Wednesday, October 14, 2015

On this Foundation by Lynn Austin - a book review

The story of Nehemiah, found in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, is a great story of God’s blessing following obedience. In the book, On this Foundation, by Lynn Austin, the story of Nehemiah’s great challenge comes to life through the skillful and descriptive words of the author.

The very first paragraph of the first chapter in the book draws the reader in immediately. “Nehemiah descended the winding staircase to the palace kitchens, then paused in the arched doorway, savoring the warmth from the blazing hearth fires and enormous ovens. The aroma of roasting meat and baking bread greeted him. He enjoyed this part of his job, especially on early winter days like this one when it was difficult to heat the cavernous palace rooms upstairs. He watched the sweating, red-faced cooks and scullery lads bustle around, chopping vegetables, skinning a goat, and plucking waterfowl. These men would probably prefer to work in a cooler room.”

Ms. Austin weaves her words to create a beautiful, descriptive tapestry of the life of Nehemiah. Instead of looking at the story as an irrelevant Biblical tale, through her literary skill and prowess, Ms. Austin takes us into a world of colorful characters and events that are relevant for today.

The story begins in Susa, capital of Persia. Nehemiah, a Jewish servant, is employed as King Artaxerxes’ cup bearer. This position, which seems insignificant, is an extremely important one and Nehemiah does not take it lightly. The cup bearer’s job is to protect the king from would be assassination attempts by poisoning. Any drink prepared for the king would first pass the lips of Nehemiah. His dedicated loyalty and service to the Persian King prepared him to serve Almighty God in a very different way.

While in service to the king, God places a call on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the temple walls. The holy temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians. The walls of Jerusalem have been broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. Lynn Austin helps the reader feel the desperation in Nehemiah’s heart as she describes how the Jewish people were in trouble and how they were feeling a great sense of disgrace and reproach.

God tells Nehemiah that his job is to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the temple. After much prayer, Nehemiah approaches the king and finds favor with him. Nehemiah is appointed governor and is given permission to go to Jerusalem. When people find out what his plans are, they think Nehemiah has lost his mind. How can one person undertake such a monumental task? Nehemiah explains that with the Lord’s help, it can be done.

Ms. Austin takes time to develop each character in the story with great detail. She uses their frustrations and trials to help us understand exactly what they are feeling. Her careful attention to biblical customs and traditions are evident as the story continues to unfold.

As the story draws to a close, Nehemiah faces a personal challenge with his desire to be king. Ms. Austin graciously helps us understand his struggle and sympathize with him. Her ability to give her characters such deep emotion and commitment is a unique writing ability.

This was the first book by Lynn Austin that I have read. I enjoyed reading this book very much and would highly recommend it. Christians, familiar with the Biblical account of the story of Nehemiah, will be pleasantly surprised to find Lynn Austin’s account follows along very closely while adding much detail. Non-Christians will find the book an enjoyable story with much depth, colorful characters, detailed scenery, and expressive conversations.

I also enjoyed the glossary of terms used in the book that Ms. Austin provided. She also provides a list of Scripture references for the reader at the end of the book.

If you'd like to have your own copy of the book, you can get it by clicking this link:
 Purchase On this Foundation through Amazon

Disclosure: I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book. I was asked to read it and submit a review. The opinions I have expressed are solely my own and I was not influenced in the writing of this review by any members of the Bethany House publishing staff or their employees.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Monday, October 5, 2015

Queen Esther and the Ring of Power

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Aneko Press and would like to thank them for allowing me the pleasure of reviewing it.

The book, Queen Esther and the Ring of Power by Russell M. Stendal, is filled with exciting revelations about this Biblical account of a woman's faith. Mr. Stendal weaves past and present events with symbolism into his book. His writing style is very easy to read and understand.

I was impressed with the verse by verse and chapter by chapter analysis made by Mr. Stendal. I have read the Bible story of Esther many times but have never delved as deeply into it as I was able to thanks to Mr. Stendal.

The book opens with Chapter 1 of Esther, at the feast of King Ahasuerus. In the third year of the king's reign, he holds a 180 day banquet for his royal staff followed by a seven day banquet for the other people of his kingdom.

