie based on the book Hidden Among the Stars. (Click here to read that post.) I thought I’d do that again, this time for a Lori Benton book I read recently called Burning Sky. As I go along, I’ll share my cast picks, musings about the novel, and maybe mention a few Christian films I’ve enjoyed.

Burning Sky is set just after the Revolutionary War in the American frontier. Willa Obenchain (the protagonist of the story) has just returned to her childhood homestead to find it abandoned–parents vanished, without any trace of what might have happened to them. Willa was abducted by Mohawk Indians as a little girl, and has lived most of her life with them. Tragedy pushes her to find her origins and build a new future on her parents’ land. The heartbeat of Willa’s story, to me, revolves around a recurring Bible verse–Isaiah 42:3, “A bruised reed shall He not break”… a promise Willa grasps tightly.

I had difficulty choosing an actress to play Willa’s part, and to be honest, I’m still not completely satisfied. Whoever plays Willa needs to look as if she could not only survive, but thrive living among the Mohawk. Not to mention endure the strain of rigorous farm life. I still haven’t found someone who embodies the physical and emotional strength I envisioned in my mind, but I settled on Blake Lively in the end. Blake is beautiful, no doubt, but something about her features seems slightly– worn, as if she could portray a character who carries so much grief. At the same time, even the set of her chin suggests tenacity.

Blake would need to wear a colored contact in one eye to be mismatched like Willa. For the sake of easier casting I’ve also aged up all the characters in the book somewhat.

Next up would be Willa’s two romantic interests. Willa saves the life of Neil MacGregor, who finds himself obliged to her after he is injured traveling through the vicinity of her farm land. He stays on for some time to heal, falls for Willa, and sticks around to help in any way he can. Neil isn’t exactly cut from frontier cloth, but he works hard, loves to read his old family Bible, and of course has a Scottish accent going for him. I don’t watch the show Outlander, but I imagined Neil as something like that show’s Sam Heughan. That said, I chose the Scottish lead of All Creatures Great and Small, Nicholas Ralph, for this part. I think his role as a country vet on All Creatures… translates well to “I paint pictures of plants but I’m also totally comfortable getting muddy or patching up your gunshot wound” Neil.

Ditch the prim and proper, 1930s era garb, and he might be able to pull off the role. I’m still kind of sad Ewan McGregor is too old for the part…

Guy number two is Willa’s Mohawk guardian angel, “Joseph” Tames-His-Horse. Technically her brother (as part of the same Wolf Clan) back among the Indians, Joseph watches out for Willa, occasionally bringing her fresh meat and protecting her land. Joseph converted to following Christ as a boy after being taught by missionary Samuel Kirkland. (Interesting note, Samuel Kirkland was a real Presbyterian minister who lived for many years with the Iroquois tribes. He founded a seminary that admitted Indian boys, and was instrumental in convincing two of the Mohawk tribes to fight with the American revolutionaries.) Joseph longs for Willa to follow him to Niagara, where an Indian settlement is being formed and the Canadians promise land, ministers, and teachers.

Martin Sensmeier, my pick for Joseph.

I wish I could have more actors on this list that are currently working in Christian film projects, but the unique roles for this book made that challenging. How many actors can you name that look American Indian and were in a recent God-honoring movie? I thought of one young fellow from a movie called Hope Bridge, as well as the lead from Pureflix’s Samson, but neither their age or features seem to fit.

Sorry, Taylor James. You made a great Samson though…

Willa has plenty of challenges ahead for her if she decides to stay on her parents’ land. Childhood friend Richard Waring, warped by the horrors of war, wants to lay claim to her property and is bent on proving her (mysteriously absent) parents were Tories. His aging father, Colonel Elias Waring, is also an imposing–but more sympathetic–figure.

I gave Maddie McCormick a slot as warm, protective Anni Waring for the sole purpose of mentioning another movie she had a bit part in– Unbroken: Path to Redemption. That film was excellent and emotionally moving– it tells the true story of survivor (and all-around amazing) Louis Zamperini, and his incredible road to Christ and healing.

