Daughter of Cana by Angela Hunt

Daughter of Cana (Jerusalem Road): Angela Hunt: 9780764233845 ...

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Angela Hunt’s latest work, Daughter of Cana, is the first installment in her new Jerusalem Road series. The novel gives a nice overview of Jesus’s life and ministry from the perspective of Jesus’s brother Jude and Thomas’s fictional sister Tasmin, but fails to offer any groundbreaking or original content. The opening chapters of Daughter of Cana introduce us to Tasmin, who Hunt presents as the disciple Thomas’s twin sister. Tasmin and Thomas live at home with their widowed father and run a wedding party business in Cana. Tasmin has never been interested in marriage and views it as a frivolity, instead preferring to keep busy and act responsible. Thomas enjoys socializing and taking time to relax, and though he is practical, Tasmin feels that he does not take their business seriously. One day while the siblings are hosting a wedding for a friend, Jesus and His mother and siblings suddenly arrive as guests. Thomas is immediately enthralled with Jesus, but Tasmin has heard rumors that He is a radical preacher who shouldn’t be trusted. When Jesus saves the bride and groom’s reputation by turning water into wine, Tasmin is even more confused about Him. Her confusion turns to anger when Thomas agrees to become Jesus’s disciple and leaves suddenly for an extended period of time. Tasmin decides to go after her brother, and departs with Jesus’s brother Jude on a cross-country journey to bring Thomas home. As previously mentioned, the plot and storyline in this novel give us a brief overview of Jesus’s entire adult life and ministry, and detail Tasmin’s journey to find Thomas, and ultimately, her life purpose. The strengths of the storyline include that it moves along at a steady pace, covers a lot of time without being choppy, and gives the reader a glimpse of someone who did not believe in Jesus until after His death. In comparison, the weaknesses are minor, but do pull down the overall quality. First, the novel does not hold the reader’s attention very well, and has a very simplistic, humdrum writing style. This is very unlike Hunt’s past writing style. Second, the storyline tends to plow forward in an attempt to cover all the high points in the Gospels and brushes over character development and depth. Finally, there is not really a personalized spiritual connection for Christian readers – the novel is primarily marketed towards people who are not familiar with the Gospels. In summary, there are no major errors in Daughter of Cana, but there is also no memorable content. For this, Hunt receives an average score for her plot and storyline.

Character Development (2 points)

In comparison, Tasmin is a fairly good protagonist who responds in relatable ways to life’s challenges and has a partially defined personality. Her flashbacks are also a great addition to the story, but needed further exploration. Jude is also a fairly good character who is understandably skeptical that his brother is the Messiah, (spoiler) but aside from loving Tasmin, what is his overarching purpose? Much the same, the reader has no emotional connection to Tasmin or any of the secondary characters. This makes everyone feel a bit like a shell of what they could have been. Unfortunately, this concept also applies to Hunt’s depiction of Jesus, who feels more like a nice concept than the Risen Christ. In contrast, Hunt did well to use first-person for both Tasmin and Jude, and included some interesting minor characters. However, because the strengths and weaknesses are equal in this category, Hunt receives an average score here as well.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

In conclusion, Hunt earns a full point in originality for creating two characters who did not fully embrace Jesus at first, but avoid becoming strawmen. We really appreciated that Hunt portrayed her two main characters as having realistic doubts and honest concerns about how following Jesus would alter their lives. If only more authors would catch on to this concept. Unfortunately, there is nothing especially creative about Hunt’s portrayal of Jesus’s life and ministry, so we leave it up to filmmakers as to whether or not they want to bring this book to the big screen. The book would need several additions, such as bringing Tasmin’s flashbacks to the forefront of the story, but it could be done right in the right hands.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points

The Shepherd’s Wife by Angela Hunt (October 6, 2020)

Release date: October 6, 2020

Author: Angela Hunt

Plot summary:

Yeshua of Nazareth has two sisters: Damaris, married to a wealthy merchant’s son, and Pheodora, married to a simple shepherd from Bethlehem. When Pheodora’s husband suffers an unexpected reversal of fortune and is thrown into debtor’s prison, she returns to Nazareth, where she pins her hopes on two she-goats who should give birth to spotless white kids that would be perfect for the upcoming Yom Kippur sacrifice. In the eighteen months between the goat’s birth and the opportunity to sell them and redeem her husband from prison, Pheodora must call on her wits, her family, and her God in order to provide for her daughters and survive. But when every prayer and ritual she knows is about God’s care for Israel, how can she trust that God will hear and help a lowly shepherd’s wife? 

