Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Daughter of Highland Hall" Blog Tour


The Daughter of Highland Hall
 
What if the title, the estate, the life of security and splendor . . . what if it isn't enough?

Strong-willed and beautiful, debutante Katherine Ramsey feels ready to take the London social season by storm, and she must. Her family estate, Highland Hall, has been passed to older male cousin Sir William Ramsey, and her only means of securing her future is to make a strong debut and find a proper husband. With her all-knowing and meddling aunt as a guide, Katherine is certain to attract suitors at the lavish gatherings, sparkling with Great Britain's elite.
 
When a shocking family scandal sidelines Katherine, forcing her out of the social spotlight, she keeps a low profile, volunteering with the poor in London's East End. Here Katherine feels free from her predictable future, and even more so as a friendship with medical student Jonathan Foster deepens and her faith in God grows. But when Katherine is courted anew by a man of wealth and position, dreams of the life she always thought she wanted surface again. Torn between tradition and the stirrings in her heart for a different path, she must decide whom she can trust and love---and if she will choose a life serving others over one where she is served.
 
 
Book 2, Edwardian Brides (Waterbrook Multnomah, October 2014)

Learn more, purchase a copy, and read an excerpt: http://ow.ly/C7LAY
 

 
About the author: 
 
Carrie Turansky is an award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and novellas. She has written contemporary and historical romances, women's fiction, short stories, articles, and devotionals. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Scott, and they have five adult children and four grandchildren.

Find Carrie online: website, Facebook, Twitter
 
 
 
 
My Take:
 
When I requested this book for review from Litfuse, I was not aware that it was book two in a series. Fortunately, the author gave enough background information in this book that I never felt totally lost. There were times when I would think - "I feel as if I would know that character better if I had read the first book." - But for the most part, it was fine.
 
I thought the setting for this book was really interesting. I had no idea that there was still so much emphasis placed on status and society in England during this time period (Edwardian era - around 1901 - 1910). The pomp and circumstance associated with Katherine's debut and the details surrounding that part of the book were done well. It was easy to envision all of the events that were taking place.
 
I also thought that the spiritual side of this book was something that was well-written. It's not easy to weave faith throughout a story without it coming off as preachy, but I thought. Ms. Turansky accomplished this feat. It is also a huge pet peeve of mine when a Christian book seems to have absolutely zero Christian elements to it. Thankfully, this was not the case with The Daughter of Highland Hall.
 
This novel has a very Upstairs/Downstairs, Downton Abbey feel to it, which I feel will appeal to many readers. There are so many story lines going on in this novel! At first I didn't really like that the book came at you from so many angles. Towards the end, however, it kind of grew on me, and I was able to appreciate the various storylines, which did seem to keep the novel moving.
 
The romance in this novel is sweet - I liked Jon as a character, especially - but some of the things that kept them apart were kind of old plotlines that were a tad contrived. I'm sure that it's difficult as an author to mix in something new to a romantic plotline. After all, humans are humans, and there is really "nothing new under the sun." Even with the somewhat predictable romantic storyline, the main characters did experience growth throughout the novel - as individuals and as a couple - which redeemed it overall for me.
 
Ms. Turansky is a new author for me, and I enjoyed my first foray into her stories. I might just have to go back and read the first book in the Edwardian Brides series!
 
I will give The Daughter of Highland Hall ... 3.5 BookWorms.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Multnomah Books through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Playing By Heart" Review

After many years of hard work, Lula Bowman has finally landed a collegiate teaching position and a prestigious scholarship in mathematics. As a woman, neither of those were easy to come by, but Lula has proven herself to be worthy of such an endeavor.

But when she receives a frantic phone call from her sister, Lula reluctantly returns to her hometown of Dunn, Oklahoma.

Giving up her scholarship and her teaching position at the university, she agrees to the only position she can find – high school music teacher and girls’ basketball coach. The music side of things Lula can handle. She has a talent for playing the piano, and she had a real passion for music when she was younger. But she knows nothing about basketball and has to turn to the boys’ coach for help.

Chet Vaughn currently teaches math at the high school as well as serves as coach for the boys’ basketball team. With his brother away fighting in the Great War, Chet is left to care for their widowed mother. The new music teacher should have been the last person to turn his head. After all, he had fended off every other eligible girl trying to get his attention in the last few years. But something about Lula catches Chet off guard, and he doesn’t really know what to expect.

As Chet and Lula spend more and more time together, they each try to combat their growing feelings. God is working in the hearts of both of them, and He might just be leading them in a direction hey never would have expected.

Set during World War One in a small Oklahoma town, Playing By Heart is a novel filled with warmth, hope, and faith in a God who gives us the desires of our hearts – even if those desires were not what we thought they would be.

I was really excited to pick up this book and read it since I have enjoyed several of Anne Mateer’s novels in the past. I was also excited about reading this book because the book I read previous to this one was so depressing and so terrible (not by Anne Mateer and not Christian fiction) I couldn’t even finish it. I was craving something nice and fun and uplifting to drown out the awfulness that had saturated my brain. (The awful book was not a review book. It was for my book club, and it’s not even worth mentioning the title!).

So it was with great joy that I dove right into Playing By Heart, and it met almost all of my expectations.

One of my favorite things about the book was how well I got to know the characters of Lula and Chet. The novel alternates between the viewpoints of the two, and each is written in first person. At first I thought this might be a bit awkward, but it actually wasn’t, and it helped me to really identify with the main characters well. I guess I identified with Lula the most since she had a passion for music – piano specifically – as well as an interest in academics. Her struggle to achieve what the world sees as success (college, math) rather than allowing her identity to be rooted in Christ was something that hit close to home for me. Lula and Chet were both intelligent characters that were strong without being overbearing.

I also thought the secondary characters were fleshed out very well in this novel. The boys and girls on the basketball teams were so fun, and the characters of Lula’s sister and Chet’s mother were so real. The other characters in the book really gave it a balance that was appropriate and refreshing.

The setting in this book was unique, which kept the plotlines from being completely cliché. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a book set during World War One that focused mainly on a love interest that revolved around high school basketball. I’m a huge sports fan and this part of the story really sold the plotlines overall for me.

While the plot was interesting – mostly because of the secondary characters and the basketball angle – there were things about the romantic plotline that were somewhat disappointing. There were some external factors and situations that kept Lula and Chet from discovering/declaring their interest in each other too early in the book, but most of what kept them apart was the much-used transgression of just not sitting down and talking to each other like adults. Their conversations were sometimes stilted and just downright frustrating.

Even though the romantic angle wasn’t quite to my liking, the rest of the book was. The message of faith was not extremely deep, but it was clear and woven throughout the novel and into the hearts and lives of the people in this small Oklahoma town.

And in case you're wondering, Playing By Heart was just the thing I needed to rid my mind of that previous atrocity of a book!


I will give Playing By Heart … 4 BookWorms.










Playing By Heart
by Anne Mateer
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 16, 2014
320 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"With Every Breath" Review


Kate Livingston is working as a government statistician in Washington, D.C., when she is surprisingly contacted by a former classmate and offered a new job. Trevor McDonough, a Harvard-educated doctor, is working in a tuberculosis wing at a local hospital and is determined to rid the world of this terrible disease. Kate is reluctant to accept Trevor’s proposal as the two were always such fierce academic rivals during their school days, but she is curious as to why Trevor would want her for the position.

As Kate and Trevor begin to work together, more and more of Trevor’s past comes to light. Kate realizes that she may have misjudged this intense, passionate man. But someone is determined to discredit Trevor and all that he has accomplished, and that might not be the only thing standing in their way.

Set in 1891 with the nation’s capital as a backdrop, With Every Breath is a novel based on the messages of overcoming fears and embracing life and joy.

I really like it when books really grab me from the start, and With Every Breath definitely did that. I absolutely loved how this novel began with the scholarship competition between Kate and Trevor. It was unique and was a great jumping off point for the eventual relationship between the two main characters.

I also really enjoyed the beginning of Kate and Trevor’s relationship – both their friendship and their romance. Their witty banter was fantastic, and I absolutely adored how Trevor was attracted to Kate as more than just a pretty face. He was attracted to her attitude and her intelligence as well. At one point, Trevor thinks to himself, “By heaven, was there anything more attractive than watching a pretty woman tackle a thorny mathematical equation?” That’s just awesome.

As their relationship developed, however, I kind of got bored with that part of the story, and it’s hard to explain why. I was glad that the reasons that kept them apart were valid and that those reasons didn’t feel contrived, but I guess I just felt as if there was too much back-and-forth – will they get together or won’t they? – and it became tiring. The mystery part of the story, however, was appealing and made up for some of the things lacking in the romance.

While the romance might not have been as interesting as I had hoped, the historical and medical aspects of this novel were fascinating. The author pays such attention to detail when it comes to the setting and to the feeling of being right there with the characters. I have read other historical novels where a character has tuberculosis, but I had never understood what a toll it takes and the medical history behind it. The medical aspects were a bit grisly at times, so if you are at all squeamish, be forewarned.


Although this book had a great story and an interesting historical setting, the Christian aspect of this book just didn’t go far enough for me. Kate did experience some spiritual growth in the fact that she ultimately had to come to terms with her fears and to trust God. This was one of the biggest messages that came through in this story - that constantly succumbing to her fears was also keeping her from experiencing great joy. But apart from that, it felt as if the book came from the vantage point that everyone who dies will go to heaven. Jesus coming to die for our sins, our admission of that sin, and our acceptance of His righteousness as our own did not come into play whatsoever.  Since the main focus of the book was tuberculosis, death was a major theme, but what happens after death was not. It just seemed very vague to me, and since death was at the forefront of the subject of this novel, I expected more.
While there were some aspects that kept me from liking it fully, it was still an enjoyable novel overall.

I will give With Every Breath ... 3.5 BookWorms.











With Every Breath
by Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: August 5, 2014






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."