I think I’ll close here, since this post is already so long! There are certainly other roles I could fill from Benton’s novel. Memorable characters, like Francis– a young man with disabilities who is critical to the plot– or orphan siblings Maggie and Matthew. Read the book and let me know what you think of my choices! If you’ve read it already, do you think Kevin Sorbo could play any role that you remember? (Is it really a Christian movie if it doesn’t have either Kevin Sorbo or Kirk Cameron in it??!) Lastly, if you were making this book into a movie, would you change the ending (I didn’t really like it)?

Happy reading (or watching)~

Rebekah

Biblical · Full Reviews · Historical

King’s Shadow by Angela Hunt

When you were a kid, did your mom ever make you watch history documentaries? You know the ones; maybe they were about the Civil War, or the Aztecs, or uncovering the secrets of Ancient Egyptians (seems as if new mummies are discovered every day). There was a deep voiced narrator who had perfected the art of sounding ominous, and interviews with at least one old guy who appeared to spend too much time locked away in a dusty museum basement. But the best parts of the film were when they would use actors to reenact historical moments in the background. You could watch Pharaoh so-and-so yell at underlings, lounge by the Nile, order a pizza, and ultimately die at the hands of some angry conspiring family member (okay, I made up the pizza part). If you’re like me, you ultimately found yourself surprisingly entertained. Fifteen years later, it’s not what you’d pick for movie night, but you still remember enjoying the learning process.  

I finished a book a while ago that reminded me of one of those films– King’s Shadow by Angela Hunt. Based on the events just before Christ, the story revolves around King Herod’s sister Salome and her fictionalized handmaid Zara. Since much of the unfolding drama in the book is drawn from true history of the time, the plot meanders around like ordinary life does. Real people rarely have stories that fit perfectly into the plot-writing standards you learned in high school English, with orderly climaxes and obvious overarching themes. For those reasons, I think Angela’s hands were tied, (pen and all) and the story tends to lack direction.

That said, King’s Shadow still did an amazing job breathing life into the years just before and up to Messiah’s birth. Christian fiction centered on the years of Jesus’ life are commonplace, but the time period for this book was unique–and set the stage in a way that helped me to better understand the cultural and political backdrop that followed. It documents Herod’s life through the eyes of a sister who is fiercely loyal, even as he slowly degenerates into the baby-killing monster we read about every Christmas. If you enjoy political intrigue, there is plenty of it here, even (or especially) within the royal family. Handmaid Zara is a quiet presence throughout, lending the viewpoint of a God-fearing and humble Jew.

Of course, I made the mistake of reading what turned out to be the fourth book in a series (!)– oops. Do I regret it? No. This book solidified my opinion that Angela Hunt’s best work is her historical fiction. Her research and rich writing style shine here, while the constraints of the timeline help her keep her characterizations and stories more believable (something I think she struggles with in some of her contemporary fiction, such as an earlier work, The Canopy). Not unlike those documentaries, I walked away feeling as if I knew the time period and the motivations of its main players better, but lacking deep emotional attachment to the story or practical application to my own life. For those pros and cons, I gave the book 3/5 stars.  

Do you like documentaries? Who are your historical inspirations? As always, I love hearing from you.

Fantasy · Full Reviews · Science Fiction · Thriller

Forbidden, by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

I was in the mood for something with a bit more “flair” and ended up grabbing Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee. If I can give Dekker credit for anything, it’s that he never seems to think “inside the box”… while I may fault him sometimes for execution, he has no lack of raw originality.  Forbidden, the first in a three book arc, is set in a dystopian future and blends futuristic advancements (e.g. DNA manipulation) with a way of life that in many aspects parallels the far past. (Sword fights! Horseback riding! Underground prisons that are basically dungeons!)

