Servant of God

A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion #1) by Francine Rivers is another novel my niece Laura recommended. I am grateful because I enjoyed the message and also the historical nature of the book.

This novel takes place in Jerusalem and Rome around seventy years after Christ was crucified. The Romans are at war with the Jews. Countless Jews are slaughtered and many survivors taken prisoner, enslaved, and sent to Rome. One young girl named Hadassah, is purchased by a Roman family and becomes their servant/slave. What the family doesn’t know, is that Hadassah is a Christian.

The second main character is a Germanic prisoner named Atretes, who after suffering defeat in battle with the Romans, is enslaved and sent to Rome to be trained as a gladiator. He is a fierce warrior who is not a Christian.

Throughout the novel we follow the progression of the lives of these two people kept in slavery as well as their captors.

This is a story about faith and redemption unlike any I recall reading in recent years. Be advised it graphically describes acts of violence and sex. The Romans were such barbarians!

The story has many twists I never saw coming. It’s a good versus evil story of high quality. The end blew me away! I recommend this novel and am grateful my niece led me to it.

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A Lesson In Humility

The Keys of the Kingdom by AJ Cronin was published in 1941 and later made into a movie which I have seen and enjoyed. It is a fictional story about a Scottish boy named Francis who is orphaned at a young age. We learn of his early life and upbringing by two different relatives; one loving and one abusive. Eventually Francis becomes a Catholic missionary priest who is stationed in China in the early 20th century.

When Fr. Francis first arrives at his mission, he is astounded to discover all that had been established by his predecessor has been washed away by floods and his congregation is nonexistent. This does not deter him.

An omniscient narrator conveys the story of Fr. Francis’s life. Cronin’s clever use of his main character’s personal journal conveys the inner thoughts of this unique servant of God.

I loved this novel and learned much about true faith, sacrifice, and charity from it. Highly recommended!

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Three Musketeers

The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells is a new fiction release on the shelves. Translated from the original German, the emotion filled story is one I enjoyed very much.

Told in the first-person by Jules who is the youngest of three siblings who became orphans at relatively young ages, the focus throughout the book is on memory and the effect of death upon it. The theme repeats itself several times as the author introduces various characters and losses over the years in Jules’s and his siblings lives.

After the death of his parents, Jules is sent to a boarding school where he feels lost and his once carefree nature is altered forever. This of course changes his perceived destiny as well as those of his older siblings who cope with their collective loss in different ways. Being the youngest child, Jules feels abandoned by everyone.

The novel follows Jules into adulthood where once again he finds himself faced with the loss of a loved one. However, this time, his siblings come to his aid and their familial bond is reinvented.

This is well-written story with memorable quotes and universal themes. I was emotionally moved by it and recommend it.

 

Please note, I received an advance copy of the novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Islands in a Storm

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave left me speechless! I think it’s an incredible novel. Loosely inspired by the author’s grandfather’s experiences while stationed in Malta with other British soldiers during World War Two, this historical fiction blew me away!

Mary North comes from a well-to-do family in London and signs-up as a volunteer during the war. As such, she is randomly assigned to teach a group of children who are being sent from London to safety in the countryside. Ill equipped for the job, Mary is quickly dismissed.

Tom meets Mary and becomes her boyfriend. He is an education administrator. His flat mate is Alastair. Prior to enlisting, he is an art restorer, working at an art museum packing artworks which are being shipped out of the city.

Two men, one girl often makes for a certain amount of predictability. Not so in this novel which contains one shock after another.

The writing is excellent. Although it is bloody at times – this is a war story after all – it is also a unique love story with well-defined characters.

I loved this novel and choose not to reveal more of the plot because I believe it needs to unfold page by page in order for the reader to become completely immersed and surprised by it. I know I couldn’t put it down! If you enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, I think you will appreciate this novel. Highly recommended!

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Freedom From Want

Reaching Out by Francisco Jimenez is a moving memoir which chronicles the Mexican born author and his family’s experiences living and working in California after crawling under a barbed wire fence between Mexico and the U.S. This book was published in 2008, but I think its message of hope is timeless.

After migrating, the author and his family worked in extremely low paying migrant farm and janitorial jobs. Eventually, he went to college, and earned his PhD. He became a teacher at the university level. That is quite a success story. It reminded me of my immigrant grandparents who came to this country legally in the early part of the last century. It wasn’t easy for them either. It took hard work, countless sacrifices, desire, and faith to create a better future than the one they left behind.

It is my hope, that one day soon, the illegal immigrant issue in the U.S. will be resolved. I recommend this memoir because it is written by a man whose life became better after overcoming incredible odds against it.

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The Upper Crust

The Late George Apley by John P Marquand is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Published in 1937, the fictional story recounts the life of a wealthy Bostonian gentleman. Told in the voice of the late Apley’s close friend who is, at the request of Apley’s son,writing a biography of the great man, the reader becomes intimately acquainted with Apley via copious written correspondence and anecdotes.

George Apley is an ethical man with high moral standards and the courage of his convictions. He’s a snob who views his opinions as above others. However, he uses his vast wealth in effort to maintain his status quo. In essence, George wants life, his life, to remain the same because he feels secure in it.

This is an excellent portrayal of a man of privilege living in Boston during the early part of the 20th century. I am grateful to have read this novel because, over a hundred years later, so much of it still rings true. I highly recommend it!

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Enduring Melody

The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow is historical fiction with a twist. As indicated in the title, this novel takes place in Czechoslovakia during and after World War Two.

Meta is a young female musicologist whose dreams of becoming a concert pianist where shattered after an automobile accident left her with a damaged hand. While doing a favor for a friend, she meets an elderly woman who entrusts her with a portion of a sonata which she received from a friend prior to escaping from Czechoslovakia during World War II. Meta takes the music with the intention of trying to locate its original owner whose whereabouts are unknown.

With endless questions and the belief that the music was perhaps penned by a famous composer, Meta drops everything and flies to Europe and back in search of a needle in a haystack sixty years after the musical score changed hands.

Pretty fantastic? I thought so! There’s so much more to swallow in this novel that I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t feel anything for any of the characters, which is rare for me because I enjoy a good mystery in addition to historical fiction.

Sadly, this novel struck a sour note with this reviewer. It is more fantasy than fiction.

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