Book Review: Newton and Polly

I’m excited to share my review of Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund with you today! I received a complementary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. 

Newton and Polly... a book review of Jody Hedlund's epic book!

description of the book from the publisher:

Acclaimed novelist Jody Hedlund brings the real story of “Amazing Grace” to page in a thrilling tale of the love story of John Newton and Polly Catlett.

John Newton fell in love with Polly Catlett at first sight. But Polly was unable to return the affections of the rebellious, worldly young man and her father ordered the aimless John away from her. Not long after, John was pressed into serving in the Navy. He saw Polly one last time before leaving England but Polly couldn’t promise any future to him.

After four years away, John is called back to England on family matters. But John was heavily, blindly involved in the slave trade and had no desire to return. John Sr. used his son’s undying love for Polly to lure him home. On that treacherous voyage back to England, in the midst of a terrible storm, John finally experienced salvation and began moving towards, eventually, crusading against slavery. Back at home, John must work hard to convince wise-beyond-her-years Polly Catlett that he is a changed man and worthy of her.

As usual, my five point review:

  • This story–this true love story–is incredible. I couldn’t put it down! As you can tell if you’ve read the description above, this is a love story between John Newton (the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and his (eventual) wife, Polly. As I’ve said time and time again, Christian fiction is very, very, VERY hit or miss with me. I’m so picky about what I like and what I don’t. This isn’t a love story of the cheesy, “Jesus brought us together” coincidental variety… but rather one that is realistic, involved family/work/religion/faith conflicts, and one that ACTUALLY happened. I know we all think our love stories are pretty cool (and they are) but this one is phenomenal. It is a story that needs to be told, so I’m glad Jody did!
  • What made this story so powerful was the author’s thorough research and commitment to keeping the story true to the historical events of the time, even though it is fiction. This made for some uncomfortable scenes (not inappropriate, but tough to read/think about) relating to the slave trade, male-female interactions, etc. These scenes, as far as I know from my own reading and history background, seem very true to the era. Anyone interested in life in the 1700s, the slave trade, or the crusade against slavery would enjoy this book for just these reasons. The love story would just be a bonus. 🙂
  • I loved all the emotion in this novel. You could feel Polly’s change of heart towards John over time… from their early moments to the tough middle and to the wonderful ending. The author did such a great job with Polly’s character! It’s like she’s your friend (or yourself). Absolutely lovely!
  • At the same time, Jody Hedlund did an amazing job capturing John Newton. At the beginning of the story, he was only seventeen and rather aimless. It was a different time period and his freedoms were different then as opposed to most seventeen year olds now. The author’s portrayal of John in good times and bad–experiencing pain, tragedy, joy, heartache, and more–was so rich! Before reading this novel, I only had a cursory understanding of the background of the man who wrote “Amazing Grace.” But now, the words of his hymn make SO MUCH SENSE.
  • All in all, this book is wonderful. You’ll want to savor it, you’ll want to rush through it to see how it ends (even though some of that is spoiled for you in this review… they do get together! Haha!)… but in this case, the joy is in the journey. And grace is captured so, so well. Read this book! You won’t regret it.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to for the chance to read this great book!

 

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Book Review and Giveaway: True to You

Today I’m so excited to share my review of Becky Wade’s latest book, True to You! Read on for more about the book and be sure to enter the giveaway at the end!

Check out my review of Becky Wade's latest, True to You

A description of the book from the publisher:

It’s the exciting start of a brand-new series by a contemporary romance fan favorite!

After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.

Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match.

