Polite Applause but No Standing Ovation for Turano’s “Playing the Part”

playing the partHave you ever been to a local community theatre and have been entertained but not because the set is magnificent or the acting is worthy of an Oscar? You tell people they did an awesome job but their performance would not hold a candle to successful Hollywood actors?

That’s kind of how I feel about Playing the Part by Jen Turano. The story never got boring but it was all in all a bit too light-hearted for me to feel like it was anything but a fluff novel. In comparison to some other novels I read, it just fell short in many areas. Before I get into why I felt it was “fluffy,” let me give you a quick overview of the plot that was given to me by the publisher.

“After a fan’s interest turns sinister, actress Lucetta Plum asks her friend, widow Abigail Hart, for help. Abigail takes her to a secluded estate, then reveals her own agenda by introducing Lucetta to her eccentric grandson. Bram is clearly interested in her but also mysterious. When danger catches up to Lucetta, will her friends be able to protect her?”

After reading this plot summary, I expected a sinister, danger-filled novel filled with mystery and excitement. There was a bit of danger, particularly towards the end as Lucetta is kidnapped and her mother is threatened, but the amount of hilarity and ridiculousness did a lot to keep the plot from feeling sinister. It made it hard to take the book earnestly, invest in the characters, and immerse myself in story, which is what I want to do when reading a book.

The majority of the book takes place in fictional Ravenwood castle above New York City in 1882 (I did love the unique time period/setting choice) that comes complete with its own fake cemetery and mausoleum to ensure Bram, the owner’s, need for privacy. Bram employs a motley crew of servants, a reformed group of criminals hailing from the Lower East Side. Their antics lends to the slight ridiculousness of the plot, including their frequently shooting cannonballs at anyone who dares approach the castle. Of course, the setting would not be complete without a misfit collection of unwanted animals, including a goat who loves (err hates?) anything in a dress; thus, leading to quite a few marathon runs around the grounds as Lucetta flees dearly for her life. All of this as well as other ragtag characters and suits of armor walking around the castle on their own make this book rather laughable–in other words, an entertaining bit of fluff if you are looking for something to pass time that doesn’t require much thinking or emotional investment. I imagine this is what the author intended when she wrote this book. If not, I would advise perhaps including a little less hilarity and spend more time creating characters immersed in a plot line with more depth. As it is, it’s an entertaining read–much like you’d get entertained at a local community theatre. However, I don’t think it has enough to make it to the New York Time‘s bestseller list or to carry it to Broadway, if I was to continue the theatre comparison.

Please note that I received a copy of this ebook for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Not So Sweet on “Amish Sweethearts”

Amish Sweethearts

Does it look like the forest is on fire to anyone else or is that just me?

Okay, it kills me that I don’t have a glowing review for Leslie Gould’s new book, Amish Sweethearts. I always look forward to being transported back to an idyllic setting where the modern world fades away as faith, farms, and friendships take the forefront. However, with this book, I was rather looking forward to the last page. It isn’t that I hated it–I just didn’t love it. I’m sure my Kobo Glo taking over a minute to flip a page did not help, but I truly am not holding that against the ebook itself. I’ll share one positive and one negative aspect of the story and then let you decide for yourself what you think of it!

I’ll start with the negative. For this being a love story, it drove me crazy that the two main characters spent over half of the book not saying a word to each other. To provide a little background, the two main characters (Zane, an Englisher, and Lila, an Amish girl) grew up next to each other and were best friends as kids. When Zane graduated from high school, they did not admit their secret feelings for each other. Instead, Lila started dating a nice Amish young man her father chose, and Zane, with a broken heart, joined the army so that he would have a purpose in life. Zane went off to war, which the peace-loving Amish people do not support. As the story progressed over the next several years, the pair would go out of their way to avoid each other, even though they were often within walking distance of one another. I just personally find it hard to believe that love could still burn so strong and could get stronger over time when you go out of your way to avoid the other person’s presence.

With the negative part of my review over, I’ll tell you what I thought Leslie Gould did exceptionally well and that is transporting readers to a little written about setting–that of the mountainous region of Afghanistan. As an American, I have limited exposure to the people and customs of Afghanistan. I’m afraid I only hear about the country in terms of the war in Afghanistan, which I’m rather ashamed to admit. However, through Zane’s time stationed in Afghanistan during the war, Gould really made me have a greater appreciation for the Afghani people and what their lives are like. I feel like I know more about Afghanistan from reading Amish Sweethearts than I have learned about the country in my entire life. She made the people seem real to me. I am more interested in what is happening in that country since I have a greater idea what daily life is like for its residents.

It’s not often that I don’t write a glowing review. However, I promised to write an honest review in exchange for receiving the free ebook. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel!