Literary Insights

Literary Insights: A Book Lovers Review

Monday, July 27, 2015

Among the Fair Magnolias: Four Southern Love Stories by Tamera Alexander, Dorothy Love, Shelley Gray, and Elizabeth Musser

Among The Fair Magnolias is a new book containing four novellas telling tales about women during the tumultuous times of the Civil War. In the most turbulent decade of our nation's history; four Southern women whom, destinies forged by birth and hearts steeled by war, face near impossible choices on their journeys in life and in love.  This collection of novella's all deal with the time period just before or after the American Civil War. Each of the stories deal with loss and how trusting God gives strength through trials.  
To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander
          Savannah lost more during the war than she thought possible, family and her home and everything in it.  Savannah has been left with her younger brother and sister to raise on her own. Savannah Darby would do almost anything to revisit her family home. So, when new owner, Aidan Bedford, a Boston attorney and former Union soldier, seeks to redecorate the house for his fiancĂ©e, Savannah jumps at the opportunity. But the clock is ticking; can she find the box her father supposedly hid there during the war before her assignment is completed, and before she sees yet another battle lost on the home front. This time, the battle for her heart. A sweet story of trusting God and finding love and peace in the bargain.

An Outlaw's Heart by Shelley Gray
          When Russell Stark returns to Fort Worth, he's determined to begin a new life. But when he arrives at his mother's homestead, he discovers she's very ill. Also the woman he loved is still as beautiful and sweet as he remembered. With time running out, Russell must come to terms with both his future and his past.
Russell ran away from home as a seventeen year old boy; now he has returned seven years later to find everything changed! His mother is near death and Nora, the girl he still loves, has taken up with a man that Russell has a bad feeling about. This is a sweet and amusing story about second chances to do what is right.

A Heart So True by Dorothy Love
            Abigail knows all too well what is expected of her: to marry her distant cousin Charles and take her place in society, although her heart belongs to another. A terrible incident forces Abby to choose between love and duty.
 Abigail Clayton, who is caught between her father's strong wish that she marry her cousin Charles Kittridge and her own heart's desire for Dr. Wade Bennett. Will you be surprised to discover which direction wins Abigail's heart in the end? Did not really like this story as much as the others – the main character was portrayed a bit to childish and spoiled, I had to go back to see how old she was. Other than the main character, which was annoying, the overall story concluded with lessons learned and resolved satisfactorily.

Love Beyond Limits by Elizabeth Musser
           The story of Emily Derracott, living in Wilkes County, Georgia, during the early days of the beatings and murders of the Ku Klux Klan. Emily has a secret: She's in love with one of the freedmen on her family's plantation. Meanwhile, another man declares his love for her. Emily realizes some things are not as they seem and secrets must be kept in order to keep those she loves safe. Will she follow after her feelings of a forbidden love for Washington's brother, Leroy, or will she follow her parent's wishes for her to marry her childhood friend, Thomas McGinnis, who she suspects is part of the Klan? Keep reading to see where the Lord leads Emily with all the questions she has about her changing world. Another story that seemed to portray a spoiled child woman who doesn’t think but in the end comes to her senses.

All of these authors succeeded in creating stories that can transport you to another time. One advantage about novella collections is being able to sample the writing of several authors, especially those you may not be familiar with. Although I liked some stories more than the others, it is still an enjoyable read for last lazy days of summer. Each novella includes a delicious Southern recipe that's inherent to each author's story and that will suit your book club meetings. Overall this is a nice collection of sweet, historical romances with a solid thread of faith throughout. I recommend this collection of novellas, especially if you haven't sampled these authors' work before.

 I received a copy of book from BookLook Blogging for Books program for my review. 