The world of Forbidden is a gloomy one—after a cataclysmic world war, scientists create and unleash a virus capable of altering the genetic codes responsible for all higher human emotions. All human emotions, that is, except fear and its derivatives. With a new world order in place, humanity is at peace for hundreds of years—essentially because everyone on earth is only a few steps removed from being a robot. Devoid of hate and love, people appear to be motivated only by reason and a desire to alleviate their anxieties.
That latter, sadly, struck an all-too-familiar chord with me… how many people do I know that are motivated by fear? How many spend most of their time distracting themselves from the uncomfortable realities of life– like death, pain, and the always unknowable future?

Fortunately for the fictional characters in Dekker and Lee’s work, a vial of blood capable of restoring the full spectrum of feelings to those who drink it (side note: yuck) falls into the hands of the story’s protagonist, Rom Sebastian. Suddenly Rom –and a few friends who also take the restorative blood–are the only people on earth who are truly alive. On the run from the establishment, the group must search for a boy prophesied to be the key to restoring the rest of humanity. Unfortunately for them, someone else has found—and taken—a partial cure. Though whether it can truly be called a cure is questionable, since it only restores the darkest side of the human heart…

I really like the premise of this book, and it grabbed me quickly with plenty of action. I think it had a huge amount of potential, but I’m ultimately going to give it a tentative 3/5 stars, and by tentative I mean that it barely squeaked past the two star threshold. What fell short? In my mind there are two glaring issues.

First off, Forbidden was violent. The antagonist, Saric, is literally incapable of any noble emotions resembling humility, kindness, or affection to temper his villainous passions–so I can understand why Dekker and Lee painted him in such a one-dimensional, sadistic light. Among his offenses (although some are just alluded to) are murder, mad-scientist torture…and a disturbing attraction to his own half-sister despite having what appears to be a hoard of concubines. Saric aside, there was darkness elsewhere in the story I felt was unnecessary…a scene near the end involving a dead body and an internal organ stands out in my mind. I would never recommend this book to a young person. I felt as if Dekker (and Lee) enjoyed focusing in on the disturbing nature of things more than is required of the story.

Second, nothing in the book is very well fleshed out. The characters, for example, are mostly flat; the plot is simplistic. To be fair, the premise of the story makes character building difficult—after all, how do you create connection for your readers with a character that has had essentially no emotions for his entire life? Backstory becomes a challenge, as their lives are nothing but a list of facts that held no deeper meaning for them, at least until recently. After the characters are brought “to life”, many still lack depth or behave inconsistently—although it’s a wonder they can function at all given that processing so many new emotions at once must be akin to being blind and then suddenly given sight.

So what saved the book for me? Why did I let it inch up to a 3/5 stars? Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that this book is the first in a trilogy. Despite all the problems I’ve mentioned (and some that I didn’t) I still walked away really wanting to know what happens in the next book, which to me is a sign of some level of decent writing. The closing reveal had all the dystopian-drama-cliffhanger goodness I was hoping for, and I can’t stop thinking about directions the plot could go. Some of the issues I had seemed less rankling as I considered that this first volume may have been, ultimately, setting the stage for the full-fledged drama of Mortal (the sequel title). How many middling TV pilots have led to an excellent series?

“Love covers a multitude of sins” and in this case, well… so does a good sequel.

Major plot twist I’d love to see in book two? Saric getting some of the curative blood, and either redeeming himself as one of the good guys…or purposely fighting against his “better side” to be a more complicated villain.

Speaking of sequels, I still haven’t read book two of Dekker’s Circle series… which would you rather see me read next? Should I continue with this or head back to his more definitive work? Let me know with a comment, and thanks for checking in on the blog!

Ramblings · Short Reviews (1-2 Star Rating)

Far-fetched Civil War Stories (and One of Them Is Mostly True)

It’s 1861, and eighteen year old Cassie runs away from home to avoid the loathsome marriage her drunkard father has arranged for her against her will. With few options open to her and a fervent desire to hide somewhere her father cannot find her, she joins the Union Army—disguising herself as a man. At first an engrossing and action-packed story, Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson unfortunately seems to completely lose steam about half-way through, letting loose its grip on the suspense and character development it was building up to that point. Notably, Cassie’s secret identity is discovered by a handsome young photographer, and rather than build slowly on the relationship between the two, the author focuses in on their relationship and the story devolves into near-constant romantic drama. I ultimately lost interest completely around the same time phrases like “It was all he could do not to sweep her up in his arms and cradle her like a wounded kitten” started popping up, which seemed jarring against the raw backdrop of the American Civil War. Somehow I find it hard to believe that in the midst of such a bloody war the main characters would act and think the way Johnson renders them.

