Description: Jayda Talhoun is the adored daughter of a wealthy Jordanian businessman. Driven to have a successful career in her own right, she is determined not to live a comfortable but servile life in Amman. After persuading her father to send her to London, she encounters an amoral society stricken with lust, greed jealousy and duplicity.
When she meets insurance broker William Clive, she is swept up in a romance which is soon challenged by their past, their faiths, their families, their very essences...
Set in London and Amman, this novel asks whether love and ambition can overcome the boundaries marked by birthplace and background.
Rating: 4.09 out of 5
Fragile Boundaries is the debut novel of English lawyer Johnny Leavesley. It is a contemporary romance with a heartbreaking ending that, as well as relationships, explores themes of racial differences. Set in London and Amman, Jordan, this is the story of two different people, one British, one Arab, and their determination to be accepted as a couple.
Jayda Talhoun, a woman in her early twenties, has temporarily moved to London to attend university. At a party she meets William Clive who falls in love with her at first sight. After a little persuasion, Jayda agrees to go out with William and it is not long before they consider themselves an item. The next challenge for William is to be accepted by Jayda’s family and so the two of them fly out to Jordan. How will the Talhoun’s react to their Muslim daughter dating a supposedly Christian, foreign man? One family member that it appears will take a lot of effort to get on the good side of is the eldest brother, Jamil, who is completely against his sister’s new relationship. Back home, however, William’s one time fling with the emotionally unstable Lady Caroline is about to have repercussions.
Fragile Boundaries touches on some very real issues within the world today. Boundaries such as differences in culture and religion can be very difficult to cross. The characters from Jordan view Britain as having a very weak culture due to it being very diverse however their own culture and values are very strong. Sexism is still an issue in Arab families which can be seen through Jayda’s relationship with her older brother and her father. The fact that she is at university is an anomaly in itself, but introducing an English gentleman into the family may be pushing the limit.
It took a little while for the story to get going and to work out (without reading the blurb) whom the main characters were. Both William and Jayda were likeable characters, which made the ending all the more shocking and emotional. Although written in the third person it was a little confusing to keep up as the writer quickly changes between the characters’ point of views; sometimes even within the same paragraph. It was not until the very end that the story begun to get exciting but then it sort of fizzled out, which was a little disappointing.
For readers who enjoy reading about different cultures and like a little bit of romance then give this book a go. But do not be expecting any happy endings…
"Finding Noah's ark ... would be fun, but it wouldn't be instructive... wouldn't teach us about God or each other." This is the view of Amanda Hope Haley in The Red-Haired Archaeologist Digs Israel, a book about the author's travels in the land of the Bible. As a Harvard-trained biblical archaeologist, Haley spent time in Israel excavating areas of land where Jesus once walked. Her goal was not to unearth evidence of Jesus but to discover what life was like for the everyday person during Christ's time on Earth.
Only the first couple of chapters mention items and foundations Haley found on her digs. After that, Haley describes her holiday in Israel with her mother, father and husband. She writes honestly, admitting to tourist errors she and her family made. She describes the places she visited as though speaking to a reader who plans to make the trip too. Yet, it is far from a holiday diary.
In each location Haley visited, she describes the history of the place, the biblical references, the antagonism between the Jews and Muslims, and its current state. She discovers why Jesus chose to preach in certain areas, locates towns and cities mentioned in the Bible, and notes how much places have changed since the 1st century.
It is interesting to learn how the three religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, both merge and alienate each other. Haley visited areas that banned Jews, yet as a Christian, she could enter. She paints Israel as a dangerous place but also highlights its beauty spots.
The title, The Red-Haired Archaeologist Digs Israel, is misleading because there is little physical digging mentioned. Haley only documents a few of her finds, and readers do not learn a great deal from them. On the other hand, Haley's metaphorical dig into the history of Israel proves fruitful, enhanced from her first-hand experience.
Those looking for a book about archaeology may be disappointed with The Red-Haired Archaeologist Digs Israel but those wishing to learn more about the biblical land of Israel, past and present, will appreciate Haley's knowledge. For Christian readers, this book will enhance their understanding of the Bible.