King’s Shadow by Angela Hunt

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Angela Hunt’s latest novel, the last installment in The Silent Years series, has a pretty good storyline and average characters, but does not reflect the usual pathos demonstrated by this author. Hunt set a high bar for herself with novels like Uncharted and The Offering, a standard that has not been reached by this or her other most recent novels. The Silent Years series as a whole has been a mixed bag; some novels have been better than others, but none have demonstrated the author’s true potential. Egypt’s Sister was a very slow-paced novel, Judah’s Wife was the best of the series but had a predictable ending, Jerusalem’s Queen was wordy, and this novel is average. Salome is the sister of King Herod and the wife of her uncle, Joseph. She navigates tumultuous palace politics by knowing everything about everyone in order to ensure her own survival. Salome is a hard, selfish woman who rationalizes other’s deaths when her life is on the line. Her world is rocked when her longtime servant and friend dies suddenly, but she finds consolation in the young girl who takes her friend’s place. Zara is a young Jewess who has just been betrothed to a shoemaker in her village. She has suffered the loss of her father in the recent war, which also left her mother paralyzed. Though her aunt helps out here and there, Zara shoulders most of the responsibility around the house; however, when the opportunity to leave her mundane life presents itself, she takes it. Zara has always found solace in working with her hands, a talent that serves her well as Salome’s new hairdresser. Together these two women from completely opposite social spheres must carefully navigate the dangerous waters of Herod’s court if they expect to come out alive and sane on the other side. On the whole, this story holds the attention and contains only minor plot errors. Additionally, the unique depiction of Herod as a human, not a tyrant, is much appreciated. Similarly, Hunt makes an effort throughout the novel to portray people as neither all good or bad, a choice that demonstrates her grasp on crafting excellent characters. In comparison, the novel’s pace is inconsistent at times, likely due to the vast amount of time covered in the same. Moreover, there are no ‘wow’ moments here – just a good bordering on average story. Nothing that happens to the characters is unexpected, and nothing that occurs in the plot especially groundbreaking – there is no particular climax. Therefore, Hunt rounds out with just above an average score in this section.

Character Development (2 points)

In contrast, Salome is a very interesting character with a clearly defined personality and consistent tendencies. Zara is also a good character, but she seems a bit too good at times. It would have been nice if Hunt had made her a little more imperfect like she did with the other characters. Hunt’s portrayal of Herod is one of the best I have seen, but without a first-person perspective from him the novel feels unfinished. It is my opinion that the novel would have been great if it revolved around first-person perspectives from Herod and Salome. The main errors to point out here are few, but they do affect the quality in this section. First, Alexandra is a weak villian who needed further development, and Mariamne needed a bigger role in the story – she has little involvement in the plot overall. Lastly, these characters do not stand out from the others Hunt has crafted in their genre – they are good but not great. Thus, Hunt earns an average score here because we know she can do better.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Hunt earns a half point in creativity for her portrayal of little known pieces of Biblical history, and a half point in originality for her well-balanced characters. Despite the fact that this is not the best novel in the series, we still think The Silent Years book series would make a great Christian series or show. Some of the books would need to be heavily edited and all the characters given greater depth and emphasis. Additionally, the filmmaker would have to give Hunt a place on the screenwriting team to ensure quality is upheld, but such a project is possible. Even when Christian novels aren’t perfect, we continue to hope Christian filmmakers will realize the film potential in the same.

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Jerusalem’s Queen by Angela Hunt

