Reviews

Book Review: Unrivaled

The latest book I have read as part of the blogging review program through  Bethany House Publishers is Siri Mitchell’s Unrivaled.

Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell reviewed on thepajamachef.com

Here is a description of the book from the publisher:

Lucy Kendall returns from a tour of the Continent, her luggage filled with the latest fashions and a mind fired by inspiration. After tasting Europe’s best confections, she’s sure she’ll come up with a recipe that will save her father’s struggling candy business and reverse their fortunes. But she soon discovers that their biggest competitor, the cheat who swindled her father out of his prize recipe, has now hired a promotions manager–a cocky, handsome out-of-towner who gets under Lucy’s skin.

And as usual, my five point review!

  • Siri Mitchell has written nearly a dozen novels, and this one was my favorite by far. It is set in St. Louis in 1910-11. I’ve been to St. Louis many times over the years and it’s always fun reading about a familiar place. But more than that, the characters were just so well written and realistic. They weren’t likeable all the time [especially Lucy…so infuriating and selfish at times!] but people aren’t always likeable so the book was refreshing in that sense.
  • Another thing about this novel that I admired was that Lucy’s romantic dilemma [no surprise there–Christian fiction ALWAYS includes a romantic dilemma] did not turn out the way I thought. Huh? Well, without revealing too much… her choice wasn’t as obvious as it seemed.
  • It was so fun reading about the candy making business. Siri’s books are always well written and researched, and since I do have some candy making knowledge myself, the processes described in the book seemed spot on. It would have been fun if some recipes were included at the end though! Maybe on Siri’s website sometime soon? 🙂 There were also great candy metaphors and references throughout the book.
  • My biggest complaint about the book was really about Lucy as a character. Her development and change at times seemed a bit unnatural and forced, but again, perhaps that is realistic and I was just annoyed that she didn’t grow up faster. But the story was about her journey into adulthood, so it does make sense.
  • Overall, I loved this book. Siri Mitchell writes in a first person, alternating main characters style that I truly enjoy. Having a story narrated from multiple perspectives requires a bit more concentration and can result in a bit more frustration that the characters don’t do what you want them to do, but that’s part of the fun of it. I would highly recommend this book if you want to read a sweet story from the Titanic and Downton Abbey era… set in America! 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! 

Reviews

Book Review: The Messenger

Instead of “Book Review: The Messenger,” this post should perhaps be titled “Confessions of my [Semi-Embarrassing] Reading Habits.” This is not my usual sort of post, I realize, but I recently signed up to review books for Bethany House Publishers, a well-respected publisher of Christian fiction and other Christian titles, through their blogger review program. When I signed up, I got to choose the categories of books that I was interested in, and every so often I receive emails from the company when they have titles available for review. Then, if I want, I can request a book and they send a complementary copy to me, in exchange for a review. Since I love reading [I did go to library school, after all–though reading is not in the job description of any position I’m applying for… too bad!], I thought it would be fun. Recently I received and read my first book: The Messenger by Siri Mitchell.

cover for The Messenger by Siri MitchellHere is the description of the book from the publisher:

Hannah Sunderland has never questioned her unwavering Quaker beliefs…until the Friends forbid her to visit her twin brother in jail. But when Jeremiah Jones, a Colonial spy, seeks her out to help rescue her brother and other Colonial soldiers, she’s forced to confront her beliefs—and her unexpected feelings for Jeremiah—head on. As lives hang in the balance, must Hannah choose between forsaking those she loves and abandoning the bedrock of her faith?

So, what did I think of the book? Rather than writing paragraph after paragraph of review, I want to do this bullet-point style. I think reviews are more effective that way and I hope Bethany House doesn’t mind! I tend not to read loooong reviews so I want to make this to the point.

These are my top five reasons why I loved this book, and hope you will too!

  • I love Siri Mitchell’s writing. I’ve read several of her other books and really enjoy her style. I feel like she does a great job developing her characters, and I like how the perspective of the story changes chapter by chapter. Siri Mitchell is thorough, detail oriented, yet so elegant in regard to style and tone.
  • Obviously this book is historical fiction. Revolutionary War era, to be exact. I don’t think I’ve read anything from this time period since reading Felicity’s stories in my American Girl doll youth. [Side note: I had Kirsten, and she is now retired. I am so sad! Did anyone else have a beloved American Girl doll?]. My favorite war period to read about is World War II [my favorite war? How nerdy does that sound?]. Since this is fiction, obviously the storylines are not precisely accurate with what really went on. However, Siri Mitchell’s attention to detail and references in the book really made me feel as if she had done a good job researching to make the book as historically accurate as possible. I feel like historical fiction has such potential to make history come alive, and this book is a fabulous example of that.
  • I love how applicable the struggles faced by Hannah and Jeremiah as they work for the patriot cause–together and separately, with different motives that somehow mesh together so perfectly. I don’t want to say much else on that, for fear of giving away too many spoilers, but these struggles raise so many questions. This book has caused me to wonder how this applies to today–why we believe what we believe in this politically-charged era, not so much unlike colonial America? How do we let causes and positions impact the bedrock of our faith? This is a decision we all must make, both collectively and individually.
  • My only complaint about the book [except for the fact that it ended… sigh…] was that I felt the first couple chapters were a little slow and a bit confusing, simply because there are so many characters and I wasn’t familiar with Quaker vocabulary.
  • That being said… my favorite thing about the book was the romance. [Cue the cheesiness… and the semi-embarrassing confession.] When I read fiction for fun, I don’t want to have to think too hard and I want happy endings. End of story. This usually draws me to cheesy Christian romance novels, heart-wrenching World War II romances, or chicklit. Anyone else with me? The romance between Jeremiah and Hannah [no, this is not a spoiler–you couldn’t possibly expect that the romance wouldn’t be a focal point of the story, now could you?] is subtle, sweet, and at times–infuriatingly slow. However, that is real life. Subtle romance allows for the highly narrative, action-packed plot to shine.

I hope you love this book as much as I did. I thought Siri Mitchell’s The Messenger was simply captivating.

Okay, okay… the semi-embarrassing confession goes beyond not thinking hard and wanting happy endings. One of my college friends and I [who I had the pleasure of seeing over the weekend at another friend’s wedding] have this running joke of texting each other lines from our latest cheesy Christian romance novel. For real.

One of the best was regarding a man with a prosthetic arm stroking the face of his lady friend. For the record, I have nothing against prosthetic arms [I know several people who have them, actually.] The tone of that story though was just classic cheese, that’s what got me. 🙂

But back to my friend [who shall remain nameless so I don’t go blabbing her embarrassing secrets all across the internet]. We have big plans of one day writing a book of cheesy Christian short stories, holiday themed… as in, Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc. It’ll be a best seller, I tell ya… and maybe one day you’ll be writing a review of it on your blog! That’s the goal! 🙂

What are you reading lately?

Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book for free!