Announcement: GIVEAWAY + Instagram Challenge!

“Biblical Fiction Buffs”

Say whaaaaat?!?!?!

Jenna Van Mourik is hosting ANOTHER giveaway? No need to get your glasses prescription double-checked, you read that right! Another giveaway is in the works, in celebration of my Goodreads group and online book club, The Biblical Fiction Buffs.

This, the first week of September, I’m hosting an INSTAGRAM PHOTO CHALLENGE. If you’ve never participated in a photo challenge before, then allow me to give you this quick introduction. A photo challenge on Instagram usually takes place on certain days, and can be as short as a day, or as long as a month! My instagram challenge will be only a week long, from September 1-7. Every day of the week, there is a “prompt” for that day. You take or post a picture of a book that you think fits that prompt, with a challenge-specific hashtag, and BOOM! You’re participating in the challenge.

My challenge will be using the hashtag #BiblicalFictionBuffsChallenge and will be Cities of Refuge themed! As in, the Cities of Refuge series by Connilyn Cossette! Book #1, A Light on the Hill, just so happens to be the book we’re reading in September for the Biblical Fiction Buffs quarterly book club, so it fits perfectly. Here’s all the challenge details below:

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NOW… I bet you’re wondering what the deal is with the giveaway now, huh?

Well… Let me tell you, by participating in the challenge, YOU’RE ALREADY ELIGIBLE TO WIN THESE AMAZING PRIZES!

Each day you post for the challenge counts as an entry into the giveaway, so you have the potential to enter your name SEVEN TIMES. Five winners will be selected to win an assortment of Cities of Refuge themed goodies and swag. Notebooks, pens, bookmarks, the WORKS! Of those five winners, one will also be selected to win the GRAND PRIZE which will include all of the aforementioned prizes, plus a PAPERBACK COPY of Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette, Book #2 in the Cities of Refuge series!!! AHHH!!! Tell me I’m not the only one freaking out over how exciting this is?

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The only catch?

The winner will be announced via the discussion boards IN THE GOODREADS GROUP for the Biblical Fiction Buffs book club, so make sure you’re all set up with a Goodreads account and that you’ve joined the group so that you get ALLLL the notifications whenever that announcement goes live!

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Best of luck! And I can’t WAIT to see all of your GORGEOUS photos come September 1st! Be sure to tag me @jennavanmourik and use the hashtag #BiblicalFictionBuffsChallenge so that I can see your entry and mark you down for the giveaway!

Until then, happy reading!

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Book Review: Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette

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I have been waiting on PINS and NEEDLES to finally share this review with you guys. Okay, well, maybe not pins and needles (more like couches and pillows, because… Comfort). But you guys! I am finally sharing with you all of the thoughts on Until The Mountains Fall, the latest installment of the Cities of Refuge series by Connilyn Cossette, and it was so good I’m not even sure if I can accurately describe it. Nevertheless, I shall try!

Plus, stay tuned until the end of this post for some exciting updates about videos I will be posting to my YouTube channel in celebration of the Until the Mountains Fall release on July 2, 2019.

About the Author:

Connilyn Cossette is the CBA bestselling author of the Out from Egypt and Cities of Refuge series. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award, INSPY Award, and the Christian Retailing’s Best Award. She lives with her husband of twenty-one years and a son and a daughter who fill her days with joy, inspiration, and laughter. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

Now, if you don’t already know what this book is about, then be sure to catch the summary. This is a wonderful Biblical fiction release and a fantastic series that you should definitely check out!

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Recently widowed, Rivkah refuses to submit to the Torah law compelling her to marry her husband’s brother and instead flees Kedesh, hoping to use her talents as a scribe to support herself. Without the protections of her father, Kedesh’s head priest, and the safety of the city of refuge, Rivkah soon discovers that the cost of recklessness is her own freedom.

Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but he never imagined his older brother’s death would mean wedding her himself. After her disappearance, he throws himself into the ongoing fight against the Canaanites instead of dwelling on all he has lost. But with impending war looming over Israel, Rivkah’s father comes to Malakhi with an impossible request.

As the enemies that Rivkah and Malakhi face from without and within Israel grow more threatening each day, is it too late for the restoration their wounded souls seek?

You guys. One of the things that I love about Biblical fiction is the hopeful thread of God’s faithfulness which is almost always woven throughout the story. If hope is a thread, then this book is a magnificent tapestry. This is by far one of the most redemptive, uplifting, powerful Biblical fiction novels I have ever read.

