Sunday, August 20, 2017

Audiobook Review - Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar

July 14th 2017, Recorded Books

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant's daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father's secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances--along with her father's precious dye--help her become one of the city's preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can't outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.
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I forgot to download my copy of this book from NetGalley before it was Archived, so purchased the audiobook.

It was a sweet story, which really brought to life a minor figure mentioned in the book of Acts and her world. Rich in details that can help shed light on the people the New Testament called the 'God Fearers': Gentiles who believed in the One God but never formally converted to Judaism. There were some excellent and well drawn-characters, and the themes were woven well into the story. I'd like to do some more research into the creation of purple dye at this time because it seems very much like how it was done in Medieval Europe (combining Woad with Madder instead of using cochineal snails).
Lydia was a woman much wronged, and in the grip of fear for much of her life. Fear of not being good enough, fear of betrayal and losing the business and reputation she'd worked so hard to build up. The story had plenty of drama and even a hint of Romance.

A couple of modern Americanisms like 'store' and 'I will write you' stood out, but they didn't detract from the story. Its' one of those stories which are reasonably faithful and authentic in the historical setting, but not so much so that it bogged the reader down, making for a relatively light, easy read.

Why the lower rating? Just a matter of personal taste. I still don't really care very much for Biblical Fiction, and I just didn't find this book as immersive as some others. I'm certainly going to be listening to the Audiobook of 'Land of Silence' soon and would look for more by this author.

Friday, August 18, 2017

First Line Fridays #5 - The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection


Finally progress! Bread of Angels audiobook done, and Oswui: King of Kings finished.  I've finally made a start on a book I requested from NetGalley way back in January. I have not included the author in the title because it's one of those collections of short stories by multiple authors. 
I have to confess: I requested it mostly for the first story: The Distant Tide by Heather Day Gilbert, a Viking Romance because her previous full-length Viking Era novel Forest Child won me over.

So currently I am working through the first of five novellas in the collection: it's enjoyable- but...  Yes, there is a but: I am concerned about the Historical details in the story. It's set in Ireland in 1170, something I did not realize: I thought it was set in the 9th century. 
Vikings would be fine in the 9th century, but not in the 12th after what historians refer to as 'The Viking Age' ended. There were no more raids on England after 1066, and in Ireland, they stopped even earlier as the Vikings started to settle down, develop a more stable economy and become Christianized. 

Also, the heroine and her family live in the inevitable castle- but there's only one problem with that: Castles were brought to Ireland by the Normans, the same people who introduced them to England after their famous victory at the Battle of Hastings. Hence, an Irish royal family at the time the Normans came to conquer Ireland a century or so later would not have been living in a big old stone castle. 
 So yes, it's a nice story; but it really should have been set a century or so earlier. I think it's a general problem with a lot of Fiction: that knowledge of the Middle Ages is rather limited, and the expectations of audiences mean that things like castles and Vikings can be dropped into just about any Medieval story, regardless of the historical context. Hollywood has been doing something similar for 50 years, so perhaps they are partly to blame.

I'm going to finish the story as a truly believe Mrs. Gilbert is a wonderful author, and read the others in the collection (it's extremely rare for me to ever give up on a novel), but historical accuracy is important to me.


The first line from the Prologue (which introduces the Message in the Bottle which gives its title to the collection) reads: 

Ballyfir Monastery, The North of Ireland, 
834 AD 

Flames lapped at the monk's robes.  


I apologize if this week's posts reads like a prolonged history lesson. I'll wrap up by wishing everyone a happy Friday from little old England. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

First Line Fridays #4 - Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar




Reading progress has been slow this week: so slow in fact that I am still reading two of the books featured in previous posts. Life happens.
So, this week I am sharing the first line of an Audiobook that I am currently working through. I forget to download the Ebook version of this title from NetGalley but thankfully had a backup with the Audible version.

Biblical Fiction is not normally my thing, but I have recently started to get over my aversion to it. This is in fact only the second book I have listened to in the genre, a fictionalized account of the life of Lydia of Thyatira, a woman mentioned briefly in the Book of Acts, as one of the first Europeans converted by the Apostle Paul in the Macedonian city of Philippi. 


The first line from the Preface Reads:

"I have never served as a soldier, yet I have a strange sense that most of my life I have stared down the blade of a sword, the face of my adversary haunting me" 

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