Such a lovely cover and title…

It’s 1861, (sound familiar?) and Canadian Sarah Emma Edmonds, who went by Emma, was making a living in the United States. Having run away from her birthplace and her abusive father–who had set up an arranged marriage for her–Emma disguised herself as a man, selling Bibles door-to-door. Moved for the Union cause, Emma managed to enlist under her alias of “Franklin Thompson.” Emma nursed wounded soldiers and buried the dead; later she was assigned the task of regimental mail carrier (which was more dangerous than it sounds, as carriers were prone to being ambushed!). Emma’s true story, unfortunately, has ballooned almost to mythical grounds today because of an at least partly fictionalized “memoir” she wrote called Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. In it, she recounts stories of espionage, such as infiltrating a confederate fort disguised as a black man (having used silver nitrate to blacken her face and skin). That said, a serious study of Civil War intelligence by Edwin Fishel notes that both “Emma’s name and alias are missing from Pinkerton’s [head of the Union Intelligence Service] roster of agents; no information attributed to her is found in the thousand pages of Pinkerton reports in the McClellan Papers.” As a fellow soldier’s diary mentions “Franklin” to have been present in camp during the time frame she claimed to have been serving as a spy, it’s more than dubious that she was ever involved in espionage, but unfortunately her memoir is often taken as gospel to this day, despite being riddled with errors. If you want to read the rest of Fishel’s notes about Emma, or are interested in military intelligence of the Civil War, you might enjoy his book, The Secret War for the Union. Whatever the case may be with regard to Emma’s later adventures, she served for two years before deserting (she insisted that she left for fear of being discovered after she contracted malaria), but returned as herself (in woman’s garb) and continued helping the cause as a nurse for the U.S. Christian Commission. I’ve left out many details, so feel free to google up one of the many articles about Emma’s life–though in my opinion facts drawn from her memoir should be taken with a grain of salt.

Emma, after the Civil War…

Tara Johnson has confirmed that Emma was the inspiration for Where Dandelions Bloom. While I may not care for her twist on the true tale, I’m grateful to her for drawing my attention to Edmonds’ singular and eventful life… it’s certainly a unique piece of the patchwork of American history.

Allegory · Full Reviews

Full Review, The Book of Told

“Where were you when I wrote the first words of this story? Tell me if you understand. Who marked out its chapters? Surely you know. Who stretched the story arc across it? On what were its structures set, or who laid the first cornerstone?”

~The Author, when Brew accuses him of being responsible for the painful death of his brother.

What if you found out you were just a word in an author’s book? That this world was His creation and story, but that he had given you free will to decide what kind of character (word) you would be? What if the author penned himself into his own story and promised that those who were words of life in his book would be granted to become ‘real’ at the end of the final chapters, and live in reality with him? What if in six years, you and the inhabitants of your valley experienced an allegorical version of nearly all of human history?  This is The Book of Told: Mere Words.

No matter how I summarize K. A. Gunn’s work, I feel as if I am swaying back and forth between either over-simplification or representing it as extremely complicated. While it is unique in concept, it is not entirely hard to understand or follow – just challenging to describe. You could almost imagine that it is like Pilgrim’s Progress, if Pilgrim made his journey as a Christian but was also traveling through world history, in addition to his own life. However, unlike Pilgrim’s Progress— or even Hind’s Feet in High Places— the main character is relatively stationary in his valley and the narrative involves all the things taking place between the different people who live there.

