Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Song From The Ashes by Megan Whitson Lee (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Song From The Ashes by Author Megan Whitson Lee!

Author Guest Post

The Story Behind Song From The Ashes

In 1993 I saw a movie called The Age of Innocence starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder. The movie was based on Edith Wharton’s classic novel of the same title, directed by Martin Scorsese, nominated for Academy Awards and Golden Globes (winning several that year). I was drawn to the tortured-love triangle—the idea that these two people (Newland and Countess Olenska) desperately wanted to be together, but because of Newland’s prior commitment to his fiancée May, the relationship was impossible. The story was set in 1870s New York City amidst rigid social conventions and expectations.

Over the years I watched the film several more times, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago I actually read the novel. Even though the book was written in 1920, the issues and themes (the quest for love, honoring commitments, infidelity, the struggle between personal happiness and doing the right thing) are relevant to the modern reader. I’d been thinking for some time about modernizing a classic novel, and one Sunday while I was sitting in church, the idea popped into my head: contemporary version of The Age of Innocence—set it in Kingsport, Tennessee (which is my hometown incidentally), and transform the tragic Countess Olenska into a failed Nashville music star. Kingsport is a small town and one prone to gossip—everybody knows everybody’s business. Even today there would be finger pointing and talk because of Ella Casey’s affair with a married music producer in Nashville.

On a side note, the subplot of the baby with Trisomy 18 was inspired by a cause near and dear to my heart. Trisomy is a chromosomal abnormality that takes place during conception when three, rather than two, chromosomes meet at a particular chromosome site (such as the 15th, 16th , 18th or 21st chromosome). I’ve personally lost five babies to Trisomy 15 and 16 (miscarrying before the 10th week).

In children with Trisomy 18, some of these children are not born alive; others do not live but a few hours or days. Some live for years. A close friend of mine lost her daughter to Trisomy 18 at 17 months, and her strength in the midst of such a terrifying ordeal was truly inspiring.

About The Author

Megan Whitson Lee grew up in Tennessee but moved to the Washington, D.C. area as a teenager. She worked for criminal attorneys before earning her master’s degree from George Mason University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. Previously she received a Bachelor of Arts in Music followed by a year-long residence in London where she worked as a Literary Assistant. Her self-published first novel All That is Right and Holy won second place in the 2009 Christian Choice Book Awards. Megan teaches high school English in Fairfax County, Virginia where she lives with her husband and two Greyhounds.

Her latest book is the Christian fiction, Song From the Ashes.


Book Review

Song From The Ashes by Megan Whitson Lee
Publisher: eLectio Publishing
Publication Date: July 31, 2014
Format: Paperback - 350 pages
              Kindle - 1959 KB
              Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 978-1632130426
Genre: Christian Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Song From The Ashes

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book Tours.

Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

Book Description:

Attorney Landon Kingsley craves order and normalcy, and aside from his well-hidden vice of smoking, he lives the life that everyone expects from him in his hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee. Recently engaged to beautiful nursing student, April May, Landon’s new fiancée is everything he could want in a wife. She is devoted to her faith and family and truly loves him.

April’s cousin, Ella Casey, has returned to Kingsport after ten years of pursuing a career as a country music singer in Nashville. Ella’s failed career and affair with a married music producer scandalizes her in the eyes of the town, but her legal troubles drive her to Landon for help. Landon finds himself increasingly attracted to Ella and more discontent than ever with the path he has chosen for his life. Amid a firestorm of family and town gossip, Landon is tormented by his past and the complicated decision of whether to listen to God’s voice or follow his own desires.

Song From The Ashes, a modern retelling of the classic Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence, explores the dilemma between the pursuit of dreams and personal happiness versus contentment in God’s plan for marriage and love.

Book Excerpt:

The snow was already forming crusts on the unsalted parts of the road that January evening. The weathermen had talked of a dusting, or perhaps even showers, but the severity of the precipitation was wholly unexpected. It was only a high school event—a talent show held at the local civic center. Even so, Landon Kingsley was upset with himself and his late arrival. Landon always made a point of being on time, but tonight he had lingered over the reading of a brief. At least that was how he rationalized it. In all honestly, he hadn’t wanted to stub out his cigarette prematurely. He always enjoyed a smoke when his mind was preoccupied.

