Imagine…The Great Flood by Matt Koceich ~ Review

Imagine…The Great Flood by Matt Koceich

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Wow! I was blown away by this book. It hits the ground running and never lets up the pace from there to the end. This read is a definite thumbs up.

In a series of quirky events, ten-year-old Corey is thrown into an adventure of epic proportions putting him right in the scene of a huge flood–THE Flood–just before the doors to the boat are about to close. Moment by moment Corey’s life is in jeopardy while evil all around him is trying to prevent him from reaching safety.

Not only does Matt Koceich write appropriate age-related physical conflict to create suspense in this book, but he also includes the more subtle battles of the mind and will, including deception, betrayal and temptation. Although the book is short in length, only 110 pages, the author skillfully blends all the elements together to make a fast-paced read for early readers. The high interest level is sure to attract reluctant readers as well.

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As a parent years ago, my children and I would read together all the Magic Treehouse books as the stars in this series would travel the world to solve puzzles and find missing pieces. This has that type of feel to it, but without the pictures and with great foundational teaching. It is a chapter book which I believe will lend itself to being read aloud to very young children.

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If the author develops this into a series, and I think that may be his intention, then we are in for a treat. In the meantime, I highly recommend you pick this up for your young readers and listeners. They’ll love this adventure. In fact, anyone between the ages of 7 to 107 will enjoy this book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Barbour Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or negative. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles) by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Keepers of the Covenant

Have you ever read parts of the Bible and then tried to imagine the events as they occurred in the day to day moments? I used to wish there were more books written that way. This book is one that accomplishes that feat completely. It opens the windows and doors and allows us to live with friends and family of some well-known characters of biblical events. In this case, it’s about Ezra, family man, scholar, Rebbe, husband, brother, friend, son, leader, and teacher. He struggled with daily life justlike you and I do.

Nearly 500 years before Jesus of Nazareth arrived in Galilee, Ezra lived in a world of danger, secular influence, hatred and enemies. About 100 years before his time, a group of Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and the country of Judah. What were they returning from? Their country had been decimated by enemies over 70 years before that. Their people were taken away or scattered throughout the land. Many lived in Babylon itself. Judah was then filled with neighboring peoples such as Edomites and Amalakites. The first wave of returning refugees helped to rebuild the walls and established businesses and families again. They made efforts to live in peaceful co-existence with the inhabitants. Sayfah and Amina were Edomites living near Bethlehem in a village of their own. Amina was crippled from her younger years. Now she was treated like a servant in her own home and scorned by most of the men. One day she met an older woman who also suffered from a weak, twisted leg. But she was a Jewess, a talented weaver who brought her goods to Bethlehem to sell in the market. They became friends. It was a friendship that would save Amina and Sayfah’s lives years later.

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In Casiphia, another province of the Persian Empire and near Babylon, Reuben was apprenticed to his father, David of the tribe of Levi. David was a blacksmith, since the Levites had no temple to serve in. Reuben was twelve when he learned that through his second in command, Haman, King Xerxes had pronounced a death sentence for all the Jews living in all his 127 provinces, on the thirteenth of the month of Adar. They were to be killed and plundered. Reuben’s father was angry at his peoples’ helplessness and began to secretly stockpile weapons he made at his forge. Reuben watched in concern as people began to buy the supplies for their protection. When the day finally arrived, the fighting was fierce. Greed motivated some of the hatred against the sons of Jacob. Their enemies wanted the plunder. While most of God’s people survived, some were injured or killed. Reuben’s father was one who never returned from battle alive leaving Reuben at thirteen in charge
of caring for his mother and family. Since he was too young to operate his father’s business, his uncle sold it to another blacksmith who would continue Reuben’s apprenticeship. But Reuben was filled with rage and hatred. He took to the streets at night, and eventually became adept at thievery. He was then taken in by a gang of Babylonian robbers. He turned his back on God.