The language and plot-line of The Book of Told are much easier for me to follow than the aforementioned allegories, given that it was written in a modern-day style and vernacular. Human history doesn’t always condense down into the smooth pacing desired in fiction, so the story can at times feel… fragmented. That said, Gunn does a decent job of weaving the main character’s life through the larger picture to hold it all together and keep things moving. (Side thought… have any of you read Ted Dekker’s Black? This reminds me of Black’s “other reality”, but a lot less fantastical/outlandish.) Like many allegories, there are plenty of “theological pauses,” where the characters stop to discuss or try to wrap their minds around ideas, such as creation vs. evolution or the dangers of entertainment.

What the book lacked in a few minor ways I’ve already mentioned, it more than makes up for by practically fulfilling the very definition of ingenuity: the quality of being clever, original, and inventive. Gunn employs a lot of wordplay and wit, and some of it borders on genius. But ultimately, what I love about this book is that it doesn’t draw attention to itself, but to our Lord and His brilliance.

At times quiet and reflective, at other times (especially in the second half) full of action and conflict, I would recommend this book to anyone who’s been a Christian for some time. It can be difficult to draw out the parallels and soak up the meaning–frankly, I’m still scratching my head and wondering what a lot of the symbolism stood for. I recommended it to my Pastor, and perhaps he will point me in the right direction; notwithstanding, I can easily see myself re-reading this treasure in the near future to see if I can glean some more goodness from the details I glazed over. When I do, or if I alternatively discover something I disagree with upon understanding the meaning, I would love to write up another post to share my findings.

History lovers, allegory readers, and English language devotees, I hope you grab a copy, and be encouraged that the author pledged all the royalties from your purchases to the A21 Campaign, a non-profit which works to end human trafficking and slavery.

To close, which Christian allegory do you think you’ll be more likely to read next; this one or Hind’s Feet on High Places (review here)? Let me know in the comments.

An arrow zinged too close, and I held up my shield swiftly to stub it. Cheers of approval rang out behind me. Still, Told held us back from the attack.

This time, an Untold phrase charged madly into the dome with weapons aimed. “Between ignorance and intelligence!” they shouted their war cry.

Startled they would claim intelligence, given their name, I laughed tensely. Again, they ran by us to attack Som, Duso, and Reson on the stairs. Again, we shouted tribute. “Fear of the author is the beginning of wisdom!”

– Chapter 59

Disclosure for readers– I should note that a mild swear word is used near the beginning of the book when a character grieves the death of a family member. It is not used in any passage thereafter.

Uncategorized

Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager

Well, here I am, breaking all the long-established rules of good blogging yet again! Post regularly, they say. Stick to your niche, they say. Post on the same day of the week, they say. It’s been a while, this isn’t Christian Fiction, and it isn’t even Monday!– but I don’t care, because this book made me feel as if slipping back into my childhood imagination, optimism, and sense of “silliness” is about as easy and comfortable as slipping into my favorite sweater. The one that I make sure finds its way into the first load in the washer, so I can wear it again as soon as possible.

Magic by the Lake is a children’s book first published in 1957 (not an especially big year for children’s literature, but it did bring us The Cat in the Hat). Second in the Tales of Magic series, it continues the adventures of siblings Jane, Mark, Katherine and Martha as they find themselves “cavorting with mermaids, outwitting pirates, and–with the help of a cranky old turtle–granting a little magical help to the one person who needs it most.”

I fell in love with the book as a little girl; devouring the story of four kids who are lucky enough to end up living by an enchanting, wish-granting lake for the summer… and rediscovered the charm when I was doing a bit of bookshelf spring-cleaning. After all these years, I couldn’t remember most of the plot, so I tried a few pages to see if it was worth all the nostalgic and sentimental feelings the cover evoked, and it certainly was. I couldn’t put it down.

Perhaps it’s the humor; Eager is playful and even a little absurd at times, but he’s also quite clever. He manages to poke fun at tidbits of human nature, particularly the way that children think about things, in a way that is perhaps even funnier to me now as an adult looking back. His stories are always safe, innocent fun (in this case, there’s always a talking turtle to save you if things go horribly wrong) and would be perfect to read aloud to your kids, niece, or even your cat if there’s no one else. (After all, your cat won’t mind your atrocious impression of a pirate accent.)

