I was so excited when I heard that one of my favorite fiction authors was releasing her first non-fiction title! Plus "Impactivity: How to Set the World on Fire Without Burning Out" sounded like it would be right up my alley. The idea of truly impacting the world is exciting to me, and it's something I believe in with my whole heart.

Within the first few chapters I was able to tell that I was not the target audience for this book, because this really was written for vision-oriented Christian entrepreneurs. I do not have the entrepreneur gene. At all. My heart for impacting the world is through relationships - my direct one-on-one contact with the lives I touch. Neither approach is wrong, because God is the originator of those desires, and He made people with different and unique strengths and weaknesses. For my own personality I didn't feel that I gained a lot from this book, but for those who want to build a business or pursue a specific dream, I think you'd find a lot more here than I did.

The principle that I enjoyed the most from this book was Unshackle. Sometimes it is hard to give ourselves permission to lay down responsibilities that do not truly belong to us, or to feel the freedom to follow our own Great Adventure rather than being caught up in Other People's Adventures. This is a message that is quite important for everyone, because pleasing people is such a common setback.

This book is the introduction to a set of five guidebooks meant to delve deeper into Higley's principles for Impactivity. If you are a Christian entrepreneur, I would recommend checking these out.



"The Incense Road" is a collection of novellas by Tracy Higley that follows the trek of the magi as they leave their Parthian home and seek the newborn King of the Jews. At first they are a large group of traders, soldiers, and scholars, each with their own motivation for the journey.

In the first novella, "Star of Wonder," we meet Misha, son of the main character from Higley's previous book, The Queen's Handmaid. Misha is a first-level mage who is sure he can find shortcuts to get what he wants in life. He heads towards to the ancient country of Judea planning to steal a Jewish artifact called the Nehushtan for the gain of his own family and to keep it from the evil clutches of the sorcerer Zahir. Misha's best friend Reza, a soldier who is also possibly the rightful heir of the Persian throne, is leading the band of guards on who are accompanying the various sects of scholars on the trip. Another first-level mage, Kamillah, is of Egyptian heritage and has captured the interest of Misha, Reza, and Zahir as well. She is seeking freedom, truth, and a way to return home to Egypt.

Each of these main characters feels the pressure of the heavens. The star announcing the arrival of a World Savior calls to them in a way they've never felt before. They are aware of a spiritual battle over their journey but they don't know if the heavenly forces fight for them or against them. Misha and Zahir are focused on finding the Nehushtan, while Reza and his soldiers plot to bring Persia out from under Parthia's rule upon their return home.

Things become unpredictable when they reach Judea and each must decide where their loyalty lies. Through battle, imprisonment, and the continuous call of the star they will be forced to examine their motives and goals. Who will remain standing to lay their treasures at the feet of Jesus?

I enjoyed this story, especially the final novella "Royal Beauty." I would recommend reading The Queen's Handmaid before The Incense Road, as it gives rich backstory to the characters and setting. I teared up at the heart-responses of those who met the young Messiah, having their fears stilled and faith affirmed by the One True God's own small Son. This book does deal quite a bit with spiritual warfare so if that makes you uneasy you should probably pass on this one. Otherwise it is a fascinating look into what the magi might have faced on their holy quest.
2014 was a great year for reading! I'm thankful to have had the ability to read so many good books this year. Now I get to present my favorites to you and hope you'll check some of them out for yourself! Click on any title to read my full review.

Historical Fiction

Love Comes Calling

Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

In a zany series of capers, Ellis Eton tries to trade identities with one friend and save the life of another. Ellis makes an endearing heroine because she has a good heart but she's also terribly scatterbrained. This one is an amusing and charming read!


Young Adult Fiction

Fairest Beauty

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

This year I read more young adult books than I have since I was a young adult myself, and while a number of them were good, I am still resonating with the spiritual truths and character growth found in "The Fairest Beauty." This was a lovely retelling of the classic Snow White fairytale.


Speculative Fiction

Awakening

Awakening by Tracy Higley

Museum worker Kallie Andreas suffers from amnesia, and she is given the opportunity of a lifetime when she's offered to lead a team in quest of finding a crucial artifact. As her journey takes her to Egypt, Italy, and the Greek isle of Santorini, Kallie discovers much about herself, her past, and our amazing God.