Ezra’s brother, Jude was also killed in the conflict in the city of Babylon itself. Ezra grew up in a potter’s family although early on, they discovered he had a gift for reading, understanding and interpreting the Torah. So when his brother died, Ezra married his brother’s wife, according to the law, to help provide for her and their family. Eventually he was responsible to provide a son to carry on Jude’s name. Some time later, God laid on Ezra’s heart to petition the King of Persia to allow him to lead a group from his community back to the Promised Land, Israel, to build up the city of Jerusalem. Once the petition was granted, Ezra was appointed governor over the province. This wasn’t the end of the story, however, but the beginning. Somehow Ezra, his family and friends, Reuben and his band of Babylonian robbers, Amina and Sayfah and their adoptive Jewish family all intersect in a powerful way.

This may not be important for everyone, but for me living history is vital for our sense of identity and perspective on life. This book is artistically written to help the reader put faces and heart into people and events we may already have at least a nodding acquaintance with. It deepened my perspective and gave me a greater appreciation of the scope of God’s love and protection. It also heightened my awareness of the types of difficult situations many have faced when putting God’s justice into practice. This is a tremendous object lesson, carried out in the story line, how God tempers His justice with mercy and expects His followers to do likewise.

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This message couldn’t have been conveyed so aptly if the author hadn’t written with authenticity and well-researched detail. Such a writing style drew me into the scenes and into the very hearts and minds of the characters. I was right there, experiencing the events unfold and feeling their pain and joys. Excellent writing. It was all there: the pain of loss, feelings of helplessness, moments where hope had fled, funny vignettes that often accompany child rearing, the bond of marriage when it transcends the mechanics of every day life, the struggle to belong, and the joy of victories big and little.

The third element I enjoyed about this book was the complexity of the plot. You can’t say that Keepers of the Covenant is all fast-paced adventure and action, nor is it completely character-driven. The author takes the best of both genres and seamlessly blends them. They are well-balanced. Readers may already know the basic story, but the draw is how the author pulls it all together and includes us in the ride. The book is filled with sensitivity and flair–adrenaline and contemplation. I’m definitely going to read other books by Lynn Austin.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from bookfun.org on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Blast! Seeing the Life by Sophie Dawson

Seeing The Life

Seeing The Life
By Sophie Dawson

About the Book

Seeing The Life is a look at the life of Yeshua the Christ in a way never used before. Dassa, the daughter of the innkeeper, is sent to fetch the midwife to help the young woman in the stable give birth. She and Mary become close friends as do Micah, her fiance then husband, and Joseph. Separated when the young family flees Bethlehem in the night, their friendship resumes several years later in Jerusalem.

Dassa and Micah know Yeshua is special, but he is still a boy with a boy’s interests and love of life. Through the years the families, though separated most of the year, spend time together in Jerusalem during the Jewish Festivals. Then Yeshua begins speaking and teaching.

Micah, Joseph of Arimethea, their sons and others who follow and believe Yeshua’s message. Yet do they really understand it? Is he the long awaited messiah who will free the Jews from the grip of Rome? What do the stories he tells really mean?

Seeing The Life sees the life of Yeshua within the social and political culture of the time. Not only do we see his ministry but also his family and friendships as he grew. Yeshua was a normal baby who cried, spit up, wet and messed. He was a child who fell and skinned his knees. He lost his baby teeth. He had siblings. He had friends. My goal was to show the humanness of Yeshua’s life. We see him as fully God but often miss that he was fully man, boy and baby also.

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Sophie DawsonSophie Dawson is Midwestern born and bred and is the author of several novels, including the Cottonwood Series and Stone Creek Series. Her novel Healing Love has won three awards: AuthorStand 2012 Gold Medal, Indiebook 2012 Silver Medal, and Readers’ Favorite 2013 Silver Medal. Giving Love was a finalist in Readers’ Favorite 2013. Her books have also been #1 Best Sellers in their genre on Amazon. Seeing The Life is a finalist in Readers’ Favorite Awards 2014. She is a member of Christian Independent Authors and Association of Independent Authors. An award-winning quilter with eclectic interests, Dawson posts to several blogs, including Little Bits Blog on her website, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Iowa Wesleyan College.

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Seeing the Life by Sophie Dawson ~ Review ~

Seeing the Life by Sophie Dawson

Seeing the Life

A good historical fiction transports it readers back in time, to live, breathe and see through another person’s eyes. We should feel that we are right there living the life of our fictional characters, walking in their footsteps and feeling what they feel. Seeing the Life is this type of fiction. The author, Sophie Dawson, successfully transports us back 2,000 years to the time of the Roman Empire at its peak. We get to peer through the eyes of a young couple, Dassa and Micah, who at the opening of this story live in Bethlehem, Israel.