A Song for Issy Bradley is the captivating debut novel of talented author Carys Bray. Set in modern day Britain this heart-breaking story shows a family’s struggle to overcome the loss of their youngest child whilst also adhering to the strict rules of their Mormon religion.
It begins with seven-year-old Jacob’s birthday and Mum, Claire, is rushing around with last minute party preparations, whilst her husband, Bishop Ian, is off attending to his religious duties. Although Claire is aware that Issy is feeling poorly she does not realize how serious it is until much later - too much later. After being rushed to hospital with meningitis Issy’s prognosis is not good. Despite Ian’s blessings and prayers no miracle occurs and Issy passes away the following day.
The main storyline is about how the characters cope with this shockingly sudden loss. Claire hides herself away from everyone by remaining in bed for weeks and ignoring her duties and her family’s pleas. Ian, worried that Claire is not grieving in the proper Mormon way, throws himself even deeper into religion by focusing on what is expected of him as a Bishop rather than concentrating on his children’s needs.
Zipporah, the eldest, is expected to become the woman of the house until Claire returns to “normal”. As well as studying for her exams and doing the housework, Ian insists she attend all church events for people her age. Alone she worries about love, marriage and falling into sin; she would really like to be able to talk to her Mum. Alma, on the other hand, is becoming more and more rebellious. Not only does he have a stupid name (Alma was named after a prophet in the book of Mormon) his ambition to become a professional footballer is not conducive to living the gospel. Although he makes jokes and rude remarks about religious ideas there is still a part of him that believes, and despite his attitude it is clear he is deeply affected by Issy’s death.
Jacob’s reaction is the most heart wrenching of all. Being so young he believes everything he is told especially the bible stories he hears at church. If Jesus can bring people back to life, perhaps Issy can live again? He puts his faith in God and waits in vain for his sister’s miraculous return.
The story is shown through each of these five character’s point of views, which is interesting as the reader gets a chance to see how each person’s actions affect the others and gives a greater insight into character developments. It is gratifying to witness, albeit slowly, the family pick themselves up and begin to work together and carry on.
As to be expected with a story about Mormons there is a large amount of bible quotation. Many are from the Book of Mormon but there are numerous biblical references that Christians of all denominations will appreciate. The author was raised as a Mormon so it can only be assumed that all the details are accurate. Non-believers, however, should not be put off from reading this beautiful book: it is the way in which people deal with loss that is important and there is no preaching at the reader or attempts to convert.
This novel is highly recommended for female and male readers alike, particularly those who enjoy emotionally charged stories; and, of course, those interested in religion will love this book too.
Description: Relates the biblical story of Rahab, the spies, and the fall of Jericho as recorded in the book of Joshua from the perspective of young Talia, whose father Yakesh is one of Rahab's brothers.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Window in the Wall by Ginny Merritt is based upon the bible story of Rahab and the spies, and the fall of Jericho. Although most Christians will know this story well it is probably not as well known amongst children. By making the main character a young girl, Talia, Merritt makes it suitable for young readers to enjoy.
Talia lives with her parents and brother within the walls of Jericho and loves helping her father in the flax fields. An approaching army strikes fear into her heart despite reassurances that nothing can destroy the strong walls and get into the city. However Talia’s aunt, Rahab, has been told different by a couple of Israelite spies who promise her and all her family safety as a reward for helping them. As many family members that Rahab can persuade sit and wait in Rahab’s room to see what happens and hopefully be saved. Unfortunately there are a few people who refuse to believe in what Rahab is saying nor that there is a God that is Lord of all.
Those familiar with the story will know the outcome of the story, but children will race through this book eagerly wanting to discover what happens to Talia and her family.
As an adult reading The Window in the Wall the references to Rahab’s characteristics will make more sense whereas they will most likely go over children’s heads. Having it written from a child’s perspective will help children to learn this bible story. Talia has many questions, which adults will not answer, as will the readers!