If you do give this a try (or a re-read) let me know so I can spend far too much time gushing over it with you. Just kidding… I’ll be too busy reading the first book (Half Magic). If children’s literature isn’t your cup of tea, please keep checking in–as I hope to have some new Christian fiction reviews up soon!

All the best,

Rebekah

Ramblings

Christian Fiction Subscription?

Hello ladies and gents!

Sorry, too many hours listening to an audio book with a British narrator has made me feel inclined to be a bit more posh on the blog… anyone want a scone? 😉

I’ll keep this post short and sweet; I’ve had an idea for some time to curate and sell a Christian Fiction book subscription. Here’s what I have in mind: each month, I would put together a package (for each subscriber) with either

A. One brand- new Christian Fiction book (not necessarily a recent release, but an unused copy)

OR

B. Two pre-owned Christian Fiction books, in good used condition

PLUS

One specially chosen additional surprise. This would be something small, along the lines of but not limited to:

a devotional or short Bible study book/ a Bible verse memory card set / Bible highlighters/ a small candle/ a few specialty tea samples / a set of pretty washi tapes / etc

AND ALSO

a bookmark

All wrapped up in pretty tissue and ribbons, perhaps. 🙂

I’m hoping to get some feelers out to see if this is something that fellow readers would be interested in; that said, don’t feel you have to commit to anything! However, if this sounds appealing to you, I’d love to hear your comments. With the price of shipping rising, I would need to ask for roughly $20 a month in order to make a profit, and I’m concerned that might be prohibitive for some. Is there anything that would make the subscription more valuable to you? What kind of items would you be interested in seeing? If this isn’t up your alley, could you imagine a friend purchasing a subscription, or gifting one to someone else? What questions would you need answered? Alternatively, would a book-only subscription, (which could be sent media mail and would therefore be less expensive) better suit your fancy? I cherish your thoughts!

Author Interviews · Uncategorized

Q&A With Tessa Afshar

I told you, dear readers, that I had a lovely Q&A waiting just around the corner for you! In honor of her newest release, author Tessa Afshar has been making time for interviews. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to ask her a handful of questions! Tessa’s author bio as well as a bevy of other relevant links are at the bottom of this post, so please take a look at those if you are interested in learning more about Tessa after you’ve finished reading through her warmhearted answers. Let’s jump right in!

978-1-4964-2870-7

R: Your newest release, Daughter of Rome, is launching February 4th; I noticed almost immediately that the main characters will encounter Paul the apostle. This isn’t your first book featuring an appearance from Paul (Bread of Angels and Thief of Corinth immediately come to mind), and I’m curious if it’s more than coincidence that you feel drawn to write about him. Do you relate or resonate with his life?

T: What a good question, Rebekah! Because so many of the New Testament letters were written by Paul, we know more about him than almost any other person in the early church. We know of his travels, his travails, his triumphs. We know his friends and his enemies. We know his background and struggles. For a writer like me, Paul’s trailblazing life provides the perfect fodder for a novel.

More subtly, Paul’s presence in different books acts as the cord that pulls the stories together. For example, Bread of Angels is inspired by the story of Lydia, who came to faith through Paul’s preaching in Philippi. Not long after that, Paul traveled to Corinth. So it was natural to have him show up in Thief of Corinth. Paul also first met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth. Of course, I had to include him in Daughter of Rome as well. He makes a great spiritual father!

R: You also have a number of books set in the Old Testament era—fleshing out the stories of Ruth and Rahab, among others. Do you find it easier to write in one time period versus the other (Old Testament versus New)?

T: I prefer to remain in a specific time period for several years. The more you linger in a certain era, the more you learn about it. Books have a way of expressing that facility and knowledge, creating a more powerful story for the reader. I am currently working on another New Testament book, but eventually I will return to the Old Testament. I have a few ideas percolating in the back of my mind already! I will probably spend the first year in a flurry of research, trying to find answers to too many questions. But it will ultimately be worth it.

R: I was taking a look through your website and noticed that you feature a Bible verse there—Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Such a beautiful verse. Do you feel it is the heartbeat of your novels? A message of healing through Jesus Christ?

T: I certainly feel that it is an important part of my writing. Jesus said he came to bind up the broken-hearted (Isa. 61:1). For me, the best of my writing contains a touch of the Balm of Gilead for the reader.

R: Reading through an excellent interview with you by Mesu Andrews (link to that here) I saw that you mentioned working a day job (at least at the time) in addition to writing. Do you mind if I ask what your occupation is when you aren’t crafting a story? English teacher? Caped superhero? Dye master, like Lydia in Bread of Angels?

T: Actually, I have been a full-time writer for some time now. That interview was from five years ago. At the time, I worked full-time in women’s ministry and prayer ministry, writing whenever I could. Looking back, I can see the grace of God made that crazy schedule possible.

R: Do you feel that having lived the early years of your childhood in Iran gave you a better perspective for detailing the settings of your novels? While I’ve never been to Israel, I’m of the opinion that you deftly capture the flavor of the Middle East.

T: Thank you, Rebekah! I think some of my Middle Eastern background definitely makes its way into the novels. My voice as a writer comes out of a well that was once watered by ancient poems and epic tales of adventures in the East. I was raised eating pomegranates and saffron rice. Those sights and smells are still a deep part of my life, and they spill out on the paper when I write.

***

It’s been a pleasure hanging out with you and your readers at A Page Out of Her Book! You are an awesome host, Rebekah. Thanks for asking such great questions.

R: Oh, it’s been a joy having you here! All the best.

 

Tessa AfsharTessa Afshar is an award-winning author of biblical fiction, including Thief of Corinth, a 2019 Inspy Award finalist; Land of Silence, which was voted by Library Journal as one of the top five Christian fiction titles of 2016; and Harvest of Gold, which won a 2014 Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. Born in Iran, Tessa spent her teen years in England and later moved to the United States. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life. She holds an MDiv from Yale Divinity School, where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship. 

 

Tessa’s Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Daughter of Rome  by Tessa Afshar
ISBN: 978-1-4964-2870-7| Hardcover: $25.99
ISBN: 978-1-4964-2871-4 | Softcover: $15.99
February 2020
Tyndale.com

 

 

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review of Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey

What should I say about Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton? My thoughts about this book have been tumbling around in my mind for some time now, as you can ascertain by the late summer setting of the cover photo!

I first discovered Adah’s Journey when I was processing some new library books to be moved over to our regular fiction section; it’s a small book, and the unknown author and publishing imprint (Harbourlight Books) held my interest. It promised the imagined story of Adah bat Shallum, one of the unnamed daughters recorded as rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem with their father in Nehemiah chapter three. Having no brothers, Adah steps forward and volunteers as a laborer in an act of faith in God as well as a desire to see her father’s name honored and remembered in Nehemiah’s records. Of course, rebuilding the wall is a smooth, peaceful process, right? Wrong, as anyone who’s read the book of Nehemiah knows! Challenges present themselves and Adah plays a role in helping overcome many of them.

Truthfully, this story has what I would call an “unfinished” quality; I felt as if I was reading an excellent second draft that still needed a round or two of polishing. To be fair, most of the problems were small—a number of typos and grammar errors that could have been easily fixed, for example. One fairly substantial character was barely developed and had an unlikely/weak backstory. Even the cover of this book feels underwhelming to me, as if the publishers could have given it a professional finish but perhaps didn’t have the budget. The romances were Hallmark movie style, so expect the characters to experience lots of heart fluttering… and yearnings… and tingly sensations…

All that said, if you’re looking for a lighter, shorter read about a young woman trying to more actively trust God, this may be just the book for you. If you relish a sensory experience, like me, you may also take joy in Adah’s talent as a perfumer– as the different oils and herbs are pleasantly mingled and described throughout the story.  3/5 Stars.