Contemporary Fiction

All My Belongings

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Becca Morrow is trying to get a fresh start on life by changing her name and moving half-way across the country to escape the notoriety of her father's high-profile murder trial. While she's running from her past, her new friend Isaac is seeking his in the form of searching for his biological parents. The themes and lessons in this book were beautiful and insightful, and the wonderful balance of storytelling elements makes this one you can't put down.


Non-Fiction

Hardest Peace

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Kara Tippetts is a pastor's wife and mother of four young children who has received a terrible diagnosis: terminal cancer. As her life on this earth fades away, Kara encourages all of us to trust God as the Author of our story, let His grace fill our lives, and love well those around us. Find the beauty in the heartbreak. This is an amazing book with applications for you no matter your life circumstances.


Classic Literature

Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The final book in the Anne of Green Gables series is a coming-of-age tale set during the anxious days of World War I. Anne's daughter Rilla is one of my favorite literary characters ever written. She grows from a dreamy young girl into a mature and strong woman whose heart beats for the needs of others. Every emotion is written in such a way that you feel you're on the journey, too.
Awakening


I have been wanting to share my review of this book with you for a very long time. Towards the end of last year I had the opportunity to read the manuscript and was absolutely blown away by the beauty and depth of the story. Now that "Awakening" has been published and I have reread the finished product, I finally get to share my thoughts and encourage you to pick it up for yourself! Incredibly, it's free on Kindle today, but just for a limited time, so hurry on over there.

Kallie Andreas does not know who she is. Seven years ago she woke up in a New York museum with no memories of her life before. She has managed to cope with the help of a few key people, getting through college and procuring a job at the museum where she was for all intents and purposes born. Kallie feels drawn to history, perhaps all the more so because her own is a mystery.

Life changes when museum patron Dimitri Andreas shows up after years spent abroad, and Kallie could not be more surprised when he approaches her about leading a team to retrieve an artifact which could prove crucial to the project she has been working on for years. This is very much outside her comfort zone, but a little bit of desperation helps her decide to leave behind her fears and inadequacy and make a leap into the unknown.

As she starts her adventure, Kallie begins journaling a story of love and danger set in ancient Greece on the island of Kalliste, which is now called Santorini. She feels compelled to write from a place deep inside of her, and her therapist believes her story is helping to uncover her past and help her find who she truly is. We get to read along as she writes and try to discern if she's just paralleling her globe-trotting journey or if there is hidden meaning in her words.

The search for the artifact takes Kallie and team not only to Egypt, but also to Venice and eventually to Santorini itself. This novel is full of Tracy Higley's distinctive eye for details and presents each location so vividly that you feel you are the one getting desert sand in your eyes or enjoying a ride in a gondola. Each step is filled with peril, romance, and hope that Kallie will truly find all that she is searching for, including her memory. When the moment of full remembrance comes, be prepared! As I wrote in my feedback to the author last year, it "sent me over a mental edge." The story suddenly bursts into living color and you realize that there is hidden meaning everywhere.

This novel is part contemporary, part historical, and part speculative, with a dash of allegory thrown in, too. The themes are absolutely amazing, from the long and hard road that inner healing requires, to the fact that Jesus Christ is the thread the goes throughout all history, leading us to our true home. Will Kallie be able to find her home, her people, her family?

I received my copy of the book from the author. All opinions in this review are my own.
Queen's Handmaid


Each new release from Tracy Higley is a much-anticipated event for this reader! In "The Queen's Handmaid," we travel back to the time in between the Old and New Testaments, into the palaces of Egypt, Rome, and Judea, where one servant girl guards precious scrolls written by the prophet Daniel many years ago in Babylon.

Raised as a servant in Cleopatra's home, Lydia is a responsible and skilled young lady. A fellow servant, a Hebrew named Samuel, has instilled in Lydia a respect for the One True God. As Samuel is dying, he entrusts Lydia with the care of the sacred scrolls which his family has kept hidden for many generations. He instructs Lydia that when she is able, she is to take the scrolls to the Temple on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to meet a man wearing a specific prayer shawl. On that one day a year a stranger will be waiting and watching for her. At the time of Samuel's death, a young and ambitious Herod is visiting Cleopatra and looking to form an alliance in order to be supported in his quest to take the throne in Judea. Lydia captures his eye, and he takes her to be a maid for his fiancee. The One God is leading her towards her mission objective!

