Tag Archives: Jody Hedlund

Three for the Books: Featured Reads in Christian Fiction, July 2016

Three for the Books, July 2016

The monthly “Three for the Books” post is where I feature new (Hot Off the Presses), best selling (Topping the Charts), and award winning (Cream of the Crop) Christian fiction books. I select one title to feature in each category, as well as providing links to where you can browse additional newly released, best selling, and award winning titles. Have you read any of these featured titles? Any others you’d like to give a shout-out? Comments are always welcome!

Hot Off the Presses

Deep Shadows by Vanetta Chapman released this month from Harvest House Publishers. This dystopian novel is first in a new series from this popular author, and is available in electronic and print editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More New Releases

Topping the Charts

Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson appears first on the July CBA Bestsellers list in the suspense/mystery category. It is first in the new Evie Blackwell Cold Case mystery series. Available from Bethany House Publishers in electronic and print editions, or from Recorded Books in audiobook formats.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Best Sellers

Cream of the Crop

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund won the 2016 INSPY Award in the Literature for Young Adults category. It’s a historical romance for young adults, first in its series, and published by Zondervan. Available in print, electronic, and audio editions.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site | More Award Winners

Book Review: Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

Title: Rebellious Heart
Author: Jody Hedlund
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Hearts of Faith
Genre(s): Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Published: September 2013

About the Book (from Publisher, Bethany House):

Massachusetts, 1763

A Love That Would Shape History Forever

Because she’s a woman, higher learning was always closed to Susanna Smith. But her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. And she’s determined to marry well, so she’ll be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Growing up with little to his name, poor country lawyer Benjamin Ross dreams of impacting the world for the better. When introduced to the Smiths he’s taken by Susanna’s intelligence and independent spirit, but her parents refuse to see him as a suitor for their daughter.

When the life of a runaway indentured servant is threatened, Susanna is forced to choose between justice and mercy, and Ben becomes her unlikely advisor. But drawing closer to this man of principle and intellect lands her in a dangerous, secret world of rebellion and revolution against everything she once held dear.

My Thoughts on the Book:

What a great read!  This book explores the kinds of difficult decisions arising in situations where legality and morality may be at odds.  It resonates with themes of bravery and self-sacrifice.  And the romance is delightfully swoon-worthy.

Set in the time leading up to the American Revolution, the book takes John and Abigail Adams as the inspiration for its lead characters Benjamin Ross and Susanna Smith.  I appreciated the way the author’s note separated out which bits of character and plot were borrowed directly from the history books and which parts were fabricated or adjusted to suit the needs of this fictional story.

I liked the lead characters a lot.  Susanna and Ben are both smart, opinionated people driven to make a difference, and even though they don’t see completely eye to eye on a number of issues at first, they respect and appreciate each other’s insights.  I’ve got to say, I loved their quick-witted banter and thought they were such a great match for each other.  As a librarian and bibliophile, I rather enjoyed their literary flirtations and general love for reading.  Just to illustrate, here are a couple of quotes within a quote (page 150):

He grinned.  “I agree with Erasmus: ‘When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.’”

She laughed softly.  “And I agree with Cicero: ‘A room without books is like a body without a soul.’”

As an aside, I asked my husband how he thought I should quote a quote within a quote when the original quote has already used both single and double quotation marks.  His response (and I quote): “My brain hurts.”  I opted just to indent the passage, because unlike in math where you can nest parentheses indefinitely, in literature too many layers of quotation marks just seem to get ugly.  Anybody have an opinion on this?  No?  Okay then.  I guess I’ll have to lay off the grammatical nerdiness and move along with the review….  😉

I think my favorite character, aside from the romantic leads, would have to be Grandmother Eve.  She’s a very perceptive and persuasive woman.  I love the way she encourages Susanna to value love over status and to find the bravery to do the right thing.  Plus she practices what she preaches, doing her part to stand up for what’s right.  In her own words (Page 275):

“Sometimes doing the right thing is perilous, darling.”  Grandmother Eve was already lowering the trapdoor.  “But you are brave, Susanna.  Braver than you know.”

Have you read this book yet?  Because it happens to be the subject of discussion in this month’s #HedlundChallenge2015 discussion, which is happening TODAY (2/24/15) at the Books and Beverages blog, so hop on over there to share your opinion.  Or tell me here.  That’d be cool too.  :)  For more about the Jody Hedlund Challenge and to find out what’s up for discussion next month, check out these posts.

Audiobook Review: Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund

Title: Unending Devotion
Author: Jody Hedlund
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Print Publisher: Bethany House
Audio Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Series: Michigan Brides, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Published: 2012

About the Book (from the Publisher):

Michigan, 1883. In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?

Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer’s assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan–and the sights of Connell McCormick.

Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.

Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell’s help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what’s right cost them both everything?

Thoughts on the Story:

I enjoyed this book.  A lot.  I’m glad I read it and I’m going to tell you what I loved about it.  But first, I need to get a little rant off my chest.  So here goes….

I liked Lily, honestly I did, but it drove me crazy the way she ignored offers of help and instead went off on well-meaning but foolhardy and poorly planned rescue attempts by herself.  I’m reminded of the kind of advice I have to give my 3- and 6-year old kids on occasion: Just because the window didn’t break the last time you threw something at it doesn’t mean you can keep throwing things at it and expect it never to break.  So yes, Lily, someone needs to do something quickly, but if you get yourself captured or killed in the process, then you’ll be in no position to accomplish anything for anyone.  Yes, I realize you’ve rescued other girls before and you feel passionately about this.  But that doesn’t make you invincible or negate the need to think things through ahead of time.

Okay, done ranting.  Now I can move on to the things I loved about this book.  Because I really did enjoy reading it.  Despite my occasional irritation with the heroine.  😉

The Northern Michigan lumber camps of the time period were vividly described right down to the last frosty detail.  The historical information included was pretty fascinating.  And the fact that the bad guy in this story and some of his actions were based on a real life person and real life circumstances was more than a little disturbing.  The storyline definitely makes an impression!

Lily’s selfless determination to help others in need was admirable.  And I found her love for her sister as demonstrated by the lengths she went to in searching for her touching.  I thought Connell was a great match for her, helping to temper her impulsiveness, even as she spurred him on to action rather than complacency.  At heart, he was a good guy, and very likeable.  And I was glad to see his character growth over time.

This story has its tragic moments, and some of the issues dealt with were challenging to read about.  But I absolutely loved the advice Connell’s mother, Mrs. McCormick, gave Lily, which I think makes a great take-away lesson.  Here’s just a snippet of their conversation from Chapter 25 (and as an aside, I wish I could share this snippet of the audiobook recording instead of just transcribing the text. As it is, you’ll just have to imagine a lilting brogue in Mrs. McCormick’s voice for the first and third lines here, okay?):

“As long as man lives and breathes there will always be sin in this world and consequently injustice.”

“But that doesn’t mean we should give up, sit back, and do nothing.”

“You’re right.  Nor can we fight against everything.  We must instead discover where God wants to use us.”

So true.  And I love the balanced and well-articulated way that idea is expressed.

Between the romance, the suspense, and the weighty issues dealt with, this book kept my attention riveted from beginning to end.  I’m glad I took the time to read… or technically (since I bought the audio edition), listen to it.

Thoughts on the Audio Performance:

I thought the narration was well done with a clear and articulate reading, and I would encourage audiobook readers to seek out the audio edition.  Despite a large cast of characters, narrator Julia Whelan manages to differentiate their voices well.  I particularly enjoyed the Old World brogue incorporated into the voices of Mr. and Mrs. McCormick.  Throughout the novel, each character’s voice was uniquely hers or his, yet consistent from scene to scene.  In many cases, the voice selected was so well matched to the character’s personality that the voice became inseparable from the character in my mind.  Quite the performance!

Have you read or listened to this book?  What did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section here, or over on the Bookshelves and Windows blog, where the first of the #HedlundChallenge2015 discussions is taking place today.  (And if you want to learn more about the challenge and consider reading along, check out what Jamie and Cassie had to say about it in their inaugural posts.  It looks like next month’s read will be Rebellious Heart over on the Books and Beverages blog.)