Copy of We Love You A Latte!-2If not the most.

This book really showcased the power of love; familial love, a father’s love, romantic love, and the love of God. I so enjoyed watching Malakhi mature from boy, to young man, and to hero. His maturity and honor, even when his honor and respect were not deserved, was refreshing in a main male character.

Although it took me a while to grow to love Rivkah, a few chapters in I was fully invested in her character and in her plight. Her struggle with submitting to God’s will even when His plans were unknown, and later, her struggle with guilt and resentment towards herself when she realized all she had lost by relying solely on herself and not on trusting others and having faith were incredibly relatable.

No Matter that Rivkah had fled Kedesh, lied, ... and who knows what else,AND YOU GUYS. THAT TWIST ON THE VERY LAST PAGE THOUGH.

*I would highly, highly, HIGHLY suggest that you read A Light on the Hill BEFORE picking this book up if you don’t want a major spoiler. Just saying.*

Finally, the story and plot of this book showcased redemption and healing like none other. I enjoyed how this book was a loose re-inventing of the Prodigal Son parable, a story which I have often related with and in different times of my life, have identified both with the son himself and with the jealous brother. While this book is not a Biblical fiction retelling of that story, the parable remains an influence on the plot and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Seriously you guys, this series gets better and better the more books that are released. The first two books in this series are called A Light on the Hill and Shelter of the Most High, both of which I have reviewed previously on the blog. Until the Mountains Fall was a beautiful story, and my favorite in the series by far. I am already marking my calendar for Like Flames in the Night, which will be the final book in the series. I’m expecting an EPIC conclusion!

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Until the Mountains Fall releases on July 2, 2019 and you can pre-order/purchase it by clicking THIS LINK.

You also still have time to read this AND all the other books in the series before Like Flames in the Night releases in 2020. If you’re looking for something to binge this summer, this series is it! Fast-paced, action packed, and FULL of powerful narratives of God’s faithfulness even in the darkest of times.

Now, on to the fun stuff!

You guys, I have TWO fun videos coming to my YouTube channel in celebration of this exciting release! Both are pre-recorded, so if you hear me talking about how my “review will go up soon” just know that I filmed these before I wrote this review!

The first super fun video coming is a READING VLOG! You all loved my last reading vlog for Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews, so I had to bring you one for Until the Mountains Fall! This video goes live on June 21, 2019, so if you’re reading this that means that you can already click over and watch it!

The second video in my series honoring Until the Mountains Fall‘s release is a BOOKS & COOKS video and the second episode in my BOOKS & COOKS series. It’s a series I occasionally do on my channel trying to re-create historically accurate recipes based on or inspired by books. For this episode, I’m attempting to recreate a Lentil Stew inspired by the stew Moriyah made, (and later a stew made by Rivkah) in the Cities of Refuge series. This video will release next Friday, June 28, 2019. Subscribe to my channel to make sure you don’t miss it.

If you’d like to watch the first episode in the BOOKS & COOKS series, making crepes inspired by The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel, then you can certainly watch that in the meantime.

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WHEW!

We finally made it to the end!

That’s all for reviews and announcements this week, you guys. I really hope that you enjoyed reading this review and that you’re as excited about this book as I am. Don’t forget to pre-order/purchase Until the Mountains Fall if you’re interested or add it to your Goodreads TBR.

Keep an eye out here on the blog for more book reviews (subscribe via e-mail if you’d like them delivered straight to your inbox!) and don’t forget to check out those super fun videos as they release as well.

Congratulations to Connilyn Cossette on her release! And until next time,

Happy reading!

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Fall Favorites – 2018!

A few of my favorite things from this Fall, the best of them all! Books, candles, and ALL of the things!!!

IMG_7344 There are so many things to love about this season and time of year. Now, hear me out, I know that this is completely insane. Fall is what really? A time where pretty much all plant life dies and decays by turning into various shades of red, orange, and brown until ultimately the leaves wither into nothingness in preparation for the coming harshness of winter. Still, there’s nothing more magical than the latter months of the year in my opinion. As crazy as it sounds, fall to me means rebirth and rejuvenation! Those darkening leaves and cool breezes? I find them beautiful.

Maybe it’s because of my allergies that I associate springtime with a general feeling of death, but we’ll save that for another post!

As you can see, I LOVE fall. Or have you not gotten that message yet? Here are a few of the things that have been making my fall-time even more beautiful!

