Review: The Doctor’s Lady

The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund
Bethany House, 2011

My Thoughts:

Priscilla White knows that God has called her to be a missionary in India. The only problem is the Missionary Board won’t let her go unless she is married. Dr. Eli Ernest is going West to set up a mission and live among the Indians, however, he faces the same predicament as Priscilla.

Both have a strong desire to serve God, so they decide to get married in name only; a business arrangement. But, as they travel West to the mission field, Priscilla and Eli weather hardships and a grueling journey together. Will it unite them in their marriage, or threaten to tear them apart?

The journey from New York to Oregon, which is basically from one end of the country to the other, was no easy venture. I thought the character development in the midst of this journey was amazing. Both Eli and Priscilla come to the end of themselves, and have to really look at who they are and in what areas they need to grow. It is when they realize this that they are humbled.

They realize that they may not make it when things don’t go exactly as planned, and the only way to get through it is to depend and trust on God and each other. Throughout their journey, Eli and Priscilla learn a lot about themselves and each other. They slowly find themselves falling in love, despite their plan to keep things professional.

This book was inspired by Narcissa Whitman, who was the first woman to travel to the West. I love that Jody wrote this book based on real people. In the author’s note in the back of the book, she explains that much of the plot was based on real journal entries from Narcissa’s diary.

This book is breathtaking and I completely loved it from start to finish. Jody Hedlund has the ability to weave romantic tension into every scene and plot twist. She has quickly made her way onto my list of favorites. At this point, I will buy whatever she writes, because her books are just that good.

Rating: 5 stars

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Discussion: Are star ratings always necessary?

Discussion time! Last time we talked about 1/2 star ratings and whether or not they are a good idea. Today, I have a completely different idea to think about in regard to rating books.

Should we have star ratings?

Let me explain.

I like to include a rating as part of my reviews, as it is a concrete way to define how much I liked a book. Also, it allows readers to have a clear understanding of how I felt about a book.

However, I feel that ratings sometimes get in the way of the actual review. When I write a review, I put a lot of myself into it: the writing of the review, the editing, the adjusting, etc. I want to share thoughtful reviews with my readers.

The reason I bring up this topic today is because I want the reviews I write to stand on their own, and let the words I write resonate with others. By adding a rating, I feel that it can sometimes take away from the review you worked so hard to write thoughtfully.

What’s your opinion? Are ratings a must? Or should you let the review speak for itself?

Review: Against the Tide

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House, 2012

My Thoughts:
On her website, Elizabeth Camden says she loves “writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges.”

I can’t think of a better way to describe Against the Tide.

Lydia Pallas grew up with uncertainty surrounding her. At the age of nine, she finds herself alone when her parents don’t return for her after school. From that moment on, Lydia has been alone. Fast-forward fifteen years, and Lydia has made a life for herself.  Because of her knowledge of ships and her expert skills in multiple languages, she has been working for the United States Navy for the last four years. She has worked hard to leave the orphanage she grew up in and distance herself from the poverty she has known too well.

Lydia’s simple, ordered life gets complicated when Alexander “Bane” Banebridge decides he needs her help.  Bane needs Lydia’s help with translating various, seemingly pointless documents under mysterious conditions. However ridiculous the arrangement seems to Lydia, she needs the money, so she helps Bane. Little does she know the importance of the work he gives her.

Bane’s mysterious past is what drives him. But it also prevents him from letting other people into his life. He too, feels alone. His life has been full of pain and fear. Now his mission to destroy the very thing that he helped set in motion threatens to overtake his life, leaving no room for anything or anyone else.

Bane and Lydia are a wonderful duo. They both have wit and tease one another, which was a great dynamic to watch. They balanced one another with their easy banter and a shared past. These two lonely souls find each other and finally know they have found their match. But, with so much standing in their way, will their relationship ever survive?