Merritt has helpfully included a pronunciation guide at the back of the book to help readers with the tricky foreign names that they encounter in the story. As an adult these names were not particularly difficult, but this would be a great benefit to younger readers.
Adults that read this book need to keep in mind the age of the target audience. The story does not go into much depth and may not be that engaging to those familiar with their bible stories.
The story of Rahab is not an easy one to rewrite for children but Merritt has done an excellent job. Books such as The Window in the Wall would be a great way of teaching Christian children about their faith without boring them with sermons.
Buying Samir is the second book in the India Street Kids series by Kimberly Rae. Previously Jasmina and her brother, Samir, had been sold to traffickers who treated the children as slaves. Jasmina, however, managed to escape and found safety amongst a group of American missionaries. Now aged 14, Jasmina is determined to locate and save her brother.
Initially with the help of one of the missionaries, Jasmina begins searching for Samir at various locations hoping she can free him from whatever slavery he has been forced into. However desperation encourages Jasmina to secretly go alone on this dangerous mission. Although she finds her brother there is no happy reunion. Samir has become one of the traffickers and Jasmina finds herself in a lot of trouble.
Jasmina learns a lot more about the world she lives in, who to trust and who to avoid. She also learns of Christian forgiveness – a concept that was alien to her as she was used to being punished.
Rae shocks the reader with her descriptions of horrors children in India face on the streets. Many are tricked into dreadful situations by false promises of luxury. What is the most disturbing is that this story is not about the past, these things are happening now! Thankfully there are people such as the missionaries who, with Gods help, give up their time to rescue these children and give them a better life or restore them to their families.
Buying Samir is a very short book and suitable for both adults and teens. Readers would benefit from reading the previous book first however Jasmina’s narrative reflects on the past providing enough information to understand what is going on.
Kimberly Rae draws attention to the ongoing trafficking of children in India in her young adult novel Capturing Jasmina. Jasmina was only ten when her father sold both her and her brother Samir to a man promising safety and good education. In reality the siblings end up in a sweatshop slaving over clothes to be sold in America. After three years they manage to escape only to be trafficked a second time. Eventually Jasmina and Samir are separated and Jasmina becomes a street kid.
Whilst living on the streets Jasmina encounters a Christian missionary, Asha, rescuing women from brothels by either offering them a safe place to live or at the very least spiritually, by teaching them about God and Jesus. Intrigued Jasmina follows Asha who then offers to help her too. After having her childhood robbed from her, it seems like Jasmina, with the help of those who trust in God, will get back on her feet again.
Despite being a short novel, Rae paints a contrasting image to what the western world is used to. Jasmina finds the concept of a simple toilet baffling. It is not until you hear or see what is happening to innocent people in other parts of the world that you realize there are so many things in life you take for granted.
Capturing Jasmina emphasizes how difficult it is to escape once trafficked. In these situations people belong to everyone but themselves. They have no freedom and running away can cause more problems than it solves. The novel also shows what Christians can do to help. Although no one can completely solve the problems, the tiniest piece of aid they can provide is a step in the right direction.
It was slightly disappointing that we do not find out what happened to Samir once he was separated from his sister. Jasmina’s first person narrative makes it clear that what she wants most is to be reunited with her family. In a way, although there is a positive ending, not yet finding her brother makes it clear that there cannot always be happy endings. It is not possible to save everyone.
Written from a young teenagers point of view makes this book suitable for ages twelve and older. Christians will appreciate the biblical references however there is not too much religion for non-believers or those of other religions to get offended by.
The Murder of Adam and Eve by William Dietrich is a young adult, science fiction thriller combining aliens and time travel. What started out as sixteen year old Nick Brynner researching for his History Day project on an out of bounds island, leads to him falling through a wormhole, meeting an alien – a Xu, and eventually finding himself in prehistoric Africa.
Before finding himself in a completely different era, Nick meets a biology-loving teenager, Eleanor Terrell, who tells him she had been abducted by aliens. Initially thinking she is crazy, Nick believes her once one of the said aliens appears to them and claims they have been chosen to try and save mankind. The Xu intend to wipe out humanity by travelling back in time and killing the two people from whom the human race descend from – the people named Adam and Eve in the bible. However they are giving Nick and Ellie a final chance to prevent this from happening.
Once transported to ancient Africa, Nick and Ellie start a desperate search for Adam and Eve in order to protect them from the Xu. But in order to do this they need to be able to take care of themselves in a place where water, food and shelter are not easily come by. Once locating the people they seek for they begin to realize the enormity of the task they have been given; whatever they do will have a massive impact on the future of the world.
The Murder of Adam and Eve is an interesting concept that really gets you thinking about the way in which the world has developed. Despite the usage of the biblical names Adam and Eve this book is not based on religious theory at all. It is a science-based idea maintaining that the human race can eventually be traced back to two people.
Many readers may be able to relate to both Nick and Ellie’s personalities. Nick in particular is a quiet, unnoticeable boy without any great talent, however during the book he grows into a more confident person and becomes the leader needed in order to save mankind.
Overall this fast paced book is fun to read. Although a little too far-fetched to take seriously, it makes the reader think more about the ways humans have behaved over the years but also highlights the positives and our ability to make things and learn. The clash of the two different time periods makes it a thought-provoking novel that many teenagers will love to read.
The Followers is the compelling second novel of the British author Rebecca Wait. Stephanie is living a mundane life with her daughter, making what little money she can at a local coffee shop. But then she meets Nathaniel, a man who says he wants to love her, look after her and make her happy. Stephanie and Judith move in with Nathaniel at a place known as the Ark, with a bunch of other people who are part of a religious cult. Nathaniel, who proclaims himself as a prophet, is determined for Stephanie to forget about her past and turn herself to God. Judith, however, is not so easy to persuade. However a turn of events raise questions as to whether Nathaniel should really be trusted.
The story begins with Stephanie in prison where she is serving her sentence for a crime the reader has no knowledge of. It then switches between “before” and “after” with “before” being when Stephanie meets Nathaniel and “after” involving the prison scenes. From the very start the reader knows something bad is going to happen, that Stephanie is going to break a law bad enough for her to be imprisoned. The following chapters keep readers guessing what exactly that offence would be.
The novel gets darker and darker as the truth about the running of the Ark is revealed. With violence and punishments being doled out, Nathaniel is no longer the man he originally appeared. As the book climaxes it is shocking when the reader realizes what it is that Stephanie is going to do.
As well as Judith there are other children living in the Ark, but the difference is they were born there and have known nothing else except doing things in the name of God. Judith on the other hand was not sheltered from the “evils” of the outside world and thus has a different opinion about the way Nathaniel treats his followers. As it turns out, Judith is right to distrust the ways of this man, but there is nothing she can do about her situation.
Although containing a strong religious theme, The Followers is not a piece of Christian fiction. The behaviour of Nathaniel and the members of the Ark does not reflect the average Christian, and everyone, whether religious or not, will be shocked by the happenings in this book.
It took a while to get into the storyline and the first few chapters did not feel particularly well written, however readers will quickly be sucked into the plot and will want to keep reading to find out what happens. The Followers is not a happy story and there are a few sad and distressing scenes, which make the reader really feel for some of the characters. Overall it is a very interesting read.
Answers to teens' most asked questions. Ideal for young Christians who are sorting through questions about God, the Christian life, and the Bible. Shows that God isn't afraid of a heart that is genuinely searching.
Rating: 3.14 out of 5
Whether you have been brought up in a Christian family or have made the decision to turn to God yourself, religion can still be very confusing. Greg Johnson has worked with teenagers for fifteen years and has compiled “80 Answers to teen’s most-asked questions.” Johnson’s aim with If I Could Ask God Just One Question is to aid the reader’s progress towards their goal of understanding the bible.
Johnson maintains that all answers to questions that matter can be found in the bible. He tries to prove this by answering each question firstly with a bible verse or passage, before explaining it in an informal, more relatable manner.