Lydia is excited to see a new land and serve a new mistress. Her personality tends to draw everyone to her so that they find her indispensable, but she's guarded in letting people in. While making a few friends along the way, she also catches the eye of Herod's evil sister, who is interested in foreign gods and their dark power. Danger lurks in more than one way, as the political situation is ever shifting, and there are those who are hunting the scrolls for their own purposes.

There are two handy family trees at the beginning of this book to help us keep track of the history of leadership in Jerusalem. With so many men and women who shared similar names, I referenced the family tree often to help me keep things straight. Herod's page also extends many years past the end of our story, to document his descendants who were mentioned in the New Testament.

This story was very captivating, and I had a hard time putting it down. I wanted to see Lydia safely through her quest, and I cared about what happened to her. Her life was more than it seemed, and even as the secrets of her past unfolded, I feared they would take her away from being able to fulfill her calling and find happiness. I can't tell you how the story unfolded, but I can urge you to check it out if you enjoy historical fiction!

I received my copy of the book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.


Tracy L. Higley is celebrating the release of The Queen's Handmaid with a fun giveaway.

Retailers + Resources gave it this glowing review: "Rich in historic detail, Higley’s vivid writing brings to life the plots and intrigues that swirled through the ancient world as alliances were built and broken on the calculated schemes of power-mad monarchs."


queen'shandmaid-400-click-1


  • A Kindle Fire HDX

  • The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley


Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 19th. Winner will be announced April 21st on Tracy's blog.





Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Tracy's blog on April 21st to see if you won.

I was a reading overachiever this year, not only accomplishing the goal I set out for myself, but exceeding it by 44%! There were many excellent books, but a few really stood out. Here were my favorite titles by genre from 2013.

Historical Fiction
So Shines The Night by Tracy Higley

Set in Ephesus during the events of Acts 19, Tracy brings the Bible and ancient history to life. You feel like you are there. It's particularly challenging to fictionalize a Bible account, but Tracy succeeds magnificently.

Young Adult Fiction and Speculative Fiction
Anomaly by Krista McGee

Normally I separate these categories, but "Anomaly" wins both easily. In the futuristic world when nuclear war has destroyed most of the planet and humans are genetically engineered for specific tasks, Thalli realizes that there's more than the sterile world around her. If her differences and longings are discovered, it will require her death.

Contemporary Fiction
Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

Lily is entering the middle of her life when she finds out that she has an identical twin sister living in Australia. Taking one of the first risks she has ever tried, Lily sets off the find the sister who was separated by adoption. This novel beautifully touched on many aspects of family relationships and the hurt and hope that many struggle with in this area.

Non-Fiction
You Were Born For More by Harry R. Jackson Jr.

I wasn't so sure about reading this book, but God got the last laugh on this one. Bishop Jackson brings out straightforward truths which would be beneficial to every believer to grasp and implement in their lives.

Classic Literature
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

For this year it could be nothing besides "Les Miserables." Not just because it was the only classic I read this year (hey, it's 1450+ pages!), but because I drew so much inspiration from it.


There's something exciting about picking up a Tracy Higley book. As her website suggests, a good book is almost the same as time traveling! What a gift Tracy has for making history come alive.

"City on Fire" is the story of Ariella, a Jewish slave in Rome whose spirit has grown dim under the harsh hand of her master. One dark night she manages to escape and, disguising herself as a boy, begins training to be a gladiator. The troupe is soon leaving for Pompeii, putting further distance between her and years of bad memories.

New in Pompeii is Quintus Portius Cato, a young politician whose failed career in Rome has left him eager for a fresh start in a new place with a new business. The political circuit is the last thing he wants to think about, but he is soon sought out by those under the oppression of Maius, an unethical local ruler who has the whole city in his grasp. No one is brave enough to run against him in the upcoming election. Cato cannot bear to see injustice, and when Maius's evil gaze turns in the direction of his family, Cato decides he must stand and fight.

