Book Review: The Advocate by Randy Singer

Do you remember how you felt after the first time that you saw Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”? I do. When the movie started I couldn’t believe that I was going to have to read the entire film using subtitles, but as it played on the familiarity of the story almost made the subtitles unnecessary. My focus was wholly rooted to the screen as I wept at the betrayal and brutality that Christ willingly endured on my behalf. A year prior to the movie’s release I had committed my life to Him, laid my sins at His feet and basked in the peace that only comes through the His grace and forgiveness. Yet in my theater seat the weight of my wayward youth sat squarely on my heart once more. Jay and I left the theater in complete silence – humbled, yet hopeful. I’ve not felt an impact like that again until I read The Advocate by Randy Singer.

Image

“With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,” Luke 1:3

Randy Singer spins a fictional masterpiece around the life of twice mentioned biblical character, Theophilus. Written primarily in the first person the book reads similar to a memoir, beginning in Theophilus’ 14th year, in the city of Rome. The story follows Theophilus to Greece, where he studies in the Molon School of Rhetoric, which prepares him for a career as an advocate (lawyer). Fully trained in rhetoric and a master of laws he lands his first job as an assessore (legal advisor) to Pontious Pilate. This lends both Theophilus and the reader a behind the scenes glance into the trial and crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene. His role in the trial permanently mars him as evidenced by his statement, “I was born to be an advocate of the truth, to fight for justice, to speak for the powerless. But in my greatest test I had failed miserably. I had lost my nerve and at a critical moment abandoned my principles.” Theophilus returns to Rome shortly after the trial of Jesus. As time passes he wrestling new cases, risky cases that are undesirable to other advocates, all in efforts to redeem himself. After entering retirement, years later, he is approached about representing the Apostle Paul a follower of a new religious sect called The Way. Though reluctant to do so, he accepts…altering history and his life.

Amanda’s Review:

For me, the most delightful parts of the story where the trials of Christ and of the Apostle Paul. Randy Singer made it real in my mind’s eye. He emoted the passions involved in both cases. Placing the reader right in front of the defendants – hearing, feeling, seeing all that was transpiring.
The majority of the characters are ripped from the annals of time. We know them or are familiar with their qualities and accomplishments. This sense of familiarity propels the story and creates a incredibly enjoyable read. Singer brings the biblical cast to life in a positive almost familial way. Roman leaders like Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero are aptly portrayed as selfish, power seeking, ruthless and paranoid. Though little is known of Theophilis besides two mentions of him in the bible (Luke & Acts), Singer’s has cleverly created his fictional life story and deftly placed it into historical events.
If you have ever finished a book and been disheartened by the remaining loose ends, you will not have that problem here. There were times when I read something that seemed of little consequence only to have the reason for it’s original mention come to light later in the book. There is a long pause between the trial of Christ and the trial of Paul where the author steers away from the mention of Christ or The Way. During this hiatus he develops the romantic storyline for Theophilis. In addition, he paints a splendid picture of Roman architecture, culture, values, and their religious and legal systems.
This book was more than a legal thriller for the reader’s amusement, it challenges us to reexamine our faith. To ask yourself, “How far would I be willing to go and what would I risk for Christ?” Like Theophilis, I have made mistakes in my life and likewise made attempts to right those wrongs on my own. His story reminds us that it’s only through Christ that we are fully redeemed and granted life everlasting. I finished the book feeling humbled, yet hopeful. It will become a permanent addition to by bookshelf and one that I will recommend to many. I give this book 5 stars.

Image

I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

About the Author:

Image

Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. His first novel, Directed Verdict, won the Christy award for the best Christian suspense novel. Recently, Randy was a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children. Visit his website at http://www.randysinger.net.

A history lesson with a story forced awkwardly between the lines.

The Queen’s Handmaid

Image

By Tracy L. Higley

Synopsis taken from tracyhigley.com

Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC

Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra’s palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm’s length. She’s been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life. But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme. Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.

My Review:
I have read two other novels by T.L.Higley – So Shines the Night and City of the Dead. I enjoyed both immensely. The authors love and knowledge of Ancient History exudes from her novels. The Queen’s Handmaid was factually exciting. Higley revealed elements of the Maccabean revolt which lead to the Hasmonean rule in Judea and the intricacies of how King Herod came to power. It was replete with descriptions of the Egyptian, Roman, and Judean life and architecture. As well as how Roman rule helped shape the world Christ would be born into.
Regrettably, I found this novel to be a history lesson with a story forced awkwardly between the lines. While I learned a great deal about the historical events, the story as it pertains to the main character Lydia was lost in the details. Huge blocks of time were skipped, which made it difficult to determine Lydia’s age or how things could have changed so drastically in the storyline. Her mission to deliver the scrolls began as an intriguing part of the plot, dropped off in the middle, and then was revived in the last 75 percent of the book. As with her novel “So Shines the Night” the heroine received divine protection from the One God. What was lacking from this character was her acknowledgment that the God of the Jews was her God. For these reasons I give this book a 3 star rating.