A story of love, risk, and danger. This compelling read will urge you to turn the page to see what will happen next and will not let go. Not only does it sweep you into another time and place, but it also captures your attention by tackling heavy issues. This is a refreshing novel, not to be missed.

So: fiercely intelligent people? Check.  Confronted with profound challenges? Double check.

Elizabeth Camden just got all her books added to my TBR list.

Rating: 5 stars

Summary (from the back cover):
After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

Lydia’s talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade, Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.

When Bane’s enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane’s mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.

When forces conspire against them from without and within, can their love survive?

Review: The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd


The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd
Whispers on the Moors, Book 2
Thomas Nelson, 2013

Summary (from the publisher’s website):
Patience Creighton has dedicated herself to the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. But the return of the enigmatic master of the estate puts everything she loves at risk.

Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she invests herself in teaching at her father’s school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to make the school successful.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin’s edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of property — including the land where Rosemere School is located — but possesses little money to manage its upkeep. When debtors start calling, he is desperate to find a new source of income, even if it means sacrificing Rosemere.

When a fire threatens the school grounds, William must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect his birthright. And when Patience’s brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience suddenly finds herself unsure of her calling. After a surprising truth about William’s past is brought to light, both William and Patience will have to seek God’s plans for their lives—and their hearts.

My Thoughts:
When this novel opens with William Sterling being attacked and injured because of the debt he owes, it is immediately evident that William is in dire need of money. Instead, he finds himself on the doorstep of Rosemere in the care of Patience Creighton.

Patience has a quiet and gentle spirit which has given her the strength to keep moving forward, even amidst the grief she has faced. When her father died, she took responsibility for the Rosemere School for Young Ladies and is passionate to help teach and run the school. She has resigned herself to a solitary life, as she is 25 and has no suitors.

Both William and Patience feel alone. But when a fire occurs at the school, William and Patience find themselves fighting the undeniable attraction they feel towards one another.

There were many twists and turns in the plot that were unexpected (and some that were), which made this read interesting. William and Patience slowly get to know one another, and their relationship grows and falters as secrets come to light and certain secondary characters threaten their happy ending.  However, I felt that William and Patience did not have enough interaction in this book. They weren’t together as often as I would have liked to have seen, but this was for good reason. Both characters had a lot going on in their individual lives that occupied much of their time.

The secondary characters added depth to this book. To highlight a few characters, I must mention Patience’s brother, Rawdon and his wife, Lydia. On the heels of their arrival, they bring much conflict and change, which sets off a series of events that brings upheaval to Rosemere. And shortly after their arrival, another unwelcome guest returns, leaving Patience feeling unsettled.

As for Cassandra, Patience’s best friend, she was a sweet and lovely character. She didn’t have a particularly happy ending, and I would be interested to see what is next for her. Perhaps the next book?

Rating: 3 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The 1/2 Star Rating

Welcome to the first discussion post of the year! As I said in my End of The Year Post, I want to promote discussion here on the blog, so today we will be talking about rating books with half stars.

Who uses half stars to rate books? Up until now, I have set a personal rule for myself to not use them. I have made it so that books are either worthy of a solid 4 stars or 5 stars, etc. And I have not strayed from this because I wanted my rating system to be simple and straightforward.

However, I have read a few books recently that have been difficult to rate under this framework. Some books are not worthy of a solid point rating. It isn’t quite 3 stars but it definitely isn’t 4 stars. Or a book I enjoyed is better than 4 stars but not quite worthy of 5 stars.

Has it become unfair to not have half-point scores? To go straight from a in-the-middle 3 to a I-really-liked-this 4 can be quite the jump for some books. And when a book is not quite a I-will-love-this-forever 5, but neither is it just a I-really-liked-this 4, what do you do? Give the book a higher score than it deserves? Or not give it enough credit?

My self-imposed rule is becoming a problem. Should I incorporate half-star points into my reviews?

What’s your take on this topic? Do you use half-star ratings? Or do you use a different scoring system altogether?

