Reviews

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!

 

Reviews

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!

Reviews

Book Review: Hearts Made Whole

Read on for more about Jody Hedlund’s Hearts Made Whole!

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund - a book review on thepajamachef.com #reading

A description of the book from the publisher:

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s been given the post as lighthouse keeper, and the isolation where he can drown in drink and hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s none-too-pleased to be giving up her position. They both quickly realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but Ryan’s unwilling to let anyone close, ravaged by memories and guilt. Caroline’s drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

As usual, my five point review:

  • This book was hard to put down! I read it in less than two days, and it only took that long because I had to work one of those days. Yes, contrary to popular opinion, librarians don’t get to just sit around and read the day away. 🙂 That would be nice though! If you find that job, please let me know. Anyways, Jody Hedlund once again gives us a compelling, thrilling, and poignant novel. From the start, I was captivated by Ryan and Caroline and their individual [and soon to be shared] predicaments.
  • Let’s begin by talking about Caroline. Can I just say that I could NEVER imagine being in her shoes? Losing both parents, figuring out how to care for and provide for four siblings [including a very sick sister] on her own, and working a [more than] full time job as a woman in a male-dominated profession. Oh, and the majority of the men in her profession are trying to run her out. I cannot even imagine! But she handles her life with grace and dignity, working hard even when she thinks that she will inevitably be kicked out of her home and left with no where to go. She has to make some hard choices–even considering marrying out of convenience and fear in order to provide for her siblings. I realize that my/our cultural context for this, especially in middle/upperclass America, is very lacking, but I know that this happens even today in many parts of the world [America included] and it is just crazy to imagine. But even so, Caroline doesn’t face life dragging her feet or whining, but doing what she can for her family. Really inspiring, even if I know that won’t be my life ever.
  • Now Ryan. Ohhh Ryan! Like veterans from wars past and present, Ryan returns from the Civil War broken–physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He’s a flawed character yet beneath the surface, there’s something more. It is in that something that Caroline and Ryan can unite to provide what the other needs. Ryan struggles with drug and alcohol addiction throughout the book, and once again the author handled this timeless theme well. Today we have so many resources to help in those situations, but not so in the 1800s. So it was interesting [and SAD] to consider the cost of addiction in that day and age. I won’t spoil the end, but as you probably have expected, Ryan’s comeback was pretty phenomenal.
  • The setting of this book was amazing–historically, as well as situationally. I didn’t know about the history of women working in the Michigan lighthouse industry, nor about the importance of lighthouses on the Great Lakes over time. Neat stuff!
  • Overall, I loved this book. Probably my only complaint is that the cover was a bit weird. It didn’t seem to connect with the story at all and detracts from the loveliness of the book. It had a little bit of everything–romance, family, mystery… and was engaging from start to finish. Plus, it wasn’t one of those historical fiction novels that feels ancient. This felt accessible and enjoyable. Highly recommend!

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!

Reviews

Book Review: Captured by Love

Another book review! I have a stack to catch up on so bear with me. 🙂 Jody Hedlund’s newest book Captured by Love is awesome. I received it over the summer from Bethany House’s book review program and am glad for the chance to check out new books every month!

Captured By Love by Jody Hedlund - reviewed on thepajamachef.com

Here’s a description of the book from the publisher:

Michigan Territory, 1814. A voyageur and a young woman swept up in a time of upheaval and danger discover firsthand the high price of freedom.

The British Army has taken control of Michilimackinac Island and its fort, forcing the Americans to swear an oath of loyalty to the crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a fur trader who returns after being away from the island for years, only to find the family farm a shambles and those he cares about starving and at the mercy of British invaders.

Torn between the adventurous life of fur trading and guilt over neglecting his defenseless mother, Pierre is drawn deeper into the fight against the British–and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a childhood friend who’s grown into a beautiful woman. She now finds herself trapped by the circumstances of war and poverty, and the cruelty of her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley.

As tensions mount and the violence rages on, Pierre and Angelique must decide where their loyalties rest and how much they’ll risk for love.

My five point review as usual:

  • Though I’ve read Jody Hedlund’s books before and loved them, I was especially interested in this one because it’s set on Mackinac Island! I grew up visiting my grandparents in Midland, MI [where Jody is from] and going on vacation to their cottage on Higgins Lake. Our day trips, especially when it was raining, were to Mackinac Island. It was so fun thinking about those times as I read about the history of the island. Jody Hedlund’s writing is so descriptive and I wanted to be there on the island, even though the British occupation during the War of 1812 made life very difficult, especially during the long winter months.
  • I really enjoyed the storyline between Angelique and her guardian. If you read the description above, you might think that’s strange since he is so cruel. However, considering that this situation was probably a reality for many women throughout history makes me really sad…and I loved reading about her redemption from him by Pierre, as well as his brother, Jean.
  • There’s a love triangle in this book [when is there not?] between Angelique and Jean, who she promised herself to while Pierre is away and Angelique and Pierre, who she’s always been in love with but thought he’d never come home. Craziness, I tell ya. Though I like both men, I didn’t like the decision Angelique was forced to make. The relationship with Pierre was portrayed as fun and amusing, but I hate that Jean would have to be thrown under the bus for that relationship to succeed. I do appreciate that this relationship wasn’t determined by death as most wartime romances are. I won’t tell you what happens but it’s good!
  • In reading some reviews online I noticed that some people consider this book to be too racy or graphic. I thought it was fine, but you can judge for yourselves once you read it.
  • All in all, this was a great book. Intriguing, captivating, well written, and well researched. It was the location that drew me in and the characters that made me read it in two days. A great read! Check out this post if you want to hear more about why the author wanted to write the book. It’s fascinating!

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!

 

Reviews

Book Review: Rebellious Heart

I know… I know, I just posted a book review last week! I have two more book reviews to share so I am caught up before Christmas, so bear with me. 🙂 Today I’m going to talk about Jody Hedlund’s Rebellious Heart. I read this book as part of the awesome book review program offered by Bethany House Publishers.

Rebellious Heart book review on thepajamachef.comHere is the description of the book from the publisher:

Massachusetts, 1763. When Susanna Smith and Benjamin Ross act to save the life of a runaway indentured servant, they’ll risk everything for love and justice in a nation on the brink of revolution.

And as usual… my five point review.

  • I NEVER WANTED THIS BOOK TO END. Never never never. It was SO good. So engaging, so funny, so frightful, so wonderful. The story is based on the true story of John and Abigail Adams, which is really interesting. Makes me want to read more about them! Reading about the Colonial era is something I haven’t done very much of since I was into Felicity and the other American Girl dolls back in the day, but now I want to explore Goodreads and see what else is out there!
  • Knowing that Benjamin [or Ben, as he goes by in the book] is really John Adams puts a bit more perspective and context into this character. Nevertheless, watching Ben develop from a “nobody” as initially stated into a man of purpose throughout the story was amazing. Really, Susanna developed a lot too, but that’s typical of female leads in Christian romance novels. I love seeing strong men in these books because that’s who men should emulate nowadays, not weak men that [can] be common because of societal pressures and gender equality. [BTW this isn’t a political stance on gender, just a statement that Ben the character is strong and I like that.]
  • It was really interesting–and really heartbreaking–to consider one of the key themes of this story. Justice is a huge part of this book, and this era of history–who deserves justice, what is justice, who has justice, etc. The runaway indentured servant that Ben and Susanna are fighting to save is named Dotty, and she has suffered terrible abuses. It was just SO sad what she had been through, and I had to keep reminding myself that Dotty was not a real person. However, her story unfortunately was all too common, and often [in real life] the perpetrators were never punished because of societal views on the practice of indenturing people and the role/importance of women in society. Dotty’s story also provides a nice backdrop for considering the colonies and British rule… however Ben my husband tells me [from the Assassin’s Creed video game] that perhaps some the outcomes of British rule like taxes that the Colonists fought against may have been a bit more justified than our history texts lead us to believe. That is a whole ‘nother issue though, but I just wanted to acknowledge that perspective. This doesn’t change the fact that indentured servitude often resulted in mistreatment of people–women AND men, so Dotty’s story is still very important.
  • Faith definitely plays an element in this story but not in a preachy, over the top way. The work of Susanna and Ben in caring for Dotty, and the work of Susanna and her mother in caring for poor widows and orphans in their community is certainly a response to God… but the faith journey is not part of this story at all. I’m not sure that would have added much to the story anyway, as it was very powerful already.
  • Lastly, I’ve read nearly all of Jody Hedlund’s wonderful historical fiction books. They are all well researched. She does a great job at developing both characters and plot, and this tale is no different. I heartily encourage you to pick it up for your next plane ride or reading day on the couch. I think it’s my favorite Jody Hedlund book by far!

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!