Ariella is beginning to feel alive with her training as a fighter. When her true identity is discovered by Portius Cato, she fears his attention is merely a step in using her for his own gains. Will he ruin her plans to make a name and free herself from the chains she has known so long?

As the story unfolds, the volcano Vesuvius churns nearby. We know from history what its eruption will do to this city on the sea. Who will escape the destruction, and who will be caught in its grip?

My favorite part of the story was seeing Higley's portrayal of the first century church. I loved how well she showed that they were a family, and their Christian love crossed all social barriers. Slaves were as welcome as the wealthy. It was also special to see some minor characters again, whom I had first met in another Higley book. I must note that due to the nature of the culture in which this story is set, this isn't a tale I would recommend for young readers. Higley handles it tastefully, but she doesn't pretend it wasn't there. For discerning readers who love historical fiction, you cannot go wrong with Tracy Higley. I am a huge fan!


I review for BookSneeze®

I received the book from the BookSneeze in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
So Shines the Night

I have long enjoyed Tracy Higley's historical works, but after finishing "So Shines the Night," I can now say this is my new favorite of her novels. It holds a wonderful blend of elements: Biblical accuracy, history, suspense, romance. Being a busy person, I normally catch my reading time in little spurts here and there. While reading "So Shines the Night," I often found myself being upset when the clock informed me that I needed to go to work or had another responsibility to handle. I just wanted to find out what would happen next!

Daria is a tutor on the isle of Rhodes in AD 57. Being an educated woman at a time when all scholars were male has always set Daria apart. She fears little, but she knows there is evil in the world and has often felt it reaching out for her. When a confrontation with a sorcerer leaves her fleeing for her life, she literally runs into Lucas, a merchant just heading back to his home in Ephesus. Seeing something inside her that draws him, Lucas offers to bring her to the safety of his home in exchange for tutoring, and promises he can secure her a position at the famous school of Tyrannus. Daria decides to take the risk and lets him whisk her across the sea. But will his home be the safe haven he promises?

A tortured soul, Lucas is only months past the murder of his wife. Hers was the first in a continuing string of murders in Ephesus, and he himself has been one of the suspects. Vowing to exact revenge, Lucas has spent time ingratiating himself into many different sects within the city in order to determine who is responsible for the brutal crimes. Now on the inside of the silversmiths guild, the Christians, and the sorcerers, Lucas is in the middle of a spiritual war beyond his comprehension. At times he is pleasant and warm, at times rough and brusque. Daria longs to be the light that brings Lucas out of the darkness, while yet beginning to fear it may be too late to pull him back.

In exploring the city, Daria meets the dynamic teacher Paul and many of his friends. Observing Paul heal a man of demon possession, Daria is drawn to the power inside him. Striking up a friendship with the Christians, Daria is both confused and captivated by their faith in the One God. Here in a city totally devoted to the worship of Artemis (Diana), Daria must look at faith and devotion and decide who she will choose to serve.

With Christianity a growing force in Ephesus, the workers of darkness seek to strike against them. Demetrius and the silversmiths plot to retain their livelihood; the sorcerers seek to drive them out with dark spells. Although very familiar with the Acts 19 passage in which the story is set, and therefore knowing how things would end for our Biblical characters, I was on pins and needles to see how Lucas and Daria came out on the other side. I began to fear that we might reach the end having witnessed one or both of their deaths. I am not opposed to killing a main character if done well, and I knew Tracy would do it well if she did. There are twists and turns at the end, but the conclusion was completely satisfactory for this reader. You will have to check it out this amazing story for yourself and draw your own conclusions on it!

"So Shines the Night" releases today and is available at all retailers. I received my copy from BookSneeze in exchange for this honest review.

Tracy Higley caravan

As part of Tracy Higley's Caravan, I'm pleased to share this interview with Tracy with you all! Keep reading to see her thoughts on this story, and don't miss the chance to win a $50.00 gift card below!

Q: You have gone on so many amazing travels. What was one of your favorite things about visiting Ephesus?
A: I think it was the sense of being somewhere “where Paul walked.” Sitting in the theater, looking down over the Harbor Street where he was likely kept prisoner at times, I had this amazing moment of “I can’t believe I’m here” – the kind of moment that gives you chills and makes you feel connected to something larger than yourself.

