I’m really excited to be a part of the book launch today for author Connilyn Cossette’s first (of many, I hope) Biblical fiction novel, Counted with the Stars! And to make it even better, I have an interview with Conni to share with you at the end of this post after I share my thoughts on this fantastic book!
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About the Book
Title: Counted With the Stars
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Series: Out from Egypt, Book 1
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Print Length: 352 pages
Summary from the author: Counted with the Stars is the story of Kiya, a wealthy young Egyptian who is sold by her father to satisfy his debts. She is forced to endure slavery under a cruel mistress who takes pleasure in humiliating her. Through an unlikely friendship with a Hebrew slave named Shira, Kiya hears stories of an invisible God and a man named Moses who has come to free the Hebrews from slavery. When terrible plagues begin to strike, Kiya is forced to confront her beliefs in the gods of Egypt.
This fabulous work of historical fiction is about a young Egyptian slave woman who ends up fleeing Egypt with Moses and the Israelites after her world is irrevocably changed by the Ten Plagues. Even without the spiritual depth the author wove into this story, this story would have been excellent due to its complex relatable characters, perfectly-paced plot, and richly described settings. But it is this story’s spiritual depth that makes it a story I will think about for days to come and return to read often. The perspective this story gives on what it would have been like to live through the events described in Exodus as an Egyptian have added a whole new dimension to my understanding. I have come away from this story filled with awe and wonder for Yahweh and so thankful that He has allowed me, also an outsider, to be called one of His people.
I received this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I highly recommend this book and absolutely cannot wait for the next book in the series!
My Favorite Quotes from Counted With the Stars
I highlighted so many quotes in this book, but as I go back through them, they might give things away, so I’m only going to share a couple here.
“Had the gods fled Egypt with the birds, or was this Hebrew god, this Yahweh, more powerful than all of them? Did he have such power over the world that even the storms and the beasts obeyed his command?”
I love this quote’s foreshadowing of Jesus’ miracles so much! I hadn’t really seen that foreshadowing before in the Exodus story, and I found it so moving!
“How many other beautiful children were wasted, exposed to the elements for the sin of being born unwanted or sickly? How many artists? How many brilliant minds?
This quote, said in horror by the main character at learning that her mother had been encouraged to let her disabled son die at birth because of his disability, is so powerful and relevant in today’s world. The main character’s brother was allowed to live and plays a very significant role in her life and this story.
An Interview with the Author: Connilyn Cossette
Q: What inspired you to become a writer?
A: When I was thirteen years old I read Gone with the Wind. I read the entire book, in one day, when I was home sick from school. I still remember the sun coming up and the birds welcoming the dawn as I turned that last page. Gone with the Wind awakened my curiosity for history, as well as a passion for historical fiction. In fact, I was so inspired that when I found out Margaret Mitchell had died before writing the sequel, I pulled notebook paper out of my Trapper-Keeper (which dates me), uncapped a green pen, and started writing it for her. I can still see that first scene in my mind—Scarlett sitting on the porch at Tara with her head in Mammy’s lap, bemoaning the loss of Rhett. Although it took many more years and quite a few detours before I realized my dream of becoming an author, I consider that first page (which I dearly wish I still had) the beginning of my writing career.
Q: How do you balance writing with homeschooling your two children?
A: It has been a learning process over the past few years, and I am still working to perfect this balance. My kids are at the ages now where they are more independent in much of their work, so we have a two hour “together” time where we discuss history, read books together and work on any other subjects that require Mom directly teaching, and then they are free to finish their independent work on their own schedules. “The faster you finish the more playtime you have” is a common phrase during our school time. This affords me time during the day to work on the business aspect of my writing career, along with blogs and interviews. But I always write at night. I have attempted to flip on my creative switch during the day, but it just doesn’t work, I am a writer who really needs silence to work best and I have always been a night owl. So as soon as the kids are in bed, I am in my closet/office writing away in happy solitude. I write between 9:30-2am most nights. And yes, this means we don’t start school until 10am, when the “Mombie” (as the kids call me) is finally vertical, and caffeinated, but it works for us.
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: 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, 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.