Presumably, the questions discussed are what teens have directly asked the author, or questions he has heard throughout his career. Many of the questions are generalized, such as how to become a better Christian, fears about being mocked in school, worries about sin and not going to heaven, and so forth. On the other hand there are a few deeper questions, for example why do bad things happen? These are not simple yes/no questions that can be stated as fact. Many of the answers are up for their own interpretation depending on the reader’s own circumstances. This may make things more confusing, however something may hit home and open their eyes in recognition of the Christian faith.
Although written informally and appropriately for teenagers, it is still obvious that this is an adult talking to someone considerably younger than himself. Johnson includes his own personal experiences, however they are slightly outdated compared with the issues modern-day teens may face, e.g. social media.
Johnson tries to make the Bible a less intimidating book. He suggests a chapter order to follow for those new to the Christian faith. The layout of If I Could Ask God Just One Question lets readers dip in and out, reading the answers to questions that relate to them or that they have thought of at some point themselves. It is probably not wise to read from front to back in one sitting, but instead to take the questions one at a time, analyzing the answers and relating them to personal experience. Note pages have been included for the reader to jot down any thoughts they have whilst reading.
Ultimately this book helps teenagers to feel less alone and overwhelmed with their newfound faith. Despite this there is nothing to stop older Christians from benefitting from it too. Everyone needs a reminder once in a while, and a nudge back onto the right path in order to continue living a humble, Christian lifestyle.
“My name is Henrietta S. Robertson. That’s my English name… My Chinese name is Ming-Mei.”
As the child of members of the Interior Alliance Mission, Henrietta has grown up between two cultures: English and Chinese. From the age of six she was sent to boarding school on a mountain in the Jiangxi Province, where four years later she remains as a small, pale, lonely girl.
For a girl as young as ten, Etta has a big imagination. She decides that God has called her to be a prophetess, and encourages the other girls in Dormitory A to join her in a Prophetess Club. This results is Etta getting into all sorts of trouble as she naively goes about inventing prophecies; all the while the Second Sino-Japanese War gets closer and closer to their mountain sanctuary.
Told mostly from Etta’s point of view, In a Land of Paper Gods is a hilarious historical novel about a young girl’s innocence. A large part of the story is about the missionary school rather than the ongoing war, therefore the focus is on Etta’s interpretation of the bible and her understanding of the differences between Western Christian and Chinese culture. However, once America joins the war effort, it is shockingly quick how the tale can go from humorous to heartbreaking.
The other character who plays a large part in this novel is Muriel, a dorm aunty, whom Etta regards highly. Muriel wanted to be a missionary but instead has found herself working at the Lushan school, keeping an eye on the ten and eleven year old girls. Although most of the book is written in Etta’s first person narrative, Rebecca Mackenzie has also included the occasional diary entry from Aunty Muriel. Since these are so few, it is not clear what their purpose is, as the story could easily continue without them.
Despite being an historical novel, In a Land of Paper Gods focuses less on fact and more on the impact the times had on a young girl. It is interesting to see the character development of Etta as she goes from a naughty, attention-seeking schoolgirl, to a young woman who must fend for herself. All the while she has her belief in God to resort to for explanations about the world she is living in. The reader also witnesses the growth of a relationship between Aunty Muriel and Etta. To begin with it is that of an adult and child, however it ends with them being equals in their suffering.
In a Land of Paper Gods is a pleasure to read. It is comically entertaining to begin with as the reader grows to love the characters, particularly mischievous Etta. It is hard to put the book down due to pure delight of the storyline, yet when the story turns darker it is just as difficult to put down, as we want to find out if the characters are going to be okay.
For some people, the Christian content will not mean anything, however it is possible to enjoy the novel without a religious background. For those, like myself, who do have a Christian upbringing, this aspect makes the story even better. Readers may recognize themselves or of their childhood in Etta, particularly her understanding of the bible.
Overall I loved this book. I was not sure what to expect, and have often found historical novels set in China to be rather dull. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to discover how good this book was. I encourage others to read In a Land of Paper Gods, and I look forward to reading what Mackenzie writes next.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon