Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund

Book Details:
Title: Newton & Polly
Author: Jody Hedlund
2016, Waterbrook Press
ISBN: 9781601427649
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound 
that saved a wretch like me. 
I once was lost, but now am found…

Now remembered as the author of the world’s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father—until the night he hears Polly Catlett’s enchanting voice, caroling. He’s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John’s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.

My Review:
I am a huge fan of Jody Hedlund's books. I especially love her novels that focus on a historical figure and this book was one of my favorites. We have all heard the hymn Amazing Grace, but how much do we know about the author or what lead up to it being written.

Hedlund takes us back to 18th Century England to follow John Newton and Polly Catlett. Newton is a irresponsible boy who constantly shirks is duty in favor of whatever has taken his fancy at the moment. Polly Catlett is the girl he falls in love with, but her family has reservations about John and how he would support Polly.... not to mention his lack of faith in God.

Polly loves John in return, but also has a dream of going to school and learning more about music and composing. Also, she wants to have her family's blessing. Through a series of events John is impressed by the Royal Navy and taken off to sea. Will Polly wait for John? Will John get past his anger and bitterness? 

I don't know how historically accurate this story was, but I loved it. I greatly enjoyed the love story between John and Polly even though life seemed to be trying to keep them apart. I especially enjoyed John's journey towards finding God when his eyes were finally opened to all that the Lord was doing in his life. Honestly, I want to do some research of my own on the couple to see how much of the story was true. 

Excellent read!

Disclosure: I recieved a free copy of this book from the publisher at BloggingforBooks. No other compensation was given and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Book Summary:
Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

My Review:

The idea of this book looked really cute and enchanting. Unfortunately after sitting on my shelf for quite awhile I've given up being able to get into the book. It's really about loss and grieving and I'm more of a happy book person. I didn't realize the book was going to be so sad when I got it. I may go back to it eventually, but this wasn't a book for me.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Book Review: The Shock of Night by Patrick W Carr

Book Details:
Title: The Shock of Night
Author: Patrick W Carr
2015, Bethany House
IBSN: 978-0764213465
Genre: Fantasy

Book Summary:
When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it's as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he's been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that's not supposed to exist. 

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he's pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world--a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive.

My Review:
I very rarely do this but... I just couldn't get into this book. I read Patrick Carr's last series The Staff and the Sword and although it was a little more dense than my usual fare, I still enjoyed it. I was interested to read this new series by the author and even got the prequel - which I finished. 

I tried several times to get into this one. I think if you are normally a fan of this type of dark, dense fantasy reading then it is probably a good read. I just couldn't really understand what was all going on and there was a lot of murder going on.

Like the other series, there was a lot of mystical, magical things going on in this fantasy world. People in this word have these strange gifts that they can use for good or bad. There are pure gifts and more diluted gifts that have been split over time. I think someone is stealing gifts in this book, but honestly it was getting beyond me. 

If you were a huge fan of the author's first series or books like it, then I think you would like this one too. It just wasn't for me this time around.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Book Review: Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Book Details:
Title: Like Never Before
Author: Melissa Tagg
2016 Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764213083
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

Book Summary:
A dying newspaper. An intriguing mystery. And a love they didn't see coming.

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher...if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime--a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he's inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

My Review:
This book is the second in the Walker Family Series. I have not read the first book in the series and was happy to find that although you could tell there was another couple whose story I didn't know the background about, it did not affect the reading of this installment at all. 

I'm a big fan of Melissa Tagg and this was another beautifully written book with interesting, likable characters. Told from the POV of the two main characters Amelia Bentley and Logan Walker and centered around a cute small town called Maple Valley.

The author did a good job keeping some mystery surrounding why Amelia had decided to come to and settle in Maple Valley in the first place. All we really knew was that something in her past had brought her here.... but we didn't really know what. Amelia is a sweet character. She is very invovled in the community both as a reporter and a citizen and everyone loves her. But she's always got that thing you know is lurking in her past.

Then there is Logan. I loved that he really isn't perfect, but he's a very polished, professional person. He's a single dad and his daughter is speech delayed. His wife died and he lives in LA. His in-laws resent that he lives so far away and his career is about to take off... I really liked his character. He's just a really down-to-earth person who is trying his best to be the best at everything.

It took me awhile to make in through this book because I had a baby right after I started it. Even though it literally took me almost my whole 3 month maternity leave to finish it, I was able to jump right back into the story at any point and get right back into it. Loved it and I think I'll be checking out the first book in the series!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own and I received no other compensation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund

Book Details:
Title: Undaunted Hope
Author: Jody Hedlund
2016, Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1239-0
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
In a Town Mired in Darkness, She May Shine the Light They Need

Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it's too late to replace her. Tessa can't help but thank him  and say she is in his debt.

Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students and decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she feels that someone is tracking her ever move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

My Review:
I have read quite a few of this authors books and have become increasingly frustrated with the last few. I was pleasantly surprised with Undaunted Hope because the main character showed more integrity than some of the past few in the Beacons of Hope series.

This book is set in 1871 in Eagle Harbor, Michigan. Unlike the last couple books in this series, Tessa is not a lightkeeper and she doesn't want to be. She is a schoolteacher. We actually met Tessa in the previous book in the series and although this book could stand alone, I think in order to really appreciate her character, that book should be read first.

Tessa comes to Eagle Harbor as a teacher, but she soon learns that there are many things not right in the small copper mining community. Percival Updegraff, the chief mine clerk, uses many underhanded ways of keeping his employees in line. He preys on women and threatens the children. He seems to know everything that goes on in the community no matter how small.

The only people he seems not to have under his thumb are the two lightkeepers - brothers - Alex and Michael Bjorklund. Tessa befriends Michael's two young children who attend the school and the young girl tries some matchmaking
between Tessa and her father.

I was happy to see that Tessa attempted to keep her reputation from being ruined during her time spent with the brothers. That had been one of my frustrations with the previous books in the series that the main characters seemed rather naive and, if I must say it, stupid when it came to her time spent with men - especially men they were attracted too. Just because you are attracted to someone doesn't mean you throw all your morals and brains out the window and I was happy to see that Tessa, for the most part, kept her brains about her.

Although this is Christian fiction, I didn't feel like it was a huge part of the storyline. It is mentioned, but not really talked about much in the book. This doesn't bother me, but it may be something that someone who likes a strong Christian message takes issue with.

Overall I thought it was a good and interesting book. I always enjoy the Author's Note at the end that reveals the true historical inspirations for the author's stories. I may continue on with the series now that I've read this one!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Book Review: The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M White

Book Details:
Title: The Lost Heiress
Author: Roseanna M White
2015, Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764213502
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
Sweeping Romance and Mystery in the Edwardian Era

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. When her friend Justin uncovers the fact that she is possibly a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea and the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother's death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook's life is threatened do they draw close--but will their loyalty come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother?

As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that their friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?

And then for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession--and those who can save her still aren't sure whom to trust.

My Review:
This was the first book I’ve read by this author and I really enjoyed it. It was a really nice combination of historical fiction with a little bit of mystery. It was set in 1910 England and was told from the POV of Brook and Justin.

Brook grows up in Monaco but doesn’t really know who she is or where she belongs. After her mother dies, she finds some old letters with a seal on it that she gives to her friend Justin to research when he’s back in England. He discovers she might be a long-lost heiress to Whitby Park.

Justin has had more than just friendly feelings for Brook for a while now. But he is in line to become the next Duke of Stafford and can’t really marry a nobody – although he might like too. The fact that Brook might be an heiress might change things, but he doesn’t want to lose her friendship – what will become of their relationship?

I really enjoyed the story of this book. I really draws the reader in and keeps you guessing. There is just enough intrigue to make it interesting without losing the rest of the story.

There are a couple “villains” who you might not guess were going to turn out that way at the beginning. I liked that the relationship between Justin and Brook took its time even though they had known each other since they were children. It had a nice natural journey to it.

I would definitely read some more books by this author. I did think the book was kind of long, but not in a bad way. It just seemed longer than some of the similar books I’ve read by Bethany House Publishers, but I don’t want anyone to think that made this book boring to read. It was interesting the whole way through.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this by book from the publisher for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own and no other compensation was received.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book Review: Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund

Book Details:
Title: Hearts Made Whole
Author: Jody Hedlund
2015, Bethany House 
ISBN: 978-0764212383
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary:
1865, Windmill Point, Michigan
Can She Forgive the Hurting Man Who Costs Her the Role She Loves?

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 secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation--the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels 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?

My Review:
This is the second full novel in the Beacons of Hope series. Let me start by saying that I love the historical aspects of this novel and the previous book and novella. Before this, I'd not been aware that there were so many lighthouses around the Great Lakes (although it makes sense, I'd just never though about it). I have enjoyed learning about the light keepers duties, lives and the women who helped. I always appreciate how the author ties her stories somewhat around a real historical person or event.

That all being said, this wasn't my favorite book. Her characters, as usual, were well developed and the story was richly written, but I sometimes have a few issues with the romance portion.In this case, Caroline Taylor, the daughter of the former light keeper, although a smart woman, allowed herself to become too attached to a drug addict/drunk. I had a hard time believing she would risk her reputation and that of her sister and continue living at the lighthouse with the new (drunk) of a light keeper.

Not that I didn't like the drunk character! Ryan Chambers is the carry-over character from the first novel and I enjoyed hearing about what had become of him. I think his struggle with alcohol is real and the author does a great job of showing how much of a struggle staying sober is even when it is what the person wants to do. He epitomizes the redeeming grace of God and our need to lean on Him instead of ourselves or others.

As for other secondary characters, there was Caroline's younger sister who I couldn't stand from page 1 and the evil tavern owner from town and his weird son who I knew something was off with early on in the story. Unfortunately, even with all the good writing and colorful characters, the story fell a little flat for me. The romance was good, but the circumstances and problems they faced seemed too contrived for me to really enjoy completely. I found myself frustrated with Caroline's character over and over again.

I think this is a great series, and I love the historical elements, but this wasn't my favorite novel. A good read, but not a great one.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from Bethany House Publishing for an honest review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own