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Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Angela Hunt is back with Jerusalem’s Queen, the third installment in her The Silent Years series. Like the other books in the series, this new one is obviously well-researched and contains an abundance of historical facts. However, I wonder if this novel has a bit too much fact…and not enough fiction. Jerusalem’s Queen begins where Judah’s Wife left off, but quickly changes to a unique story of it’s own. Salome Alexandra is a lonely little girl with a scholar’s mind who has just lost her father and older sister Ketura in a tragic accident. Salome was always closer to her father than her mother, while Ketura was her mother’s pet. Now that her father has tragically died, Salome feels alone in the world. Just when things seem like they cannot possibly get worse, a rider arrives at their home announcing that a wealthy distant relative, who also happens to be the high priest, has accepted Salome and her mother as members of his household. When they arrive, they are shocked to find luxuries and comforts beyond anything they have ever known. Salome is given a Egyptian handmaid who quickly becomes her best friend and confidante. As she grows older, Salome quickly learns that a woman with an able mind and inquisitive spirit is frowned upon by the patriarchal society she lives in, and that her future… husband, friends, and social status…are to be determined by the high priest. After many years of waiting, he finally betroths her to one of his sons….who is many years her junior. Salome questions his judgement, but as one thing leads to another, she will find that HaShem has a divine plan in even the most unusual circumstances. On the whole, Hunt crafts an engaging and interesting story that displays God’s divine plan in the good and bad times of life. However, I have two negative observations regarding the plot and storyline quality. First, on several occasions the characters engage in dialogue that sounds more like a Biblical history/Torah lesson than casual interaction. Secondly, the first half of the book is fast-paced, while the second half is a bit too slow at times. Therefore, Hunt earns a just above average rating in this section for some plot inconsistency and moments of excessively academic dialogue.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, Hunt has always had strong character development, and this novel is no exceptional. Salome is masterfully crafted through the use of first person, and the reader is able to relate to her struggles and triumphs. Her handmaid, Kissa is also well-crafted and her parts in the story give meaning and depth to an otherwise basic tale. Furthermore, the secondary characters, such as Honi the rainmaker, add much to the plot.. Additionally, I appreciated Hunt’s accurate portrayal of dysfunctional family systems in this novel. The only flaw to point out here is that at times it is hard to keep up with all of the characters in this story. While they all have their purpose in the end, the reader will likely lose track of a few during some parts of the tale. However, this does not have a significantly negative impact on the character development, so Hunt earns an almost perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Hunt earns a full point in originality for writing about a Biblical character that no one has written about before, and for using her life to create an above average work of fiction. Hunt also earns a half point in creativity for bringing to light how Salome Alexandra’s life was a part of paving the way for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Therefore, I feel that this book series would make an excellent Christian miniseries. All three women are in the line of Christ, so it would be easy for a screenwriter to subtly link their stories together for the sake of continuity. To conclude, good job Ms. Hunt! We here at BOR can’t wait to see what you do next!

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

Judah’s Wife by Angela Elwell Hunt

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Judah’s Wife is the latest release by one of our most beloved authors, Angela Hunt. Hunt continues her Silent Years series with this second installment and also continues to write her perception of the lives of God’s people who lived during Biblical times. This novel tells the story of the courageous Maccabees, a people who were faithful to God, no matter the cost. As with many of Hunt’s novels, this story is told from the alternating perspectives of a husband and wife. In this case, the husband and wife are Judah and Leah Maccabees. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to Leah, a young, unmarried girl whose whole life has been spent making cheese and watching her father abuse her mother. If not for an encounter with one Judah Maccabees, who defends her honor against a young ruffian, she would never know how women are supposed to be treated by men. Her eventual marriage to Judah will change her life forever. Early on in their marriage Leah is suspicious of her husband, but as time goes on she comes to view him as the man of God that he is. Through heartbreak, loss, and grief, Leah finds a purpose in traveling with her husband and the army of Israel, and in telling the stories of their conquests to eager children and passersby. To find out what the Maccabees trust in God’s plan does for Israel, read the book!;) Hunt does an excellent job of telling the Maccabees role in the history of Israel and entices the readers interest throughout this novel. As always, she has very well developed characters and a strong plot that is backed up by historical fact. These factors alone make the novel a great candidate for the big screen. I would like to see someone make a Christian drama film with this novel, for it has the potential to be great.

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points

The Note III: Notes From the Heart Healer (Movie Review)

For some reason, we needed another one of these

Plot Summary

After famous feel-good columnists Peyton MacGruder and Kingston Danville get married, they are suddenly the new parents of a child who was left on their doorstep by a young and desperate mother.  Unsure of what to do, they turn to the authorities and accidentally get the struggling mother in trouble.  Peyton than feels bad about what she did and tries to rectify it.  Will she be able to save this hurting family before they hate her forever and ruin her reputation as a columnist?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Much like the other installments of this unnecessary series, The Note III is a very standard Hallmark production with no surprises or deviations.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all what you can expect from a made for television film.  The soundtrack is what you can expect from a Hallmark movie.  Sets, locations, and props are fine.  The only small issue to raise here is the slightly choppy editing, but that comes with this territory.  On the whole, this is a fine production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It’s beyond asking the question as to why we needed another one of these lame rip-off sequels, but does it really matter?  The Christian message, whatever there was before, diminishes throughout this series until it’s unrecognizable in this third film.  At this point, it’s impossible to understand how these plastic ideas even relate to the original Angela Hunt novel or why these stories are put in this trilogy.  They could have been shoved into any Hallmark movie on the assembly line, and they probably actually were.  Note From the Heart Healer is a cheesy, cliched story with basically no purpose or direction.  The characters are fake and plastic, mostly due to manufactured and uninteresting dialogue.  If it seems like this review has been put on repeat, it’s because Hallmark pushed repeat and replicate on this inept trilogy.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned in the other reviews, Ted McGinley is unbearable and ruins whatever cast he is in.  This cast tends toward the more modern plastic cast that Hallmark favors these days, but at least they are not all bad.  Emotions are inconsistent, depending on the cast member.  The same can be said for line delivery, which makes this an average section.