Landon knew his girlfriend and her parents would be waiting for him. He slipped into the rear of the auditorium and scanned the mass of people for April and her family. She had texted that they were sitting near the front, and he cringed thinking that would make his entrance all the more embarrassing—everyone would see him entering late.

April’s two younger sisters were both in high school, and although he had not heard them sing, Landon understood they were talented. In fact, April’s Aunt Julia informed him that the entire family possessed great musical talent.

“On her daddy’s side of the family, everyone tends toward musical talent in piano and guitar. On her mama’s side, nearly everyone has beautiful singing voices—especially that Ella—she’s out in Nashville right now, you know. She’s been out there for years singing country music. I guess she does all right.”

Landon had never met Ella, but he had heard about her, and he understood that through some circumstance or other she would actually be attending the talent show that night.

As he made his way down the sloping aisle, he saw familiar faces—many of them flashing him a smile and a wave. In a town of this size, people knew each other or at least knew of one another. Part of the tri-cities area in Northeastern Tennessee consisting of Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol, Kingsport was the second largest of the three—a town of around fifty-thousand that had grown a little over the years but was no booming metropolis either. It retained a small-town feel, a place where people still smiled and greeted one another on the streets. A town where people spent their whole lives. Retirees from up north settled down there, and people who had lived there most or all of their lives called it home and heaven. The downside was that gossip spread like wildfire, and no one was ever free from the scrutiny of folks who wanted what you had or who didn’t think you had enough.

My Book Review:

Song From The Ashes is a compelling story about one man's struggle with the dilemma to do the right thing, when he is faced with choices in his life. Author Megan Whitson Lee weaves a wonderful modern adaptation of the classic Edith Wharton novel, The Age of Innocence.

Set in Kingston, Tennessee, the reader follows the riveting story of thirty-seven year old attorney Landon Kingsley, who marries twenty-five year old April May. It is a marriage that is seen as ideal by their families and local townspeople. Landon had a checkered past filled with chasing many women, but after he finds his faith, he turns a new leaf and meets April, a wonderful Christian girl who has all the qualities that he is looking for in a wife. Just when Landon has chosen April to be his bride, April's thirty-five year old cousin Ella Casey returns home after her country music career in Nashville has failed, and Landon finds himself unexpectedly attracted to Ella. Landon struggles with the dilemma to stay in his marriage to April or leave for a chance to be with Ella. Temptation, responsibility, and faith play a huge role in what happens between Landon, April, and Ella ... but a heartbreaking twist and life's hardest challenge is the deciding factor that will change everything in their lives.

Song From The Ashes is a powerful story that delves into the depth of faith and the struggle to make the right choices and decisions in life. Author Megan Whitson Lee weaves a tale that takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride as Landon, April, and Ella's story unfolds. You can't help but feel compassion and understanding for the dilemmas that the characters find themselves in. Life has a way of making a person face the challenges in their life, and find the strength and faith to make the right decisions. In Song From The Ashes, the author weaves a seamless tale that flows smoothly and intertwines the perspectives of all three characters into a captivating story that is both heart wrenching and redemptive.


Book Trailer

Virtual Book Tour 

Tour Schedule:

Tuesday, September 2
Interview at Examiner

Wednesday, September 3
Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

Monday, September 8
Interview at The Writer’s Life

Tuesday, September 9
Book Feature at Bound 2 Escape

Wednesday, September 10
Book Review at A Simple Life, Really?

Thursday, September 11
Book Feature at Reading, Writing & Ruckus

Monday, September 15
Character Interview at The Literary Nook

Wednesday, September 17
Book Review at Undercover Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 23
Character Guest Post at Written Love

Wednesday, September 24
Book Review at Seasons of Opportunities

Thursday, September 25
Book Review at Books, Reviews, ETC

Friday, September 26
Book Review & Guest Blogging at Jersey Girl Book Reviews