Q: What inspired the theme of So Shines the Night?
A: The idea of community is dear to my heart, and the struggle we all have to not live in isolation. I wanted to take a look at two people struggling to do the right thing, but going about it the wrong way because they were isolated both from other people and from God, and to see what would happen when they brushed up against a community like the first century church.

Q: 
When you visited Ephesus, what was it like to be in the same city that Paul ministered in centuries ago?  
A: It was thrilling, to be succinct. There is a sense of “this is real – this really happened” that sweeps over you and pulls you back in time and into the world of the  Scripture in a new and fresh way. I loved it.

Q: What's one thing you learned about Ephesus and its importance to Christians that you found surprising/interesting/challenging?
A: I had never realized or noticed until studying this time in Paul’s life, how much time he spent there (nearly three years). I always pictured him hopping around from place to place fairly quickly. I was challenged by the time that he invested in people’s lives, the relationships and bonds he formed. Later, when the Ephesian elders said goodbye to him, the book of Acts tells us that they were literally weeping. It’s easy for me to minister to people “from afar” but I was really challenged by Paul’s relational  approach to sharing Christ.

Q: How was the experience of writing So Shines the Night, compared to your other Seven Wonders novels?
A: It was much the same, with the addition of really being able to picture the city itself, as I could with Pompeii, after having walked the streets that are still so intact. It was also fun bringing in the “guest characters” from the book of Acts, and even an appearance of some characters from another novel (I’m not saying who – you’ll have to figure it out!)

Q: How has your writing, research, and travels affected your spiritual life?
A: Great question. All of it has definitely given me a larger sense of the world and what God is doing in it, both now and through the past. It’s made me realize, as I’ve studied God’s work in the nations throughout history, that He has always been calling all people to Himself, and that He still is. It’s also given me a desire to see the kind of Christianity that was born in the fires of Roman persecution become part of our experience now – a living, breathing faith that radically transforms our lives.

Q: What is your favorite thing about writing?
A: You.
Seriously, writing is an isolated and lonely profession at times. I spend a lot of time in my office alone, working to put together stories that people will love, and that will touch their hearts. When I hear from readers, start to see the reaction to a new book, that is my favorite thing about the process.

Q: Can you share anything about your future projects?
A: The best way to get a sense of what I’m working on now would be to visit this page: http://tracyhigley.com/books/work-in-progress/ Although, don’t hold me to all those thoughts about the book I haven’t started yet – who knows where that will go!

So Shines the Night giveaway

Click the graphic above for a chance to win! Thank you so much, Tracy, for blessing my life with your storytelling abilities, and for the insightful interview! I'm proud to be part of the Caravan, and was so tickled when I found my name listed in the Special Thanks section. You're the best!
Ooops, blogger error! When I received the e-mail about the "So Shines the Night" blog tour, I thought the date said March 8. Turns out March 8 was just a deadline for submitting questions for Tracy to answer for the interview. My bad! I hope all of you will come back next week, when there will be a blog tour and full review for this amazing novel!

Not to leave you completely empty, click here for pictures of Tracy's travels to Ephesus. She really made these ancient streets come alive in "So Shines the Night!"
Watch the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at Tracy's new book, "So Shines the Night." I am just a few pages from finishing it and I still don't know how it is going to end! I've loved it and can't wait to share my review with you all tomorrow. Paul is one of my favorite Bible characters and it's wondeful to see a different look at the early Christian believers and how the world began changing with the spread of the Gospel.



"So Shines the Night" hits bookstores next week, but you can read the first three chapters on Tracy's website if you'd like to check them out.
Garden2

There's something wonderful about a book you can't put down, and that is exactly where I find myself with every new Tracy Higley book! "Garden of Madness" transports the reader to ancient Babylon with rich writing, exquisite details, and a depth of plot which keeps you turning pages to see what will happen next. Princess Tiamat is the daughter of King Nebuchadnezzar, who has been out of his mind and living like an animal for nearly seven years, secreted away in the famous Hanging Gardens. Tia fiercely loves her father, and is indeed passionate about everything she does. Like all determined and independent personalities, Tia has a hard time fitting into the role prescribed for her. She was given in a treaty marriage to a Jewish prince when she was 14, and after seven unhappy years, she finds herself a widow. The very same night as her husband's murder by poisoning, another body is found viciously dismembered on the palace rooftop. With the kingdom precariously balanced on the secret of Nebuchadnezzar's true illness, these killings threaten to expose everything and turn Babylon over to their enemies.