Conclusion

Hallmark is Hallmark, plain and simple.  They take an idea and run with it.  Sometimes they run it into the ground and even twist it, especially if a Christian novel is in the mix.  Creativity isn’t even an option as an idea is ripped off and #Hallmarked.  Thus, as this trilogy thankfully comes to a close, there’s nothing else that can really be said here.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love (Movie Review)

Love the smiling faces!

Plot Summary

David Danville, the son of popular columnist Kingston Danville, doesn’t want to go to college on a sports scholarship because he wants to be an artist, but he is afraid to tell his father.  Thus, he tells his father’s girlfriend, Peyton MacGruder, which causes a conflict between them that confuses Peyton’s thoughts of love for Kingston.  What’s more, her latest column mystery is making her wonder if true love even exists and if it’s even worth it or something.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Taking a Chance on Love is once again a typical Hallmark production, with a few more quirks than usual.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are fine as usual, but the soundtrack tends to be odd and annoying at times.  Sets, locations, and props are also mostly realistic with some minor issues.  The main problem is that editing tends to be confusing as this story is trying to be cut for a television length.  However, many of these small issues can be easily overlooked, which makes this yet another business as usual production for the Hallmark team.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Although the first installment in this ‘series’ had some amount of substance, this highly unnecessary and forced sequel lacks it in every way.  The premise is very shallow and thin as it unsuccessfully tries to piggy-back on the success of the first film.  This story is full of silly conflicts and romantic subplot clichés that are inevitably and easily resolved within the allotted time frame.  Thus, the storyline overall is very empty, as are the characters.  Cheap dialogue is used to speed the plot along and build the cheesy romance.  The end result is a cringeworthy collection of plastic people.  The other big issue is that there is barely any potential in this dead-end plot idea, not to mention the fact that not much happens here.  Essentially, this film’s necessity is highly suspect.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Much like other casts that involve Ted McGinley, this one is very underwhelming.  Besides Ted’s usual annoying and plastic presence, most emotions from the cast are fake and manufactured.  Line delivery is extremely measured and robotic.  However, not all is bad here, and there are at least a few good moments from the supporting cast members that keep this section from being nothing.  Yet it doesn’t help the fact that this movie is basically pointless.

Conclusion

Sometimes movie companies will do anything to squeeze a sequel out of a slightly successful idea.  In this case, the Hallmark crew just transposed the cheesiest possible romance story idea onto a flimsy premise and injected familiar characters into it.  This is a very low-effort film with no risk-taking or creativity.  The plastic nature of the people involved is very off-putting and annoying, which rounds out another day in the Hallmark business.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Note [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After an airplane tragically falls from the skies and kills many who were involved, struggling local reporter Peyton MacGruder discovers a note at the crash site that leads her to some investigative journalism about the note’s author and intended recipient.  Thankfully, she has the help of office love interest Kingston Danville to help sort out this holiday mystery.  You never know when or where love’s going to find you at Christmas time!

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As usual for a Hallmark Christmas movie, The Note has a high-quality production.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all on par with what they should be.  The soundtrack is about what you can expect for a Hallmark holiday creation.  Sets, locations, and props are all professional, and Christmas decorations are even kept to a happy medium.  There are just a few minor errors throughout, like some awkward transitions, but it’s only nitpicking.  As a whole, this is a great production that is mostly the norm in made for television films.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

As the Hallmark team decides to borrow a plot from acclaimed author Angela Hunt, The Note is unsurprisingly more creative than most Hallmark plots, even though this is not Hunt’s strongest storyline in the least bit.  However, the characters at least bear a semblance of realism due to some good dialogue, even if the plot tends to be based on too many coincidences.  Even so, there are a lot of great messages and ideas throughout this story.  Yet there are one too many moments that come off as a little too cheesy, as well as the inclusion of too many random, disconnected scenes.  Yet on the whole, this is perhaps the best Hallmark has to offer in the plot department.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

Another common pitfall in Hallmark movies pertains to the casting and acting.  Any cast that involves Ted McGinley is rarely good, but at least the other cast members besides him are fine, even though he tends to drag down an entire movie with his plastic and overly fake demeanor.  Yet there are enough good and honest moments from the other cast members to make this section at least average.  The one thing that can be said is that it’s not as bad as usual.

Conclusion

Bringing Christian novels to life is almost always a great idea because the plot is already written, and these plots almost always involve some different and non-typical elements.  Angela Hunt is certainly a great author to choose from.  However, production companies are still usually safe in the plots they choose and don’t go too far outside of the norm.  In the end, companies like Hallmark have advertisement spaces to sell, so they don’t want to be too risky.  Perhaps the advent of more Christian-based streaming services will allow more creative content to flourish.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points