Image
As a member of The BookLook Bloggers Team, I received a free copy of this book for my honest review.

 

So Shines The Night by Tracy L. Higley ~ Book Review

So Shines the Night is a twisting-turning murder mystery interlaced with two love stories; one of a woman and a man and another of a God and His people. Our heroine, Daria, seems to be chased throughout the story by spiritual forces of evil. While fleeing from sorcerers, Daria bumps into a merchant named Lucas on the docks of Rhodes. He immediately rescues her and later asks Daria, who is fluent in many languages, to accompany him to Ephesus as his tutor. Upon arrival in Ephesus, reports of another murder ripple through the city. When Lucas puts off his lessons to pursue mysterious business in the city, Daria follows. In doing so, she discovers his secretive meetings with both sorcerers and Christians.

While Ephesus houses the great temple of Artemis a group of sorcerers are gaining power. Followers of The Way, led by the Apostle Paul, are drawing many away from the worship of the goddess angering the silversmiths who sell silver shrines of Artemis for their livelihood. Combined with the series of murders the city teeters dangerously on the brink of an uprising.

When Lucas is arrested for the murders, Daria turns to Paul for help. Can Paul’s God save him? Can Daria overcome the smothering darkness that always seems to nip at her heals? Will Lucas escape the web of deceit that he has found himself in and cling to the One God who can deliver justice? You’ll have to read to find out!

Image

If this book were a movie you would be on the edge of your seat! I was instantly engrossed in the characters and the storyline. Once the author introduced the Apostle Paul and his helper Timothy into the story I just couldn’t stop reading. Tracy Higley ingeniously weaves the events of Acts 19:23-Acts 20:1 into this fictional storyline. Titillating her readers with rich imagery, historical tidbits, and intriguing characters. While there is much written about the power and practices of the sorcerers in the story, which could be unsettling to some, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. I give this book 5 stars for it’s entertaining storyline and message of God’s power over darkness.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Biblical truths shared in the book:

  • God works through us (Phil 2:13, Rom 6:13)
  • God will avenge (Rom 12:19)
  • We fight a spiritual battle (Eph 6:12)
  • We are saved through faith (Eph 2:8)
  • The power of the Holy Spirit
  • God protects
  • and many more

About the Author:

Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After attending Philadelphia Biblical University, she earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece and other myth systems, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures.

Distinguish fact from fiction by visiting her blog.

 

Website     Twitter     Facebook

Book Review ~ In the Shadow of Jezebel

Image

Christian author Mesu Andrews displays her literary prowess in her fourth historical fiction work “In the Shadow of Jezebel.” Although Jezebel makes a cameo appearance in the book the story speaks more to her far reaching influence over the Southern Kingdom of Judah through the arranged marriage of her daughter Athaliah. Once King Jehoram is struck by illness, Athaliah seizes power through fear and manipulation and attempts to dismantle the worship of Yahweh in Solomon’s Temple. By arranging a marriage between Jehoram’s daughter, Jehosheba, and a priest of Yahweh, Jehoiada, Athaliah plots to lead a nation into idolatry. However, God’s love for His people and His promise to keep a descendant of David on the throne will not be thwarted.

Image

This intriguing novel never slows but continues to draw the reader in through it’s entirety. Prepare to be transported  back in time through vivid descriptions of Temple architecture, palace decor, city landscapes, and Old Testament feasts. The well researched details are truly insightful and enrich the storyline without becoming arduous. I was captivated by the characters – chilled by the calculating and evil persona of Jezebel and Athaliah, distressed by the brokenness of Jehosheba, and warmed by the passion and devotion of Jehoiada. These characters are relatable because they struggle with the common problems of fear, insecurity, anger, and budding faith. Readers are reminded of how God pursues our hearts, that He is always in control, and always faithful to fulfill His promises. Mesu has done a remarkable job of glorifying God through a fictional retelling of the story.

Find it in scripture: 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 20-23

Image

Note: Available on the authors website is a bible study to accompany the book. Though not necessary, I felt it enriched the reading experience. By starting with scripture you are able to discern the parts of the story that are factual from those that are created. Also available is a discussion guide. I personally will be recommending this book to our Women’s Ministry summer reading club.

Image

About The Author:

Mesu Andrews is the award-winning author of Love Amid the Ashes, Love’s Sacred Song, and Love in a Broken Vessel. Winner of the 2012 ECPA Christian Book Award for New Author, she has  devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture, bringing the biblical world vividly alive for her readers. She lives in Washington.

Mesu’s Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Image