Esther, a Jewish young woman, finds herself amid those chosen for the king's pleasure. For twelve months, the young women are required to endure a period of purification. Mr. Stendal helps us understand the importance of the number twelve and explains it is not only the number associated with childhood, but it is also the number linked to divine order. He goes into great detail with his explanations and continues throughout the remaining chapters.

Esther is a story of faith and courage. Not only does Esther vow to be obedient to the Lord's will, she asks for the Jewish people in her village to commit to fast and pray for her for three days before approaching the king.  Amazingly, her people commit to do this for her and Esther is able to fast without drawing attention to herself. As she readies herself to approach the king, Mr. Stendal helps us see the importance of being led by the Spirit of God.

The story embodies both good and evil. Esther represents a God fearing woman who seeks to do the Lord's will while Haman, the king's right hand man, represents pure hatred and evil. "Queen Esther is dedicated to saving humanity and having it restored to the image of God, but humanity cannot return to the image of God while Haman exists."

The book takes an in depth look at each character of the book, each verse, and each chapter. Mr. Stendal has worked diligently to provide us with a detailed account of symbolism but also about prophetic meanings and how they relate to our current world.

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it for anyone who enjoys digging deep into God's Word. Mr. Stendal is very knowledgeable and has gone to great lengths to make this book clear and concise. His expertise as a missionary and follower of Christ have given him great insight. I am thankful he was willing to share that information with us through his new book.

Purchase Queen Esther and the Ring of Power on Amazon by clicking here

©bonnie annis all rights reserved

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Holman Christian Standard Journaling Bible

Recently, I received a complimentary copy of the Holman Christian Standard Journaling Bible from B H Publishing Group. 

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box and removed the Bible. The Bible cover is a hardback black, with textured insets of brown leather like material. It is approximately 6 1/2 inches wide by 8 1/2 inches high. The stitching along the cover is done in an attractive ivory thread and gives nice detailing to the book. The spine is inscribed in gold leaf with the HCSB logo as well as the words, Journaling Bible. Upon opening the Bible, I find the pages easily lay flat, unlike other journaling Bibles I have reviewed. 

The pages of the Bible are ivory colored with s single column of Scripture along the inside of each page. A lined column compliments the outer edge of each column of Scripture providing the perfect amount of space to record special insights and personal thoughts. For those who love to art journal, these wide columns would provide ample space for artwork too.

This Bible contains a well organized concordance, eight detailed four color maps, an annual Bible reading plan, a ribbon bookmark, a presentation page and an introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible. 

The HCSB Journaling Bible is very well made and would make a wonderful gift presentation. The lay flat pages make it unique and provide an easy way to document thoughts or questions. I would highly recommend this Bible for anyone interested in learning more about God's Word. 

I would like to thank B H Publishing Group for providing me with this copy of the Holman Christian Standard Bible to review. 

© bonnie annis 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Prince Who Was Just Himself

I received a complimentary copy of The Prince Who Was Just Himself written by Silke Schnee and illustrated by Heike Sistig today from Plough Publishing. This is a sweet children's book and deals with a sensitive subject, Down's syndrome, in a most delightful way.

The story opens as the King and Queen are expecting a new baby. They already have two sons but when the new one arrives, the find he is quite unusual and different. They aren't quite sure what to think and decide to love him just because he is their son. As the child, Prince Noah, grows, they find he is a very quiet, caring child. They love to watch him out in the sunshine just enjoying nature.

The story continues and the King and Queen discover through one specific event that their child, Prince Noah, has unique abilities to soften people's hearts. The inhabitants of the kingdom realize this child is a blessing and quickly accept him as a vital part of the community.

Down's syndrome is an evident chromosomal defect. Society doesn't readily accept these children and often view them as mentally retarded. The author of this book is the parent of a Down's Syndrome child. She wanted to showcase his sensitive heart in this story.

I enjoyed reading this little book and think it will help soften a difficult subject with children of all ages. It will also help children understand that just because someone is different doesn't mean they are unlovable.

This book is suitable for children of all ages but would be best understood by children aged 7-12.