The queen, anxious to hold the kingdom together, desires to immediately arrange another treaty marriage for Tia, this time to a prince of the Medes. But Tia has no desire to be ruled by another man. She craves freedom. She knows that since she did not bear her husband any children, Jewish law dictates that she should be married to one of his brothers to raise up a child in his name. Pedaiah, Shealtiel's next younger brother and the new heir of the Jewish throne, has secretly been in love with Tia for many years, even as he despises everything that the Babylonian princess stands for, and his own weakness for being drawn to her. Hatching a plan to save herself, Tiamat tries to convince Shealtiel's family to betroth her to the youngest son in their family, who is but 10 years old.

Wicked forces who are indeed seeking control of Nebuchadnezzar's empire are involved in hidden works of darkness. There's a deep thread of spiritual warfare as these men call forth spirits and cast spells of torment. While this side of the story is done well, the evil creepiness is something I would shy away from younger readers seeing. Thankfully we know the power of the One True God, and that darkness cannot stand when He is near. We race through the chapters to see if Tia can come to trust in our God before her fate is swallowed by those who have been conspiring to use her for their own purpose before she was even born.

Amid these troubled times, Tia seeks the wisdom of her father's old counselor, Daniel. I absolutely loved having Daniel as a character in this novel! He was exactly as I'd always envisioned him: kind, wise, patient. He offers truth at every turn. He cautions Pedaiah against his immense pride, and extends help and protection when Tia is in need of it. Everything I have described here merely skims the surface of this story. Although I have enjoyed every Higley novel I have read, she is truly becoming a more masterful storyteller with each release. Keep watching this blog for another Higley review before the end of the week!

For more information about "Garden of Madness," check out the video and links I posted yesterday.
Tomorrow I will be posting my review of Tracy's 2012 release, "Garden of Madness." In this continuation of the Seven Wonders novels, we visit ancient Babylon at the time of Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar and find mysteries hidden in the Hanging Gardens. The heroine is Princess Tiamat, and in the video below Tracy talks about the themes in the story.



Watch for my review tomorrow, but if you'd like to peek at the first three chapters of this novel, they are available at this link.
Tracy Higley caravan

I am in the middle of Tracy Higley's latest book, "So Shines the Night." It is fantastic! It hits bookstore shelves next Tuesday, but I will have the honor of sharing my review on Friday, as well as part of an interview with Tracy and the chance to win some goodies. Every day between now and Friday I'll be posting something about Tracy and her books.

Today I'm sending along the links to other reviews I've written about Tracy's books. If you are interested in Biblical fiction or ancient history, you will not want to miss these!

Isle of Shadows
Petra
Seven Wonders Novels


In May 2009 I read my first book by T.L. Higley, called "Shadow of Colossus." Three and a half years later, "Isle of Shadows" is the revised and updated version under a new publisher. I have really loved each of Tracy's Seven Wonders novels, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to go back to the island of Rhodes and 227 BC. 

Tessa of Delos is a hetaera, a political consort to one of the most powerful men on the island. She's a possession, with a heart which wants to be stone in order to escape the pain of years of being used for the gain of others. Just when she's ready to end it all, an accident allows her a glimmer of freedom. It will require the greatest performance of her life, and require her to trust, which might be more difficult than fooling the rest of the world.

Nikos has come to Rhodes to spy out the political scene for the father he only recently came to know. His mission quickly becomes derailed by unfolding events, and his heart entangled by the beautiful but hard woman he is coming to know. Spiro is hungry for power and will stop at nothing to gain control of the island. Simeon is a humble and loyal servant who wants to see Tessa's heart freed by the power of the One True God his forefathers have worshipped for centuries. These men will help shape Tessa's future, for good or bad.

