Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Governess of Highland Hall - Carrie Turansky

Title: The Governess of Highland Hall
Author: Carrie Turansky
Paperback: 314 pages (ARC version)
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Published date: October 2013
FTC: Requested from Blogging for Books

I signed up a while ago to the site Blogging for Books which is part of Waterbrook Multnomah Books.  They are a Christian book publishing company and this is my second book I've requested from them.  Think of Downton Abbey era meets Jane Eyre governess and you've got The Governess of Highland Hall.  While this book didn't blow me away, it was a cute story and a fun setting.  I'd read another Carrie Turansky book.  Looking on Goodreads this books is touted as Edwardian Bride #1 so there will probably be more.

Back of the book:

Worlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help? 
Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey. 
Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith. 
While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?

My thoughts:

First things first: this is a Christian book and it's pretty obvious.  I was obviously ok with it because I'm a Christian and I signed up to read this knowing the book's stance.  But if you just grabbed it off the shelf you'd probably know that to because, well, Julia Foster is a missionary so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.  

This is a great quick book if you are needing to come out of a reading slump like I was.  I was in one of those keep picking up books but nothing was sticking mood.  This is a quick, light, and fun read.  I enjoyed most of the characters including the side characters.  While sometimes Julia Foster seemed a little too perfect, it wasn't too grating because I love how books like these divulge her inner thoughts and prayers.  A quick short little sentence that really states her fears and thoughts and it's refreshing.  I think the only character I'd have liked to know more is Sir William Ramsey.  It was hard to get to know him too much because he was completely overwhelmed with being thrown into the role of Highland Hall's master and dealing with all the financial problems that come with it.  The character I really enjoyed was Sir William's sister, Sarah, who became a good friend of Julia's and was a refreshing change from the snobby elitism you'd expect from women of her class.  

The only real problem I had with the writing is that while most of the story is told through Julia or William's perspectives, there were random once in while chapters told from other characters' perspectives.  While I didn't mind those perspectives, it made it a bit confusing and sporadic feeling.  I would have liked to just stick with the two perspectives.  


I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bellman & Black - Diane Setterfield

Title: Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story
Author: Diane Setterfield
Paperback: 337 pages (ARE version)
Publisher: Atria
Published date: October 2013
FTC: Requested to review from Atria

I was so excited when I saw Atria was offering the newest Diane Setterfield book.  I really enjoyed her book The Thirteenth Tale (must re-read that one again) and thought this one sounded pretty good.  I mean a ghost story for the fall.  Diane Setterfield is a good writer.  Beautiful really.  But the story was just, well, boring.  I think this would translate a lot better into a short story.

Back of the book:

 One moment in time can haunt you forever.

As a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with his slingshot. The act is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games, but has unforeseen and terrible consequences. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems to have put the whole incident behind him. But rooks don't forget. When a stranger mysteriously enters his life, William's fortunes begin to turn. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, he enters into a bargain. A rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business. And Bellman & Black is born.

My thoughts:

I am a nerd for history.  My undergrad degree is in history and I am just a sucker for things that probably are completely boring to other people.  Bellman & Black is chock full of details.  But even the historian fiend in me started yawning.  I mean it IS interesting.  If you want to know all about the Victorian era - how Bellman ran a country business selling wool and dyes.  How he methodically expanded his business.  How he eventually got into the Victorian craze for death and created a company that catered to the business of burying loved ones.  All very well researched and in depth descriptions.  But man.  I just wanted to get to the ghost story part.

Which brings me to the ghost story part.  I get that killing a bird as a boy would probably be a pretty memorably haunting event.  But each chapter had a little section on rooks and while it started out interesting it just got boring and repetitive.  Then the ending of the ghost story - to me - just fell flat.  All that build up and all that detail....

As I said before, this would have made one fantastic short story.  This story would appeal to you if you were really interested in rooks, Victorian era industry, or the Victorian era burial traditions.

Alternate Covers:

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Title: The Forgotten Garden
Author: Kate Morton
Paperback: 645 pages
Published date: 2008
Publisher: Pan Books
FTC: Bought at library book sale

Whenever I get into a reading slump I know that a Kate Morton book will get me back on track. It's amazing how her books just suck me into the story and I can speed through these little chunksters.  My only problem is now I've read them all (this is my second favorite - first being her newest The Secret Keeper).  I'm going to have to go back and re-read my first Morton book The House at Riverton.

Back of the book:

1913 - On the eve of the First World War a little girl is abandoned after a grueling ocean voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember of the journey is that a mysterious women she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her. But the Authoress has vanished without trace.

1975 - Now an old lady, Nell travels to England to discover the truth about her parentage. Her quest leads her to Cornwall, and to a beautiful estate called Blackhurst Manor, which had been owned by the Mountrachet family. What has prompted Nell's journey after all these years?

2005 - On Nell's death her granddaughter, Cassandra, comes into a surprise inheritance. Cliff Cottage, in the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, is notorious amongst the locals for the secrets it holds - secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is at Cliff Cottage, abandoned for years, and in its forgotten garden, that Cassandra will uncover the truth about the family and why the young Nell was abandoned all those decades before.

My thoughts:

For some reason I've been on a random kick lately reading books set in Cornwall.  It wasn't a conscious decision but it's been making me long to travel.  Morton always has a beautiful way of writing and developing the landscape and characters.  Her stories are always set in different time periods, chapters alternating in time adding pieces to a type of jigsaw mystery.  I love how she does it and how it all comes together at the end.  While I wasn't really surprised (guessed most of the mysteries before they were reviled) it was still a lovely ride.

I was reading Kate Morton's bio at the front of this book and noticed that she grew up in Australia.  Most of her books have taken place in the UK so it was pretty cool to have the Australia part in this one.  I'd love to see her write more about her native home.

Like her previous novels, it's not only the time period and location that sucks me in, but how she writes her characters.  This one was no exception.  It's amazing to see how secrets change lives.  I fell for the Authoress, Eliza, of this story.  If you have never read a Kate Morton book, try picking up The Forgotten Garden.  Beautiful.

Cover versions:

The above cover is the book I found at the local library book sale.  It's a UK version.  I also adore the US version cover.  Her books all have the same look and I would love to collect these ones:

While perusing Kate Morton's website, I also noticed there are new paperback versions with a different type of cover.  Not sure how I feel about these.  They feel too generic romancy.  What are your thoughts?

Check out my reviews for Kate Morton's other titles: The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper, The House at Riverton