Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Story of Love, Desperation, and Hope During a Great Biblical Epoch

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she's only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she's ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?

I absolutely loved this book!  Telling the story of the plagues and the Hebrew's exodus from Egypt from the viewpoint of an Egyptian was brilliant.   The story of Kiya, who is sold into slavery by her father, will grab at your heart and keep you glued to the pages.

Kiya's life is thrown into chaos when her father loses his fortune and is forced to sell Kiya in order to save her mother and brother.  Her new mistress is cruel for reasons that Kiya doesn't understand until later.  When a young Hebrew slave befriends Kiya, she is hesitant to accept the friendship of a foreigner.  But Shira is persistent and wins her over.  It is this friendship that later provides a refuge for Kiya and her mother and her brother when all the firstborn of Egypt dies.  Kiya and her family leave with the Hebrews and begin a journey that will forever change their lives.

Kiya's relationship with Shira's brother, Eben, is tumultuous at first but as she grows in her knowledge of the Hebrew's God and through the trials of their journey, they slowly bond and learn to trust one another.  Will they also find a love that will carry them through the tragedies of life?

The supporting characters are well done and add a lot of depth to the story.  In particular, Kiya's brother Jumo.  He is disabled and looked down on by his people.  His mother fought to keep him alive when he was born and has continued fighting to keep him going through the cruelty of the Egytians.  When the Hebrews accept Jumo and Eben in particular, befriends him, it goes a long way in softening Kiya's heart and showing her the love of God.

The emotions run deep in this book.  There are some plot twists that will surprise you and some developments that will make you cry, but as you come to the end of the book you will leave feeling satisfied and anticipating the next one!! :)

*Thanks to Bethany House and the author for a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes. All opinions stated are my own*

View all my reviews

Connilyn Cossette is a homeschooling mother of two with a passion for writing stories of timeless grace. She hopes to draw readers into a personal encounter with the rich ancient world of the Bible and spark curiosity that will lead to digging deeper into the truth of the Word. Her novel Counted With the Stars won the 2013 Frasier Contest and was a semi-finalist in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest. She lives near Dallas, Texas. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com and on

Q:  What inspired you to write Counted with the Stars?
A:  Counted with the Stars was inspired by a study I was doing on my own into Exodus and the roots of my faith. I ran across the verse in Exodus 12:38 that said “a mixed multitude went up with them.” I thought to myself—who were these people that went with the Hebrews on the Exodus? I wondered whether some of them might be Egyptian and what would have inspired them to follow an invisible God into the wilderness when all they had ever known were the gods of Egypt? Kiya’s story began as a product of my own curiosity about the motivations by those we would call “Gentiles” who journeyed with the Hebrews.

Q:  How has writing a book affected you?
A:  One thing I never considered when I began to write a book was how much it would affect me personally. Due to a number of circumstances and the choice to be a stay-at-home-mom, I did not finish my teaching degree. I love being at home with my children and began homeschooling them when my son was in Kindergarten. But honestly, I had labeled myself “just a housewife” and figured that my family would be my only sphere of influence and ministry. But pursing the dream of being an author has changed my perspective on many things, not the least being that my dreams were not too big for God. I have found new confidence in myself and my God-given talents. I have opened myself up to new exciting ways that the Lord is leading me in developing a platform to minster to women. And I have discovered that although there were valleys that I walked as a young woman, God is using all my experiences and trials in my writing to speak truth and life into other people’s lives. And most of all, I have realized that God is using my writing to refine me spiritually, in ways I never could have predicted.

