Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review of With You Always by Jody Hedlund



With You Always is book #1
in the new Orphan Train series
by Jody Hedlund,
kicked off with the e-novella
An Awakened Heart.

 New York 1850s: A financial crisis has left widows and children begging in the streets. Some women have even turned to prostitution as a last resort to feed their starving children. Luckily, for the Neumann sisters, a mission has provided the eldest with a seamstress job to provide for her famil.

In the throes of a gang war on the streets, Elise depends on the wealthy Thornton Quincy to help her rescue a blind beggar. The young Quincy abandons his urgent business to assist in securing the safety of the women sheltering at the mission. He is given a quick view of life on the other side of the tracks, vowing financial support for the mission. Unfortunately, he goes on with life and forgets about his vow.

Eventually, the financial crisis hits home again for Elise—the sewing work that had provided an income for so many at the mission came to an end. She is forced to look for another means to support her family.

Elise Neumann only sees one way to save her family—leave the others in the care of the mission’s founder and board an “orphan train” to the Midwest, hoping to land a good job as a seamstress and send money home for her sisters. Her goal is to someday reunite her family.

Thornton Quincy, son to one of New York’s wealthiest businessmen, crosses paths with Elise a second time when he finds her aboard a train taking him to a new town he is developing in Illinois.
Elise and Thornton are from two very different worlds. Can they work together to make things better for the workers in Quincy, Illinois? Will Elise find a way to reunite her family before it’s too late?

~



Introduced in the free novella An Awakened Heart, Elise Neumann is a strong young woman of high character who faces life’s hardest challenges with courage and determination. Although, her faith in a God who cares is waning, and she’s running quite short on hope.

Set in the 1850s, With You Always highlights women involved with the effort to resettle orphaned children from the harsh conditions in the city—where many learn to turn to crime as a means of survival—to a Christian home in the Midwest. Unfortunately, the reality wasn’t always as it was supposed to be.

This storyline follows a few young women escaping the hardships of New York for a better life in Illinois. The New York Children’s Aid Society has offered jobs to some of the young women with marketable skills, in the growing towns along the railways of the Midwest, particularly one being developed by Thornton Quincy.

Jody Hedlund never disappoints, and this series promises to be as intriguing as any of her others. Hedlund breathes life into her characters, painting a clear picture of their day to day struggles. You will fall in love with Elise and cheer for Thornton in this wonderfully written novel.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Brown Shoes VS Black Shoes

Aspiring writer friends, I know we want people to love our writing, and subsequently buy our books—hopefully more than a few people—but what about those who don’t? How much does that matter to you?

If you’re writing a psychological thriller, and a friend only reads western romance novels with hunky cowboys, chances are, she won’t like your book. Understandable, right?  I won’t bother purchasing your cowboy romance, nor will I buy your newly published book about aliens invading San Francisco. Okay, if we know each other well, I will buy them. I’ve read many books out of my normal interests because I know the author, but I will never buy a book like “Fifty Shades of Grey”—even if my daughter writes it!  I will wish you the best of luck, but don’t expect me to read it. And that should be okay. It doesn’t reflect on your ability to write a good book. It only says my interests are different.

 I recently pinned some photos of plants that I hope to add to the landscape of our soon-to-be home. A friend commented that a couple of the plants I liked would "grow ugly". I knew what she meant, but that feature was one of the things that I liked about the plant. She conceded that people have different tastes with a comment something like, "That's why we have brown shoes and black shoes." 

No matter where your talent lies, there will be someone who doesn’t appreciate it. I don’t think many would say Barbra Streisand can’t sing, but there are many who would not pay to own her albums.

I say all this to encourage you. And as writers, we all need encouragement. There are enough stumbling blocks in this process without raising our expectations beyond realistic heights—that everyone in the world would fall in love with our book and give it raving five-star reviews. Not. Gonna. Happen.

This afternoon, I finished reading TheNight Bird by Brian Freeman.I LOVED this book! Psychological thriller is one of my favorite genres. However, I find many authors can’t tell a tale without excessive foul language and sex. I’d rather not read it. This author had enough talent that he could fill a book without the need for graphic sex and bad talk. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. 

I went on Amazon to post a review, and as always, there were numerous one-star reviews. I read through them to see what it was that people disliked about this book. One reviewer wrote that it would desensitize people to violence. Well, that is debatable for sure. But wouldn’t that hold true for all psychological thrillers? Is it fair to rate a book so low because you don’t like the genre? More than one said the plot wasn’t believable. I often read reviews criticizing an author for writing exactly the way the genre should be written!

Okay, it wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read. The author had a habit of using the “grocery list” method of describing characters. In a couple of places, it harshly interrupted the flow of the story. (If I were his editor, this is an area I would have asked him to chop.) And although the storyline was crazy, it’s supposed to be! It’s a psychological thriller. That means it’s also fiction. I don’t think the events in this book could really happen. I don’t care. It was entertaining and had me turning pages on the edge of my seat!

I’m glad Mr. Freeman isn’t going to stop writing because a few people don’t like his books. I plan on reading many more from this author. I’m sure that the bestselling authors have had more than their share of bad reviews. So when you finish that manuscript and throw it out there to the world, don’t dwell on that reader who says your book bored him, or she didn’t care for your style, or your story isn’t feasible. Dwell on the fact that you did it! Dwell on all the times people told you it was good. Dwell on the enjoyment you got when you typed The End. Dwell on being called a published author.

By the way, I prefer brown shoes...but I often wear black.



Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review of For Love and Honor by Jody Hedlund


Prequel to the Series



We first met Sir Bennet in The Vow: Prequel to An Uncertain Choice, but this book can be read as a stand-alone story. Though, having read the entire series, I highly recommend reading them all. Three knights in shining armor—what’s not to love!


Sir Bennet returns home to find that his brother has driven the family into debt, and time has run out for repayment to the neighboring lords. Without repayment, there is imminent danger of an attack. Sir Bennet’s mother convinces him—much against his honorable heart—that the only way to save his family’s land and collection of valuable artifacts is to marry a wealthy noblewoman.
 
Lady Sabine was born with a skin blemish—one that she keeps hidden for fear of being labeled a witch! She is convinced that no man would ever love her with such a disfigurement. Her grandmother, learning of the financial woes of Sir Bennet, has plans for an arranged marriage. Can Sir Bennet set aside his honorable values and marry for money? What will he do when he discovers his only recourse to war might be marriage to a woman branded as a witch?

 
This latest installment in the Uncertain Choice series, like the others in this series, is filled with knights in battle, chivalry, and virtue. While Hedlund’s lead characters are quite likeable, her villains are as loathsome as they come. 

I particularly love the way this author paints women as capable rather than powerless. Even though this leading lady is on more than one occasion a damsel in distress, needing rescue from a knight in shining armor, Hedlund still portrays her as a woman of strong character—courageous in the face of danger.
  

This story has a very good lesson about self-acceptance. As Lady Sabine comes to the realization that God had created her with this blemish purposefully—that she was unique, and should embrace her qualities rather than live in shame. In this world that places so much emphasis on physical looks, it is refreshing to have a heroine who is not painted as exquisitely beautiful.

This story moves at a very good pace. It’s a definite page turner—I read it in two sittings. As always, the descriptive writing and settings are lusciously wonderful and the technical aspects impeccable—just as I’ve come to expect from this author.

Even though this series is listed under the genre Young Adult,
it is quite appealing to old ladies like me.

You can learn more about this series at Jody Hedlund's website.