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God by Joanna Weaver

         Joanna Weaver has a gift of taking a Bible passage and looking at it from new angles. In the passage where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, most commentators focus on Mary and Martha, but Joanna shows us that Lazarus plays a vital role as well. What did he do? He died. He never speaks in the Bible, never does anything dramatic, but when Jesus is sent for; they tell Him that the one He loves is sick unto death. We live in a performance-oriented world and it is hard to believe that God loves us and it has nothing to do with what we do or don't do. Joanna shows us how to live in His love and how Jesus can bring us back to life no matter how dead our circumstances and life seems. There is a resurrection awaiting each and every one of us if we reach out and accept His love.

            Lazarus Awakening speaks about how God deals with the stones of unbelief, unforgiveness and unworthiness that cover the tombs of our lives. With study guides that provide provocative questions, individuals and small groups can begin to look at what stones need to be rolled away and how to shuffle out of our tomb. Joanna Weaver points out that Jesus loves us so much that He is willing to wait until we are willing to die to ourselves so He can restore us.

            Once out of the tomb, restoration is a process, but true restoration comes only after what is old and no longer working in our lives dies. One of the most helpful chapters for me was guidelines of things we can do to lovingly help others unwind the grave clothes that bind. The one who is in charge of healing is the Holy Spirit but there are things we can do to help. Besides the study guide, there are appendixes that provide resources for resurrected living. Sidebars placed throughout each chapter help us to further apply what we learn in real, practical ways.

            I recommend this book for personal or group bible study. Weaver offers readers beautiful biblical insights into this oft glazed-over story and will open eyes to new details that provide deeper appreciation for this story. Lazarus Awakening includes a ten-week Bible study, filled with thought-provoking questions, and it encourages further exploration of the Bible as it relates to the theme of the book.
            I received a free copy of the book from WaterBrook Multnomah books in their Blogging for Books program for my review.
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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Michal: A Novel (The Wives of King David) By Jill Eileen Smith

         As the daughter of King Saul, Michal lives a life of privilege, one that is haunted by her father's unpredictable moods and by competition from her beautiful older sister. When Michal falls for young David, the harpist who plays to calm her father, she has no idea what romance, adventures, and heartache await her. As readers enter the colorful and unpredictable worlds of King Saul and King David, they will be swept up in this exciting and romantic story. Against the backdrop of opulent palace life, raging war, and desert escapes, Jill Eileen Smith takes her readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride as Michal deals with love, loss, and personal transformation as one of the wives of David. A sweeping tale of passion and drama, readers will love this amazing story.
            Though Michal's life has been reduced to mention in only a handful of verses, she witnessed an incredible amount of history and heartbreak.  Smith brings Michal to life, from her early years as a young princess in Saul's court, in love with David the simple shepherd, to the unfathomable tragedy she witnessed as Saul's family fell from power. Smith’s narrative closely follows the Biblical account of David's life and rise to power found in 1 and 2 Samuel. In many cases, she incorporates the actual dialogue from the scriptures which adds further authenticity to the novel.

            Smith’s depiction of the many cultural and social standards a woman in Michal's position dealt with seem so foreign today. Seeing Saul's descent into madness from the perspective of a daughter was absolutely terrifying, especially since as a woman she was wholly subject to his dictates as her father and king. In a culture that placed a premium on a woman's ability to provide her husband with children, Michal's struggles with anger, fear, and bitterness over the uncertainty of her position at court are heartbreaking. Her journey towards redemption, and a personal relationship with David's beloved God after enduring so much heartbreak and horror was beautiful to witness. Michal does not get your typical happy ending, but for her story, offering the hope and restoration that only a relationship with God can supply to a life torn asunder by circumstance. 

            This is a fictional account of David the King of Israel with the focus on Michal one of his wives. The story stays true to Scripture and brings to life the customs and way of life back in Bible times. It is very well written. I highly recommend this book, reading 1st and 2nd Samuel again will be even more vivid after reading Smith's first story of the wives of David. Smith’s imagination in taking a bit of fact and a couple of lines from the Book of Samuel, weaves an interesting story and an excellent read.  

I received a copy of book from the publisher for my review. 
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