25 Jan 2018

Stranger No More by Annahita Parsan

Thomas Nelson, November 4th, 2017, 288 Pages 
Print, ebook, and audio

"There will be pain ahead, and trouble and problems that I won’t be able to fix on my own.
But in them all, I know God will be there, calling me to look to him. Inviting me to take the next step toward his open arms.
And I will say yes. And yes. And yes."

Annahita Parsan was born into a Muslim family in Iran and grew up with the simple hope of one day finding a good husband, having children, and doing some good in the world. Married and a mother before she turned eighteen, Annahita found herself unexpectedly widowed and trapped for years in an abusive second marriage that she later fled—discovering instead a God who might love her.
Stranger No More is the remarkable true story of Annahita’s path from oppression to the life-changing hope of Jesus. Fleeing Iran across the mountains into Turkey, she spent months in the terrifying Agri prison before a miraculous release and flight to Europe, where she and her two children knelt in a church and prayed, “God, from this day on we are Christians.”

Filled with unthinkable circumstances, miraculous rescues, and the quietly constant voice of Jesus, Stranger No More leads readers deep into the heart of God and draws them toward the same call that Annahita heeds today: using her past to save others from theirs. As the leader of two congregations in Sweden, Annahita has baptized hundreds of former Muslims since her own conversion, has seen firsthand the powerful ways God is at work among those who have left Islam behind, and is reminded every day that saying yes to God is always worth the risk.

         My Review:

This isn't an easy or 'light' read simply because the author suffered so many tragic and painful experiences of domestic abuse, and even torture in prison.

Ultimately though, its a story of victory and overcoming the odds, as Annahita finally chose not to allow her circumstances to destroy her, and her children. The account of her conversion and later ministry among other Muslim refugees comes only at the end, providing a lovely lesson in how a life can be transformed by God's love.

I have a few complaints though: I'm sure some of the early promotional material said that the author was a Sudanese refugee, and I must confess, that was one of the reasons I requested this book: because I thought it might include insights into the situation in Sudan during the last few years. Turns out she was actually Iranian and escaped the country in the 80s. Not that it really makes any difference.

Second, along with other reviewers, I feel some of the things that happened to her were a result of poor choices on her own part, and so could have been avoided, or a tendency to follow the lead of others, without really seeking the will of God. She became a Pastor primarily because her pastor said she would one day, for instance. I guess its a reflection of reality, in which we all make poor choices, so I should not really judge.
I was also slightly concerned about her associations with the modern hyper-Charismatic movement, and the implication that her siblings accepted Jesus as a result of attending a service in which they were 'slain in the Spirit' - basically falling over. I wonder if there was more too it than that, and seeing the change in her life might have been part of the equation too.

Otherwise though, a good read, and recommended for those interested in real-life stories, and lovers of the biography genre.
I requested this book from the Publisher via Booklook Bloggers and requested the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

23 Jan 2018

Blog Tour and Giveaway: A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

Shadows Over England #2
January 2nd 2018, Bethany House, 418 Pages
Print, ebook, and audio 

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I—to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won—until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t—that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has. 

Click here to purchase your copy!

My Review 

I think I enjoyed this book more than that last one. The plot was strong, suspenseful and full of intrigue in which it was never certain who was safe or trustworthy, even the seemingly ‘good’ characters. The characters were also great, well-drawn and realistically flawed. One thing that makes this series and others like it so strong, is that it breaks some of the rules of the genre: its Edwardian Fiction, but breaks away from the mould of polite aristocratic settings, focusing instead on a gang of former London street kids, thieves now working for the government. Also, the protagonists are not all nice sweet Christians.

Willa’s beliefs reflected her background: the child of a single mother who never met her father and was abandoned by her mother at the age of six. She’s tough, independent, stubborn and disinclined towards romanticism or the genteel. Her understanding of God reflected her view of her own absent father who never wanted her. Lukas was a charming rake who cared for his family and was forced to rethink his priorities to find his missing mother and sister. I could believe the characterization of Lukas’ mathematical genius sister: as people with these skills often have some form of Autism or other learning disabilities.

The story wears its historical research well, without it being overwhelming or pretentious: facts about musical scores, mathematics, secret codes, and the plight of Belgium under German occupation abound in the story, as well as some interesting details about the small Welsh city of Aberystwyth at the turn of the last century. I also appreciated the nuanced portrayal of all the sides in the War: not all Germans were presented as bad, and not all Belgians or British people as good. The spiritual themes were also worked well into the story: there were no implausible instantaneous conversions or overt preachiness. The characters’ faith showed more through their lives and the example they showed to others.

As with the last book, I was able to get so caught up in this story that I was almost able to forget it was written by an American: except for a couple of lapses. At one point the British Willa referred to the ‘sidewalk’, and a few other Americanisms. I was a little annoyed by the lack of Welsh accents in a book set in Wales, but its not an easy accent to represent on the page: and a hard language to learn. Recommended for all lovers of historical fiction.

I requested this book from a blogging/professional reading organization including Netgalley and Celebrate Lit Bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

For the Celebrate Lit Blog Tour I'm also including a Guest Post from the author.  

About the Author

Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary. You can learn more about her and her stories at www.RoseannaMWhite.com.

Guest post from Roseanna White

I started playing the piano when I was 7. I didn’t discover any long-dormant genius or anything, but I liked it. When my sister quit, I kept playing. In middle school, I switched teachers, and moving from the lady at my church that I knew so well to someone who was just my piano teacher made a difference in how I applied myself. It deepened my love of music.

We all know how some random moments stand out forever in our memory. One such for me happened on the school bus. I was sitting with my best friend, talking about the new piano piece I was learning. “Via Delorosa” means Road of Sorrow, and it’s a song that tells musically about Jesus’ journey to Golgotha—ending with the faint chime of the nails being driven into his palms. As my beloved Mrs. Peto went through this song with me the night before, I remember her circling a D♯ that I’d missed and saying how important that note was. That it made the whole line weep.
That it would make the hearers weep. An epiphany so huge I had to share it with my friend. A well placed sharp could make music weep! Who knew?

That was but one lesson Mrs. Peto taught me in how music could evoke things words never could. A woman of strong faith, she also taught me how a song could preach the Gospel. Music can be medicine. It can be hope. It can be tears. It can be truth. Music can be Jesus to a hurting heart that turns its back on words.
This is a lesson I never forgot, and I had it always in mind as I was writing A Song Unheard. In this story, both my hero and heroine are musicians—violinists. But Willa (who is SO STUBBORN) wouldn’t listen to words of faith from any of the people in her life “suddenly spouting such nonsense.”

But then, in her darkest hour, she hears a slip of melody. And she realizes it’s the Lord.
I pray as readers move through the story of Willa Forsythe—violin prodigy and top-notch thief—that their spirits’ ears hear more than words, more than just a story. I pray they hear the Lord whispering that ultimate song. The one that says, “I love you.”

Want to hear the song Willa eventually wrote in the book? You can! The violin music in this trailer is officially dubbed “Willa’s Song” and written specifically for this book. I hope you enjoy it! http://bit.ly/ASongUnheardTrailer

Enter the giveaway and visit some of the other Blogs involved in the tour below. 



To celebrate her tour, Roseanna is giving away a Grand Prize Package of a signed copy of the book as well as a lovely album of soothing songs based on the Scriptures called Hidden in My Heart (winner’s choice of CD or digital download)!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c72a

Blog Stops

Fiction Aficionado, January 11
Genesis 5020, January 11
Bookworm Mama, January 11
Blogging With Carol, January 12
Multifarious, January 12
Faithfully Bookish, January 13
Karen Sue Hadley, January 13
Mary Hake, January 13
A Greater Yes, January 13
Remembrancy, January 14
Texas Book-aholic, January 14
A Reader’s Brain, January 15
Cordially Barbara, January 15
Pursuing Stacie, January 15
Bigreadersite, January 16
Mommynificent, January 17
Baker Kella, January 17
allofakindmom, January 18
Pause for Tales, January 19
Just Commonly, January 19
Radiant Light, January 20
The Power of Words , January 20
Book by Book, January 20
CAC Devourer, January 20
Splashes of Joy, January 21
Neverending Stories, January 21
The PhD Mamma, January 22
Cafinated Reads, January 22
Daysong Reflections, January 22
Purposeful Learning, January 23
Carpe Diem, January 23
Henry Happens, January 24
Joy of Reading, January 24

19 Jan 2018

First Line Fridays 20# The Peacock Throne by Lisa Karon Richardson

That time of the week again. Reading goals are going well this week, I've finished A Song Unheard by Roseanna White. Look out for my review for the Celebrate Lit Blog Tour scheduled for Tuesday.  I've also nearly done with my other book, from last year's to read list, a contemporary mystery by Donna Fletcher Crow. 

I usually read two novels at once, and since I have already done a post on the new fantasy novel The Edict by P. J. Keyworth,  I'm going to include the other book that I have just begun today. Its a historical mystery/Romance by an American author and a British Publisher. 
The book came out in November 2015 so you won't find it on any new release lists: and it 's been on my shelf for a couple of years, but I am trying to get through my to read list. 

When Miss Lydia Garrett's guardian is murdered, and the authorities refuse to investigate the odd circumstances, she vows to catch the culprit. The same night the Earl of Danbury is murdered in his bed. Against all odds it appears that the murders are related - and Anthony Douglas, the new Lord Danbury, is bent on revenge. 
The clues point to the former Earl's first naval command. In 1758 the Earl spirited away and hid the magnificent Peacock Throne at the behest of the Indian royal family. To draw out the murderer, Anthony and Lydia agree that they must locate the throne. 

However, they are not the only ones interested in the Peacock Throne. Marcus Wiltshire, agent of His Majesty's intelligence services, has received hints that Bonaparte intends to return the throne to India and leverage its mystical significance to foment rebellion and cut England off from her most important trading partner. When the amateur sleuths join forces with the professional agent, the quest for the throne leads them around the globe on an adventure steeped in danger, treachery, and romance.


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