However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

As usual, my five point review:
  • Nora is one of those characters you are either going to LOVE or just really not like. I personally loved her. She’s sweet as can be, smart, and inviting. She’s often described as a librarian (a tiny fact I take issue with, being that she was not described as going to library school, but I digress). Among her many quirks, Nora has funny names for everyone–The Dreaded Harrison, for example. She truly makes this book laugh out loud funny at times, and it is precious. These quirks make her a lovable character that you will be cheering for to move past her heartache and on with new life. Her makeover, both internally and externally, is stunning. Nora used to live in the past, but as she dares to dream and trusts God with her future, she is transformed.
  • I really enjoyed the relationship between Nora and her sisters, Willow and Britt. It’s obvious that although these sisters are all incredibly different, they do care about each other immensely. They would do anything for each other, I am sure of it. The lack of conflict between them–even as they planned a party and discussed happiness and heartache–was a bit unrealistic… even for adult siblings.
  • Much of the plot of this book centers around Nora’s endeavors to learn about John’s birth mother. What a way to develop a relationship! I’m personally fascinated by history and genealogy and reading about the process was fun. I did not personally find the surprise twist between John and Nora (not their romantic relationship, but another tie that I won’t mention specifically) to be… shall we say… appropriate. What are the chances of something like that actually happening? Slim to none, I suppose. It makes for good drama but REALLY. It is also worth noting that there is some violence and brutality discussed in this book. It was a bit surprising for me to read–nothing is graphic but it could be a trigger/disturbing for some.
  • The tension (and humor) Nora experiences as she grapples with the affection of not just one, but TWO men is fantastic. Aside from John, Nora is also pursued by a minor celebrity. Whaaat? Who has a Facebook messenging relationship with the actor of a character on a British TV show (that I pictured as a Regency era Downton Abbey)? Nora, that’s who. : ) Once again, not realistic. But adorable nonetheless.
  • Overall, I adored this book despite the lack of realism in a few areas for me. I loved Nora’s subtle humor, bookish charm, wit, and willingness to grow and develop. That’s hard to do as an adult, especially if life doesn’t happen as you hoped/thought/prayed it would. Like Becky Wade’s other novels, there is some emphasis on faith and some discussion of Christian principles. However, Bible verses aren’t thrown into every other sentence or anything like that… the characters interject faith and conversations about God in very natural and normal ways. I love that. This is a must read if you enjoy smart fiction that will challenge you to think and grow!
 About the author:
Becky Wade is a California native who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and settled in Dallas.  She published historical romances for the general market before putting her career on hold for several years to care for her three children.  When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction.  She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance!  She’s the Carol Award, INSPY Award, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award winning author of My Stubborn Heart, the Porter Family series, and the Bradford Sisters Romance series.
And don’t forget the giveaway!! 🙂 #WishICouldWin

Do opposites really attract? John and Nora might just be the perfect match.

Find out in True to You, book one in Becky Wade’s new series!

Celebrate the launch of Becky Wade’s new series by entering to win a fabulous prize pack and $100 cash card!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of True to You
  • A $100 Visa cash card
  • A prize pack hand-picked by Becky

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on May 30. The winner will be announced May 31 on the Litfuse blog.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. However, I was not required to write a positive review and received no compensation. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks for the chance to read this great book!

Book Review: The Mark of the King

Read on to learn more about The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green. I hope you’ll read this book soon–it is amazing!

Read on to learn more about The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green.

A description of the book from the publisher:

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

As usual, my five point review:

  • The characters in this book were stunning. No one was uni-dimensional, and no matter whether you loved or hated someone, their character and role in the story truly made a difference to the plot and outcome of the story. I am still torn as to whether Julianne or Marc-Paul was my favorite character, but no matter… their (surprising) romance was the highlight of this book.
  • Even though I do consider the highlight of this book to be the romance between Julianne and Marc-Paul, it was not overbearing, lovey-dovey, or predictable. Lots of twists and turns influenced their relationship at many different points… and they almost didn’t make it (in more ways than one). I love that sort of romance. It’s so real! But it would not have been possible without the grace both show towards the other, and to the people around them dealing with very hard circumstances.
  • Though the characters are influenced by Christianity, this book absolutely does not “feel” like a Christian romance novel AT. ALL. No lightly disguised evangelism here, and that’s not a criticism at all. The discussion of faith was very natural and at times, ambiguous. Real characters, real faith.
  • The writing was excellent. The novel was divided into three parts, each with a shocking twist. I managed to read this (a print copy) in less than two weeks, which is a recent record since it’s hard to read a print book with a baby in tow most days. I do most reading on my phone or Kindle these days, so you know that this must have been good!
  • 1720s Louisiana truly came alive in Jocelyn Green’s The Mark of the King. This is an often-forgotten time period of American history, something Green mentions in her readers’ notes. As such, I imagine researching this era took a great deal of grit and determination. Reading about everything from the abysmal living conditions to the devastating hurricane that ended up shaping the French Quarter of New Orleans was heartbreaking… and fascinating. I’ve said it before, but reading fiction is the best way to turn someone into a history lover, and this book is no different. I highly recommend it!

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

Book Review: Her One and Only

Another book review! It’s been awhile but I have a whole slew of book reviews to share with you in the coming weeks. And we’re going to start with Becky Wade’s Her One and Only. This is the last in the Porter Family series. You can read my reviews for the rest of the series here. Spoiler alert: Becky Wade is a fabulous author. You won’t be disappointed!

