Book Review - Love Amid the Ashes

An epic story of love and forgiveness, suffering and restoration
When her beloved grandfather Isaac dies, Dinah must follow his final command: travel to Job's household to marry his son. After Job's world comes crashing down, Dinah finds herself drawn to this great man brought low. What will she risk to fight for his survival?
Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of Job and Dinah. Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.



Overall Opinion:

Mesu has written a winner in Love Amid the Ashes! The opening scene pulls you back in time and gives you a story that some people might have never considered – Jacob’s daughter Dinah living with Job during the time of his inflictions. It was a very interesting viewpoint and one that compellingly drew the reader into the story.

Dinah was a very strong character. Many people in her day saw her as tainted or a harlot because she laid with Shechem before they were married. Because of this she was shunned, her father didn’t acknowledge her, and no one would marry her. While she did sin, the amount of slander she had to put up with was sad. Often it came from people who had only heard about the events at Shechem—and the stories that were rumored around held many falsehoods. What a weight Dinah had to carry! I loved the way Mesu portrayed this woman. Dinah’s personal story, thrown together with Job’s, was a very neat twist.

Job was amazing. This book opens up a new viewpoint that the bible doesn’t give—Jobs thoughts and feelings. The scene when Job gets the news of his wealth destroyed and his children killed is powerful and heart wrenching. Just reading the account in the book of Job is powerful, but to read Job and his wife’s, Sitis’, Talk about walking into a nightmare!

While a lot of Love Amid the Ashes is from the authors imagination, it is still—to some degree—very probable. The conspiracy of Sayyid’s, to destroy Job, was an interesting twist to this book. When one reads the book of Job you wouldn’t think of a conspiracy against him, but Mesu has added intrigue and suspense to this biblical fiction by giving Job an evil nemesis—Sayyid. Some may think this a little “out there”, but I enjoyed the refreshing and interesting plot. Even though I already knew what would happen in the story of Job, the addition of Dinah, Sayyid, and Aban was captivating.

For this being her debut novel, I predict wonderful things from future books by Mesu. Her writing style is appealing and refreshing, taking the reader right into the moment. I could almost feel the dust clinging to Dinah’s skin as she journeyed with the caravan and I could picture Job’s tortured, rotting body. When events finally slowed down and the book drew to a close, I was sad to leave Dinah. Love Amid the Ashes explores a story from a viewpoint that most people have not considered, and that alone sets Mesu’s book apart from others. What a wonderful, powerful, convicting story is told within these pages!

Book Discussion - A Merry Heart

A Merry Heart is one of my all time favorite books. I haven't read it in ages(a.k.a - a year :P), but I recently got it during a book swap so I will definitely be picking it up again soon!

Miriam Stoltzfus has lost nearly everything. The man she loves dumps her and moves away to marry someone else, her father dies, and her niece is seriously injured in an accident. Miriam has given up on ever being happy and continues living her life in solitude and depression. She welcomes few into her life and blocks out her family in friends.

Miriam's mother often brings up Proverbs 17:22A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Miriam felt like she had lost everything - but really, she had many more things to be thankful for that she wasn't seeing past her curtain of sorrow. The hardest thing for her - the thing that made the most lasting mark - was that fact that her boyfriend jilted and left her. Miriam no longer felt that men were to be trusted, and resolved to never bestow feelings upon one again.

Miriam ends up marrying Amos - a widower in need of a wife to take care of his daughter who has loved Miriam since childhood. Both have agreed to have it be a marriage in name only - the way Miriam wants it. Miriam ends up learning an extremely valuable lesson that is not taught often anymore - love is a choice, not a feeling. In the beginning, she refused to allow herself to trust him or allow him to touch her at all. It was all extremely platonic. Eventually, Miriam learns that she doesn't have to have mushy gooshy feelings toward the man to love him - love is a choice she must make. She must also choose to be happy again.

When Miriam learns that Amos loves her, she still is hesitant to become man and wife fully and stays in her own room. It isn't too long before Miriam realizes that she, too, loves Amos, and that with God's help, she can be the wife he needs. 

It was an amazing story with an extraordinary lesson to learn from it - contrary to common belief, love is not a feeling. It is not those butterflies one feels when her love walks into view. Love is a choice - a choice to be patient, kind, non-envious, non-boastful, humble, honoring, non-self seeking, not easily angered, and to not keep a record of wrongs. 

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never fails. 

Ponderin' The Past...with Helen Keller part 1

Hello readers! Katy was busy today and isn't feeling well, so I decided to go ahead and write her post for her! Earlier this morning I was working on my school work and I was reading The Story of my Life by Helen Keller and thought it was perfect for today's post! And since there is just SO much neat information on Helen Keller - she and Anne Sullivan were simply amazing people - I will be writing this in two parts. So stay tuned for next week when I write about Helen Keller's adult life!