Q:  What is the most interesting thing you’ve discovered about Ancient Egypt?
A:  The culture of the Ancient Egyptians is foreign to us; the worship of many gods, the mixture of magic and medicine, the mummies and gilded sarcophagi. But what I discovered was how much they were like us. Egypt had its own celebrity culture, where the royals were placed on high pedestals, worshiped as gods, and everything from their cosmetics to fashion was emulated by the average Egyptian. They dyed their gray hair, slathered anti-wrinkle cream on their skin, and wore clothing that emphasized narrow waists and broad shoulders; they were obsessed by youth and beauty. The Pharaohs even made sure that depictions of themselves were edited to make them look their best—let’s call it an ancient version of Photoshop. They were also a highly educated people who valued knowledge in mathematics, languages, and architecture. Their art and craftsmanship was highly advanced; they were making colored glass and intricate metal and wood pieces that defy the idea that early men were ignorant and unskilled. They loved music and dancing, wrote love poems, and scribbled bits of gossip and jokes on shards of pottery. They were real people who laughed and loved and wondered who they were and where their place was in this vast universe.

Q:  What is the strangest thing you have discovered about Ancient Egypt?
A:  I would have to say that the strangest thing I’ve researched would be Ancient Egyptian medical practices. Some of it is really fascinating, like the fact that the kohl eye-makeup that they wore on their eyes wasn’t just for looks; the ingredients actually protected their eyes from infection. But some of it is just plain weird and stomach-turning. In the Ancient Egyptian mind, medicine and magic went hand in hand, so a lot of the prescriptions used pretty gross things to ward off evil spirits. If my doctor ever said, “Let’s try slathering you with some crocodile dung, or perhaps some goat’s blood and smashed tadpoles,” I might think about choosing a different physician. And yet, these were some of the treatments recommended by the medical papyri. However, although we may remember the Ancient Egyptians for the strange practice of mummification, but they were actually very advanced in many ways, performed complicated surgeries, and utilized things like wild honey to treat wounds, which modern science has proven has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. But still, no crocodile dung for me, thank you very much.

Q:  What do you want readers to get out of Counted with the Stars?
A:  Kiya’s story is, in many ways, the story of all of us who were once in bondage to sin. Like Kiya, there is a point where God confronts us with a choice, will you accept the free gift of salvation and turn away from your idols? Or will you cling to the world in which you are comfortable and refuse to surrender to God? As we all do, Kiya struggles with laying aside the idols she has long held in esteem and allowing the Lord to speak love into her life. When we hold tightly to the world we cannot receive the abundant blessings God has for us. And above all, I hope that the reader will see the marvelous grace that Yahweh shows his people from Genesis to Revelation and on every page in between.

Q:  How does the Out from Egypt series continue after Counted with the Stars?
A:  The next book in the Out from Egypt series is Shadow of the Storm, which is a continuation of the Exodus journey, but from the point of view of Kiya’s Hebrew friend Shira. As I wrote Counted with the Stars. Shira became one of my favorite characters and I was eager to discover more about her, and her journey in the wilderness. Shira will be forced to deal with the wounds of her past and take steps toward an uncertain future, while learning about who she is and who God created her to be. The third book in the series, Wings of the Wind, brings us forward in time to the year before the Hebrews enter the Promised Land. This book is from the point of view of Alanah, a Canaanite woman, who is determined to avenge the family killed by the Hebrew invaders by stepping onto the battlefield herself. When she is captured by a Hebrew warrior and her deepest fears become real, Yahweh will reveal himself and his plan for her life in a mighty way—a way that will affect not only the Hebrew conquest of the Promised Land, but the very bloodline of the coming Messiah.

Q:  What do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
A:  I am a voracious reader. I tend to read at least one or two books a week, and even more when I am not against a deadline. Historical fiction tends to be my go-to genre, but I will read pretty much anything if it is written well and keeps my attention. Since becoming a writer I’ve gotten to be much more picky about what I read, so if a book can keep me up all night, you know its a good one. My all-time favorites are Jane Eyre and Anne of Green Gables, but I am a great fan of Liz Curtis Higgs, especially her Scottish stories based on the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel from the Bible as well as Francine Rivers for her Mark of the Lion series which inspired me greatly as I began to write Counted with the Stars.

Thanks, Conni! :)

Coming in October 2016:

Shadow of the Storm (Out from Egypt #2)

In the Depth of the Storm's Shadow, Only Truth Can Light Her Way

Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira's gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart's calling to become an apprentice midwife.

When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira's people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she's denied herself and embrace who she truly is?