Becky Wade's Her One and Only - a book review on The Pajama Chef

A description of the book from the publisher:

Gray Fowler, star NFL tight end, is being pursued by a stalker, so his team hires a protection agency to keep Gray under the watch of a bodyguard at all times. When Gray meets Dru Porter, an agent assigned to him, he’s indignant. How can an attractive young female half his size possibly protect him?

But Dru’s a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt. She’s also ferociously determined to uncover the identity of Gray’s stalker. And she’s just as determined to avoid any kind of romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past. But the closer they get to finding the stalker, the closer they grow to each other. As the danger rises, can Dru and Gray entrust their hearts–and their lives–to one another?

As usual, my five point review:

  • I’ll start off with the good… Becky Wade’s writing, as usual, was flawless. I love her character development, easy pacing, and descriptiveness. She is so good at putting her readers right in the action and also organically blending in the characters’ faith. Sometimes contemporary fiction can come across as awkward because authors try to make things too relevant, and that’s just not possible when you consider things like current events and technology… but I think she does a great job balancing things. Christian fiction is also hard because it can vacillate between having too much God talk and having just a bit thrown in. But this author is great at authenticity and incorporating faith naturally. I have said it before and will say it again–even those who do not like Christian fiction will like this book! It’s not “normal” Christian fiction–yay!
  • And then I’ll move to the bad. Unlike the other books in this series, I wasn’t pulled in right away to the plot. It was a slow start. In my opinion, the characters just weren’t as likable from the beginning, and maybe the football aspect was off-putting to me. Once I got going though, I wanted to know what would happen with Dru and Gray. Their romance, their safety, their past, their future. Dru’s strong personality is inspiring and Gray softens over time too.
  • But that’s really all the bad! Promise. I appreciated how Becky Wade incorporated suspense and romance into one novel, introducing lots of new characters but also seamlessly blending in the rest of the Porter family’s tales into this book. There was heartache and joy and goodness… just what you would expect from this likable family!
  • Ending a series well is tough, and I think that this series DID end well so I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the ending and was glad that the series was only four books long. Sometimes, a series can drag on forever, and this felt like the perfect length. Way to go, Becky! 🙂
  • Overall, this is a great read for new and old fans of the Porter Family. It’s probably a book mostly women would enjoy but the football element makes this a book my husband would even enjoy too! Two thumbs up. 🙂

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

Book Review: Until the Dawn

I’m back with another book review! This time, I have another great read from fellow librarian and author Elizabeth Camden. One of her newest releases, Until the Dawn, is just great! Read on to learn more. 🙂

Until the Dawn - a book review on thepajamachef.com

A description of the book from the publisher:

Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie van Riijn sees no harm in setting up a rooftop weather station for her work with the newly established Weather Bureau. While the villagers are suspicious of the mysterious estate and its tragic history, Sophie has come to see it as her own enchanted piece of paradise.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover Sophie trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie yet find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There’s a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark can no longer be kept in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

As usual, my five point review:

  • The premise of this book stems from the history of the Dutch settlement of New York, a portion of history that I was not very familiar with prior to reading this book. As always, one aspect of Camden’s writing that I appreciate is her ability to introduce a new part of American history. It was also interesting to learn about the early days of the Weather Bureau. I kept finding myself consulting the internet to learn more about these topics. 🙂 Always a sign of a good story!
  • I also really enjoyed the house at the center of the story. Dierenpark, as the description of the book mentions, has a sad history and at the beginning of the story, balances from being forgotten to being a tourist trap. The house and estate are truly a character in the story and play an active role in the plot. I love when authors make homes a key role in the story!
  • The mysteries surrounding the house, Quentin’s past, and Sophie’s optimism despite sadness in her life are all unraveled well throughout the plot. The major mystery, of course, is the history of the house and why it has been virtually forgotten by the family for so long. The ending is unique and full of several unexpected twists and turns. I won’t give any spoilers but the ending was great!
  • The characters, as usual from this author, were great. They were not predictable [even though the romance, as it was, did have some predictability]. They were also, even for the minor characters like household help, well crafted and came alive. Very three dimensional.
  • Overall, this is a book that will keep you engaged to the last page. I stayed up wayyy too late reading it–even with a newborn baby to take care of! It really is a great read and one you will be sure to enjoy.

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!