When I read the book three years ago, I noted that its weakest point was the technical aspect of the novel. The revision has completely taken care of this issue! The flow was smooth and the characters even more engaging than I recall. The plot is full of twists to keep you guessing, and I found the number of references of the Colossus to be perfect. In short, I enjoyed this even more than I did before, and its update accurately conveys the growth I had observed in Higley's more recent releases.

This book released today and is available at all your major book outlets. I received my copy from BookSneeze in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.

I review for BookSneeze®
Petra

The year is 106 AD. Julian is a Roman citizen running from the persecution which has taken the lives of some dear fellow Christians. Cassia is a young mother seeking a new start with her beloved son. T.L. Higley presents us with another masterpiece of historical fiction, using her descriptive style and unique gift to make this ancient city come alive. You'll ride along with a caravan, climb Petra's sandstone steps, scout out the Nabataean palace and ache or cheer with our characters through this journey.

I was intrigued to see how Higley handled the spiritual aspect of a book written after Christ's coming. I have loved her novels set at the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and each of them has featured believers looking forward to the Redeemer. "Petra" has a wonderful focus on the early Church and those who claim the Jewish Messiah as their own. There is a powerful spiritual war ongoing throughout the novel, culminating in a Peretti-esque battle before it is all over. Petra's fate hangs in the balance as a new heir to the throne is discovered and the Roman army marches across the desert to overtake take them and bring them into their empire.

I strongly related to the character of Julian. Like Julian, I am an organizer, a natural leader, and by God's grace have a great deal of personal strength. Strength can be a weakness, though, when one believes they can live by their own power rather than letting the Lord guide. How often I've found myself in Julian's shoes, going strong on a plan I've devised on my own without seeking God's wisdom or will. To see where Higley takes our hero was like a personal challenge to myself. I really enjoyed it and have found myself recalling lessons learned in these past few days since finishing the book. It made an impact, and that is the mark of great story-telling.

As ever, you know the historical side is covered well when you find yourself wanting to research the location and setting on your own! I've had some time to look things up, both on Higley's own NoPassportRequired website and other places, and everything I found seemed familiar because she had seamlessly included so many actual facts and references that I had assimilated much information just by reading the novel. You can't ask for more than that as a fan of this genre! Higley continues to be a favorite and I can't wait for her next release!
My awards for books I most highly enjoyed in 2010.

Historical Fiction:
The Seven Wonders Series by T.L. Higley


Higley is on my official watchlist of "authors I must read" after weaving these powerful stories. It's a great concept: a novel set at each of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There are three titles out so far and I've found every one excellent. Besides the fact that they have sent me on a research mission of my own to know more about these places, what I also find inspiring is how Higley gives us a look at the faith of believers before Jesus Christ came into the world. How thankful I am that our Messiah has already come and we are no longer awaiting His arrival... yet we are still tied to those many thousands before who trusted in the One True God. I can't recommend these enough for those who love history!

Contemporary Fiction:
Healing Stones and Healing Waters by Stephen Arterburn and Nancy Rue


I haven't read the third book in this series yet, but the first two were wonderful. The first book is focused on Dr. Demitria Costanas, a woman literally caught in adultery who has lost her job, her self-respect and is well on her way to losing her family. The second book is about Lucia, a woman who has given up her desires and interests in favor of others all her life, but with her marriage on shaky ground and her televangelist sister needing her more than ever, she has some hard questions to ask herself. The connecting factor in both stories is Christian counselor Sullivan Crisp, who is on his own journey to work through the pains and haunting remnants of his past. Sully's story is woven seamlessly through these two books, while remaining separate from the ones he is working with. I can hardly wait to see how his personal healing comes full circle in the third novel.

Classic Literature:
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

This was one of my grandmother's favorite books and I remember her reading it to me as soon as she thought I was old enough to begin understanding it. It has continued to be a favorite of mine through many re-reads and this time through I realized just how much this book made an impression on me while growing up. I love how good literature does that!

Christian Living:

What Happens When Women Pray by Evelyn Christenson

Evelyn gets together with 7 other ladies to learn what happens when women pray... and it turns out to sweep across her home, church, community, and even beyond to change people's perspective on prayer. I thought this was very straightforward and focused on the right areas without being overbearing. Simple yet challenging! It made me want to get on my knees and start praying, which is exactly what a book on prayer should do.

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