  1. Karen Witemeyer Books – Every fall, I normally settle in with my blankets, a candle, and the entire When Calls the Heart collection (AKA, the Canadian West series). Something about Canada and historical fiction just screams fall to me. While I haven’t gotten around to my annual reread of When Calls the Heart, Karen Witemeyer’s books have been a great alternative for filling all of my historical fiction needs!
  2. Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette – One of my favorite things about this fall has been being apart of the launch team for this book, getting to read it and promote it! It’s a fantastic read and I’d recommend it to anyone! Conni is, and probably always will be, a Biblical fiction queen!
  3. CANDLES – Ok, we’re book nerds. We love reading. But you know what makes reading instantly better? Every. single. time.??? Reading near an open flame. A cozy candle, bonus points if it’s pumpkin or cinnamon scented, makes reading all the more enjoyable during these cold, rainy evenings. Just make sure you read a safe distance away from your candle. I shouldn’t have to say this, but JUST IN CASE, this is your friendly reminder that books are made of paper, and they can and WILL burn if they come into too close of contact with fire!!!
  4. WRITING – True. I write all of the time. But there’s something about falling back into a chair, staring pensively out the window watching the storms ensue, and tapping a pencil on the crisp, blank pages of a notebook. In those moments, we authors have ultimate power.

Of course, there’s more. Isn’t there always more? Be sure to watch my Fall Favorites YouTube video on my channel for even more wonderfully fall-ish recommendations! Tis the season to be… fall-y? Whatever. Just watch the video! And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss a single update or bookish review/recommendation! Until then,

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Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette || Review

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You shouldn’t be surprised, I loved this book! But more on that later. First, allow me to share with you the summary of what this book is about. Then I can tell you all EXACTLY why it is so brilliant! P.S. – keep reading until the end for a few words from the author herself!

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a City of Refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood and chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Will they break free from the shackles of the past in time to uncover the betrayal and save their lives and the lives of those they love?

40417708_1910724655902606_8390603793993039872_oShelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette is the latest book in her Cities of Refuge series, a continuation of her previous series, Out From Egypt. It remains just as captivating and compelling as her previous four novels, without losing any of the creative spark that made her writing so unique and refreshing in the first place!

In the novel, Sofea comes to the land of Canaan, a land where she knows no one, does not speak the language, and is surrounded by strange and unfamiliar customs and rituals all to please a god that she has never seen and can find no idols of anywhere in the house.

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Meanwhile, Eitan, a side character from A Light on the Hill, struggles with the demons of his past. As his feelings for Sofea only deepen as they learn more about each other and get to know one another, the dark secrets of his past begin to cast shadows on his newfound happiness.

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Still, he and his family try their very best to be the light that Sofea so desperately needs to give her new hope and move her from a place of fear and depression, to a place of refuge and joy. The king of joy that only God can bring.

Danger, traitors, pirates, and murder plots ensue, each bringing their own obstacles to Sofea and Eitan’s path as they try to build a love that transcends language.

Like each of this book’s predecessors, it tells an intriguing story which shines a light on a part of the Bible and Old Testament history that we don’t otherwise often hear about. I think that’s what makes Connilyn Cossette’s books so entertaining, that they are so new and unique compared to other works in the Biblical fiction genre. Unless you are a Biblical scholar, you might not have known about the Cities of Refuge in the Bible, but Connilyn Cossette chose to make them the setting for her series. Time after time, she brings to life otherwise forgotten worlds and passages, and each time she does so, she succeeds with incredible triumph.

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This book was deep, hopeful, encouraging, exciting, and it was also entertaining! The things that Sofea so often misunderstood about the Hebrew culture and customs were almost comical, in a sad sort of way. Watching her experience that world and God for the first time was an amazing experience, as was the rest of the book.

I cannot recommend this book (and the previous books by this author) ENOUGH! You should definitely get a copy and consider reading the entire series if you can. You will not be disappointed.

While I did receive a copy of this book for review as a part of being on the book launch team for Shelter of the Most High, all opinions expressed are my own. This did not affect my rating of the book in any way.

BONUS Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR, CONNILYN COSSETTE:

Connilyn Cossette was kind enough to give all of us bloggers on the launch team the opportunity to ask her any questions we would like, in exchange for some general answers we could all share. Being the curious reader I am, I was quick to fire away with questions about the next book in the series, the writing process, and what we can expect to see from her in the future. Here are a few of those questions and answers, JUST FOR YOU!

