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!

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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!

Book Review: Amish Sweethearts

Happy FriYAY! [Silly saying, but it’s so cute, huh??] Today, courtesy of little man’s naptime [on the floor of the living room next to me–I set him down for a minute when I had to answer the door to sign for a package and he kept sleeping… and who bothers a sleeping baby?!? I just sat down next to him with my first mug of Pumpkin Spice coffee of the year. I just can’t help myself. #ridiculous], I have Amish Sweethearts by Leslie Gould to review for you today as part of the book review program with Bethany House.

Amish Sweethearts - a book review on thepajamachef.com

Here is a description of the book from the publisher:

Best friends and high school sweethearts Zane Beck and Lila Lehman may be neighbors, but they come from different worlds. When Lila’s father arranges an Amish suitor to court her, Zane enlists in the army—unwilling to watch. Although separated by years and distance, their feelings, now hidden, never fade. But will these two ever find a way to be together?

And as usual, my five point review:

  • In general, this book was just okay. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t terrible. If we were breaking up, I’d have to say that it wasn’t you, book, it’s me. Once upon a time I would devour Amish fiction like none other. The premise of this book was interesting so I wanted to read it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my jam and the fact that I hadn’t read the previous book in the series probably contributed to that. On that note, it was well written, and [from what I can tell] well researched as far as details about Afghanistan and the military. There’s definitely an audience for these books and I used to love them. I just prefer to read other things now. 🙂
  • At first, I wanted to end my review with the first comment, but after writing a bit I decided to begin with my general thoughts and flesh them out. So for my second point, the premise. Zane is Mennonite, so the fact that he joined the Army isn’t quite the same scandal as if an Amish boy had done so. However, it’s still not totally normal either. It was interesting to consider the experience of someone with that sort of faith background and cultural upbringing in the military so this was a pretty original premise.
  • I haven’t read much of anything by Leslie Gould, but I found her to be a good writer and detailed in her research. As a librarian as I have said before, well researched books are important to me.
  • What bothered me more than anything about this book was the friends-to-lovers storyline. I knew that is what this book was about going into it, but the way the couple’s relationship was portrayed just didn’t seem very authentic to me for some reason and as such, this book didn’t hold my interest well. The love triangle aspect also was a bit off-putting, but again, I knew about that going into the book.
  • Regardless of the fact that this wasn’t my favorite book of all time, I do still think it is worth reading for fans of Amish fiction, this author, and those interested in how faith, relationships, and the military work together. I’m glad I got to read 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: Undaunted Hope

Find out all about Jody Hedlund’s wonderful new novel, Undaunted Hope. It just came out this month and I know you’ll love it!

Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund - a #BookReview on thepajamachef.com

A description of the book from the publisher:

Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won’t be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can’t help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she’s the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

As usual, my five point review:

  • Did you ever read Hearts Made Whole? If so, you’ll remember Tessa. In Undaunted Hope, Tessa is the star, not her older sister. Don’t fret though–these stories, while related, are completely independent. Tessa is phenomenal in this book. She’s so mature and full of faith in God. It’s fun to see the changes in her from one book to the next.
  • My favorite part of Jody Hedlund’s books are her characters. No matter who she is writing about–the main female lead, the main male lead(s), children, the “bad guys,” etc.–everyone… and I mean EVERYONE is well crafted and well developed. In this book, I think Alex and the children are the best characters by far! It’s rare that “adult books” have strong children characters, but this one does. Score!
  • Since I have family who live in Michigan, I’m familiar with the state. It’s fun to learn historical details about places I’ve been to or heard about. It’s also interesting to consider how HARD life was on the Michigan frontier in the 1870s, especially in remote areas accessible only by boat like Eagle Harbor, the setting of this story. This place was cold, isolated, and rough… but people survived and thrived. Incredible! I wouldn’t want to live there, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
  • One thing I loved about this story was how it combined adventure and romance and wit into one perfect, fun package. I didn’t think the actual description of the book was quite so accurate… the “trap” wasn’t quite as intense or as mysterious as it may seem, but it was pretty bad. 😦 Fortunately things turned out okay for Tessa!
  • The main aspect of this story that I didn’t enjoy was the love triangle. It didn’t feel very genuine or real, but it did bring for some extra special romance! 🙂 Overall, this was a great book… a fun read on a lazy winter afternoon. Definitely check it out soon!

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!