*With all that said, I want to stress that rating books is completely SUBJECTIVE. So what may be a 3 star book for me, may be a 5 star this-is-the-best-book-I’ve-ever-read book for you. No hard feelings, ok?

Review: A Lasting Impression

A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander
A Belmont Mansion Novel, Book 1
Bethany House, 2011

Summary (from the back cover):
Claire Laurent’s greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she’s forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she’s sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville’s society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach–but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.

The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton’s home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family’s honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined–as well as the woman he loves.

Set at Nashville’s historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves–and each other–for who they really are.

My Thoughts:

“Just as hundreds of brushstrokes comprised a finished canvas, people were made up of a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad. And without knowing what someone had endured, it was impossible to truly know them- and accept them- for who they were” (384).

Why have I waited this long to read a Tamera Alexander book? I completely loved it and I can’t wait to get my hands on another one of her books! Ms. Alexander has a beautiful writing style that captured me. She is able to paint a picture with her beautiful words, just as the main character, Claire, paints pictures on canvas. Her writing is rich and layered, which made my reading experience truly enjoyable. From the setting, to the history, to the plot and characterization, Tamera Alexander has written a book that has lingered in my thoughts over the last few days.

Claire Laurent is desperately trying to leave the past behind. It is made up of bad memories and she wants to start fresh with her life. But her secret always seems to be lurking around the corner. Sutton Monroe has lost a lot in recent years, and the pain of it all threatens to make him bitter. But Claire breaths new life into his world. As Claire and Sutton get to know one another, will they be able to share a life together and move forward? Or will the past tear them apart?

This story shows that the past does not define you, nor should you let it. Rather, let God define who you are. The journey that Claire goes on in this book is one of redemption and forgiveness, as she learns from her mistakes and grows into a beautiful woman, both on the inside and the outside.

One last thing I wanted to discuss: Mrs. Adelicia Acklen. In one word, I would describe her as enigmatic. She intrigued me throughout the novel. She is a prominent woman who is confident and expects the best from the people around her. She is direct and honest, and never shies away from speaking her thoughts. Yet, she is also a loving woman who cares deeply for her children and loved ones. And as you discover the pain of her past, you symapthize with her and discover her heart. A beautiful character that I very much enjoyed reading about.

Rating: 5 stars

“We should not expect to have all the blessings of life and none of its trials. It would make this world too delightful a dwelling place, and I fear we would never care to leave it. As it is…I have come to believe that it’s only by taking some of those objects from us to which our hearts so closely cling that He endeavors…in His kindness, to draw us from this world to one of greater happiness” (297).

Review: A Bride in the Bargain

A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist
Bethany House, 2009

I think I need to go out and find another Deeanne Gist book, because I loved this one! It started out slow, and I was unsure about it, but I completely fell in love with the characters, and I’m not quite sure when exactly it happened, it just did.

First, let me introduce you to Joe Denton. He is a lumberjack who has put his life into his land. His wife died 10 years ago, so now he is in danger of losing his land, and Joe would do just about anything to keep it. Anything. Even buy a Mercer bride.

Enter Anna Ivey. She comes west to start over. She has lost her parents and brother, and she believes with all her heart that it is her fault they died. She has closed her heart off from loving anyone else, because she thinks her love puts the people she cares for in danger. She has no intention of ever getting married. Ever.

So what happens next? Anna refuses to marry Joe, and thus puts his land in jeopardy of being lost. Will Joe lose his land? And will Anna ever open her heart again?

I thought this story was sweet. I love the setting in Seattle, Washington. Gist’s descriptions of the trees and land made me feel like I was there.  And watching two people accidentally fall in love and try to hide it was entertaining.  A cute story that took me by surprise and left me wanting to read more.

Rating: 4 stars

My library has these other Deeanne Gist books:

Courting Trouble
Maid to Match
Love on the Line

Which one should I read next? Recommendations, please?