Helen Keller was born in June 1880, the first child of Kate and Arthur Keller. When she was two, she was struck with an illness, possibly Scarlet Fever, and almost died. But as the doctors began to think she'd never recover, she made a sudden turn and returned to health...but not completely. Though in sound health, Helen had lost both her sight and her ability to hear. Being only two and with limited speech, she soon lost her ability to speak also.

Helen was able to communicate minimally. She could pull for "come" or push for "go and such, but it was very limited.
Her parents took her to many different doctors, but they all were unable to help the young girl. One doctor told them to get her a teacher to help her learn to communicate. So they did.

Anne Sullivan entered Helen's life only a few months before she turned seven - and boy did Anne have a job that was going to push her to the limit!
When Anne first came, she brought a doll. She let Helen play with it for a while before calling her over and finger spelling "doll" onto her hand. And so communication through spelling on the hand began. It wasn't too long before Helen was able to communicate with ease, but she still knew that other people spoke with their mouths and wanted to learn to do it, too. It seemed impossible, but apparently nothing is impossible for the Helen and Anne duo.

Helen did in fact learn to speak. By placing her fingers on certain places of Anne's face, Helen memorized the vibrations and practiced until she could make them herself. Though deaf and blind, Helen was no longer mute.
Helen also learned to read braille. She would take the papers with the braille words on them and paste them about the room, such as "doll" and then if the doll was on the bed she would put "on the bed". It was a truly amazing. When she attended a blind school later in life, she was ecstatic to find other children who read the same way she did and knew how to communicate with her. It was a great blessing for her!

Helen Keller is a truly amazing person to learn about - as well as her teacher, Anne Sullivan. My, what trials and hardships they must have gone through! But they prevailed - setting a great example for us today!
Make sure to check back next Tuesday to learn more about Helen and her journey in life!

Book Review - The Mountains Bow Down

Overall Opinion:

I read The Clouds Roll Away last month when my friend, Katy, let me borrow it. I enjoyed the story and while it didn't make it onto my favorites list it was good enough to where I got the next book - The Mountains Bow Down. WOW! What an AMAZING book that was! I couldn't put it down - the mystery was so great and I absolutely loved joining Raleigh on her investigations. I enjoy how Giorello doesn't simply incorporate the mystery, but also Raleigh's own life. It gives the book a little more personal feel. I usually don't like books narrated from the first person's view point, but Giorello did an excellent job pulling it off and I loved reading this book from Raleigh's perspective.

Raleigh was awesome. I loved her in The Clouds Roll Away and even more in The Mountains Bow Down. She loves her job and does it to the best of her ability, often sacrificing her own relax time to do her job, which she actually loved. Few people could understand Raleigh's willingness to do her job even during her vacation in the book, but I sure did! If I had a job as enticing as Raleigh's, I wouldn't want to rest - resting could mean that someone guilty was on the loose! :-)
Raleigh was a very realistic character. She loved her job and desired strongly to get to the bottom of each case. Her mother, who is unstable, is under the assumption that Raleigh is a geologist and Raleigh feels bad about not telling her mother she is an FBI agent and deceiving her. I know I would feel the exact same way! Raleigh thinks that this is the best way to protect her mother and learns some great lessons in the book. I loved her kind and caring nature, and felt as if I were there with her as she endured hardships.

In The Clouds Roll Away I met Demott, who is now Raleigh's fiancée. I'll be honest and say I never really liked Demott. I don't know why really, but I just didn't like him that much at all. Something didn't settle right with me about the guy. In The Mountains Bow Down...I won't lie and say that after the first chapter the voice inside of my head wasn't going "Yes yes YES!". LOL. I'm not sure where the whole Demott thing is going, but suffice to say, I wasn't disappointed at all by the end of the book.

Jack Stephanson. If I was to use one word to describe him it would probably be...SUPERB. ;) Oh my, as soon as Jack walked onto the scene I knew he was going to be my favorite character. He was very funny and annoying and everything awesome. I loved his personality and couldn't help but smile every time he entered the story. His and Raleigh's relationship was so funny and I found myself chuckling at some of the conversations they have. Jack is impossible to not like!

There are a few things to point out as to the content: Porn is involved in a mild amount. There is nothing descriptive in the least - they just find some pictures that it says disgust Raleigh and some of the bad guys are pornographers. Nothing is described at all - but it is something to be pointed out. Also, there is a man who commits adultery with a bunch of women and when his wife finds out she takes him to a therapist to help with sexual addiction. It is just mentioned briefly and it doesn't go into any further. There is also a mention from a coroner about how some teen boys died recently - they watched a video that showed how to wrap a cord around their neck for more sexual thrill. Nothing is described though - just mentioned briefly.
The last think I have to mention is there are a few alcoholics and a man who is always drunk. Nothing bad happens, and it didn't bother me, but I thought I'd point it out.

All in all, this was an amazing book that I highly recommend you pick up. While I do suggest you read the previous books in the series first for a little background, it is not necessary and you could read these as stand alones if you desired. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a great mystery!
Photo credit: Lori Warman