Micah Ben Perez was a scribe by trade. He worked for many business owners on their books and accounts, but his first love was copying the Tanahk. He loved God with all his heart. Dassa bat Eli lived with her parents at their Inn. She grew up learning how to cook and serve meals for large crowds. She was at the Inn when Mary and Joseph arrived for the census. She was present at Yeshua’s birth and was astounded when the impossible happened: a virgin gave birth to a baby boy. When she told Micah, he knew exactly which Scriptures referred to this incident. He kept this knowledge in his heart.

While Dassa befriended Mary, Micah and Joseph became good friends. With Joseph’s carpentry skills helping the young couple build a home and fixing up one for his own little family to live in, word got out and he made a good living for Mary and Yeshua. The two couples lived near each other for the next two years. Mary attended the birth of Dassa’s firstborn, little Perez named in honor of Micah’s abba (father).

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One night, after everyone was in bed sleeping, Micah heard frantic pounding on his front door. It was Joseph who told him of a dream where an angel of God told him to take his family and flee Bethlehem because King Herod was seeking to kill their young son. The couple wished each other a sad good-bye before Joseph’s family departed. When Micah tried to give Joseph some money for the journey, he was told of the gifts some rich men had given them earlier–men who had followed a star to find them. Once again, Micah kept these facts in his mind along with other prophesies that had been fulfilled.

Only a few weeks later, soldiers raided Bethlehem killing baby boys two years old and younger. Micah heard the news and rushed home only to find Dassa holding the body of their son in stunned grief. So many families had lost their little ones that the air was filled with the wails of grieving. Micah was once again aware of a prophecy that had been fulfilled. He began writing down these events and the related Scriptures to ponder them in his heart.

A few years later Micah and Dassa moved to Jerusalem. Micah had become Joseph of Arimethea’s steward and his family began to grow and prosper. His family and Joseph’s family struck up a friendship. One day, while celebrating Panach (Passover), Dassa found Mary in the Temple in Jerusalem. The two families celebrated a happy reunion; Dassa and Micah asked Mary and Joseph to stay with them during the feast days. From then on, the two families saw each other regularly. Yeshua and his brothers and sisters called Dassa doda (aunt) and Micah dod (uncle).

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This story’s events are familiar to us, especially once Jesus had begun his ministry as rabbi at the age of 30. Micah kept record of these milestones after Joseph shared with the family what they experienced in Egypt and when they moved again to Nazareth. The author allows us to see these events through Micah and Dassa’s eyes. By having the couple’s children, now young people themselves, follow Yeshua’s steps, we get an up close and personal view of how the family and other local Jewish people viewed his words and actions. Because of the typical mindset of the times, so many were baffled by Jesus’ teachings and healings. Was he preparing for a physical kingdom here on earth to deliver them from the Romans or wasn’t he?

The most memorable part of the book for me was the ugly realism of the events of Jesus’ final weeks on earth. We experience the horror of those days anew as we see them through the lives of Jesus’ close friends and family. Their suffering becomes our pain throughout His betrayal, the torture and His death on the Roman cross. We feel with Mary when Dassa rushes to her side to comfort her.

In contrast, the author’s retelling of the forty days after Yeshua’s resurrection expresses the wonder of discovery, believers’ new sense of purpose and hope, and the new direction for believers when they were first called Christians and had begun to be persecuted for their beliefs in Jesus as their Lord and God.

I am impressed with the amount of detailed research the author employed in building this incredible historical fiction. At times it was heartwarming and filled with the love of family, intriguing as some of Yeshua’s followers sought to build up a stash of weapons in case He wanted to start His kingdom on earth, and exciting to see new birth, new life when people placed their trust in Him after His resurrection. This book fired up my imagination and challenged me to view familiar biblical events with a fresh perspective.

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I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially with works that feature biblical events. The usual precaution needs to be expressed here for the reader to be sure to separate the facts from the fiction and speculation by reading about the actual occurrences in the Scripture. In fact, a really good historical fiction should create in us a desire to read God’s Word for ourselves. I believe this books does this successfully.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Story Cartel on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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