  1. Is Sofea and Eitan’s story finished, or will we see more of them? The next book, Until the Mountains Fall, opens about 8 years after Shelter of the Most High, so you will definitely see what Eitan and Sofea are up to. I won’t spoil anything about their appearances but I will say that it made me so happy to revisit them and to “see” their love story through the eyes of a grown-up Malakhi (the hero of UTMF).
  2. The cities of refuge in the Old Testament isn’t a topic we hear about a lot in church, how did this play into your research? Did you find it easier or more difficult to portray what life would be like for your characters in such a place?
    That is very true. I knew pretty much nothing about them either but there is research out there, albeit sparing, from Christian and also Jewish Rabbinical sources that helped me fill in some gaps which I then just blended with what I know about God and about the plan of salvation that fits so perfectly into the Cities of Refuge pattern. As I began to “flesh out” the City of Kedesh in my mind it honestly became a real place in my head, so it’s not difficult to place myself there and envision what my characters see. When I went to Israel and drove near the place where the actual city once stood (or at least across the valley from it) it was kind of surreal to blend my “fictional” Kedesh with the actual landscape.
  3. How did you come up with the topic for this story? Well, in the beginning it was an off-hand comment by my husband’s best friend that I actually laughed off at first and then began to realize was a completely cool premise! But I can’t really tell you what that comment was because it’s a major spoiler! But I also did some research about the Bronze Age and found out there was a real problem with pirates back then and knew I had to weave them in too. The original plot idea was very different and involved more pirates and even some ancient drug trade (yes, there was such a thing) and ended up being a tangled mess that didn’t make much logical sense, so I am really pleased with how it all came together…eventually.
  4. Do you relate particularly well to any one of the characters in this book? Why or why not? I always find little ways I relate to many of my characters but in Shelter of the Most High I think perhaps I connected the most with Eitan’s struggle with recurring self-condemnation. In order to avoid spoilers I won’t say exactly how he handles these issues but I think for me, and for many other followers of Jesus, I have a habit of bringing up my past sins and beating myself over the head with them, even though His grace is sufficient and I have no need to wallow in condemnation any more. If we are in Covenant with Jesus through his blood then we have been freely forgiven, so we must stop letting the Enemy whisper in our ear that we are not worthy. Eitan goes through the process of trying to “earn” forgiveness for something he had already been given grace for and I am guilty of doing the same thing at times. His journey was a great reminder to me that I am already free, so I need to stop acting like a slave to my past!
  5. Was there anything interesting that happened during the writing of this book (or that made its way into the writing of this book) that the average reader wouldn’t pick up on? The biggest change for me was traveling to Israel. I went from having to rely on the internet and Google Earth for my experiences of the Land to getting the opportunity to see and feel and taste and touch and smell those places for myself. It shifted my understanding of the “smallness” of the country and how close everything in the Bible is in relation to one another and gave me a wealth of sensory detail to layer into my stories. I’d already written Shelter of the Most High when I went there but during editing I was able to tweak and expand due to my firsthand experiences. It was life-changing in many ways.
  6. Is there any particular message (that isn’t obvious) that you would like your readers to get out of this book? As I began writing the Cities of Refuge Series I came to the realization that the places God set up as sanctuaries for those convicted of manslaughter (Joshua 20) were a wonderful picture of the Body of Christ and how the Church should relate to the world. Our congregations should be a haven for the hurting, a place of safety and provision for those who are suffering, a place where the teaching of the Word (Torah) is central, a gathering of redeemed people who appreciate the grace and mercy they’ve been given, and a light on the hill to the weary and heavy laden. Throughout the series you’ll see cities of refuge like Kedesh where these principles are upheld and valued and others that have became more focused on wealth, power, self-righteousness or have slidden into idolatry and compromise. History shows us that these cities of refuge were kind of a blip on the timeline, in fact scholar think that many of the 48 cities designated for the Levites by Moses were never even settled. If the Church wants to have an impact on the culture around us, instead of the other way around, we would do well to pattern our congregations after these places of perfectly balanced justice and mercy.

Shelter of the Most High releases on October 2nd, and you do NOT want to miss it! As another special surprise, my video discussion/vlog review of this book will also be going live on October 2nd as well, to celebrate the official release! Make sure you are subscribed to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss it!

Until next time,

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