Friday, May 1, 2015

To Win Her Favor- Tamera Alexander

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who can help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing for good.

An Irish-born son far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and start a farm, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville’s racetrack––the richest race run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance, and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder, Maggie’s father––aging, yet wily as ever––makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail––Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts––and the escalating violence from a "secret society" responsible for lynchings and midnight raids––may prove too much for even two determined souls.

My Thoughts: To Win Her Favor is amazing. I have been a fan of Tamera's for a while now, but I have to say that this is probably my favorite of hers. (Did I mention that I am pretty sure this book ties back to Within My Heart?)

Tamera obviously likes to deal with tough situations and characters who have suffered much. To Win Her Favor is one of the most difficult so far, dealing with the racism of the South towards both African Americans and Irish immigrants. If you have a weak stomach for violence, I would not necessarily suggest this book, as it deals with lynchings and other heinous acts. What built up this book for me, though, was the characters' courage and faith through these situations.

While an unfortunate truth of the past, it was refreshing to read about a heroine who (in the beginning) believed most of the racism she had been brought up in. It gave me a good sense of just how much she had grown through the book and made the hero all the more likeable since he was able to put up with her prejudices.

As other reviewers have pointed out, there is a good bit of reference to the enjoyment of marital intimacy, and a few scenes that end with the strong implication of sex (though there are no actual sex scenes). For this reason, I would not suggest the novel for younger readers or those who take issue with sort of content.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Update- Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

About a week after I posted my original review of Dauntless, I received a new copy from the publisher (which was super nice of them!). It took me a day or two after to be able to read the 20 or so pages that had been missing from the original, but I have now, and I can tell you what I thought. In those missing pages were basically two things of note: the first was an incident which is mentioned later in the book (which cleared up my confusion over that), and a hint at what will occur in the next book. While neither of these things changes my opinion of Dauntless, the later does have me far more interested in reading the sequel.

Rebekah Gyger

Monday, April 27, 2015

I'm Going to JORDAN!- Guest Post Sign-ups

That's right, this summer I will be interning on an archaeology dig in Jordan, excavating a Roman fort. If you want to know more about this dig, you can look here, or I will be posting more information in a month or so.

Ayn Gharandal Site in Jordan

Since I will be in Jordan for nearly two months, I will not have as much time to review or post on Backing Books in that time. So I am opening up June / July for guest bloggers. Here is what I'm looking for:

Bloggers who-
* Wish to post a review on Backing Books - or- talk about writing on Backing Books.
* Want to advertise their own blog at the bottom of their post.
* Suggest their own idea.

Authors who-
* Wish to plug their own book -or- talk about writing on Backing Books.
* Want to advertise their own website at the bottom of their post.

Requirements for Posts-
* Must follow my guidelines found on How it Works.
* Books must be clean and posts must be suitable for YA readers.

What This Means for You-
Before hand, I will be posting a schedule, detailing who will be taking part, as well as what their posts are titled. Posting as a guest will bring you visibility to other posters' fans, as well as my own followers. There will be at least one giveaway, hosted by me, which will run the length of the guest posts, and hopefully bring in more views. 

If you want to take part in the June/ July guest bloggers, please email me at telling me so. I will respond with a document which you will need to fill out to let me know what all you want to do. Based on how many responses I receive, I will send out a schedule, list of content, and a deadline for your post be sent to me for upload.

On May 15th I will be closing sign ups, so please email me soon!

Rebekah Gyger

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dauntless- Dina L. Sleiman

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Though once a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village. Dubbed "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest," her band of followers soon become enemies of the throne when they hijack ill-gotten gold meant for the king.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, will he choose fame or love?

My Thoughts: The story which takes place in Dauntless is entertaining, if a bit less grand of a story than Robin Hood. The message to it is far more personal, about the choices we make in life, rather than national, the distribution of wealth and power.

There is a love triangle, and for once I found myself on the side of the guy who you know wont win the girl. I had liked Allen for Merry far more than I had liked Timothy. Unfortunately, this might have been because Timothy was described in the beginning in a very feminine way (soft, with hair pretty enough to be a girls), where Allen was more masculine. It took me a while to believe that Merry could have found Timothy so handsome, and then even longer to decide what else she liked about him.

As an "enemy" to the King, Merry constantly had to worry about being arrested. I believe most everyone remembers King John from the Robin Hood stories and how tyrannical he was, so Merry's concern was well justified. That and her being a thief, a crime punishable by hanging, made the conflict very real. However, I was disappointed when, toward the end, the villain Hadley served as the climax (or at least the final conflict, as my book was missing about 20 pages before this). It was disappointing after the continued reminder of just how dangerous the king was.

There is a good bit of the story to love. The kids are adorable, Allen's pretty awesome, and the danger is historicallyaccurate. Unfortunately, the ending disappointed me. I would have liked a little more conflict, as well as some more loose ends left to be tied up in the next book (which will probably be about Allen).

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Beneath the Forsaken City- C. E. Laureano

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Conor and Aine have barely escaped Seare with their lives. Conor knows he must return to find the harp that could end the Red Druid’s reign of terror, but in the midst of their escape, he and Aine are torn apart once more. Surrounded by despair and thrown into as much danger as they left behind, Conor and Aine must cling to the whispers of Comdiu’s plans for them and the homeland that depends on their survival. But at what cost? Will they learn to depend on Comdiu completely? Or will they give up hope?

My Thoughts: I love Eoghan. He has offically become my favorite character and I sorely wish he had been the main character in this series. However, I do understand that Conor and Aine were far more involved in the large scale view of world. Still, I found Eoghan to be a relatable character for all his skills and imperfects (particularly his pride).

The major theme in this series is trusting Comdiu, even in the hardest of times. It is an admirable theme which I did appreciate, however, at times I felt it went a little too far. The characters are constantly pushed to the edge, into situations where the average person (and most of the other characters) would give up. Yet somehow, these two manage to only doubt Comdiu for a couple paragraphs before they rally their faith. It would have been far more believable if they had doubted more, and still Comdiu brought about a good end.

I also struggled with Conor and Aine's romance. For most of this book (and the last) they were not even together, so the reader has little opportunity to actually see their relationship as something real and substantive.

The themes and unique setting make this series worth trying. I really enjoyed where Conor kept his word to Haldor, even when everyone else expected him not too. Unfortunately, both Conor and Aine's continued encounters with people of nobility and rank (even in the middle of nowhere), rather than common people, seemed all too perfect.

I wish I could say I loved this book. The idea of a married hero and heroine was what first drew me to this series, but I was disappointed by how little time they spent together. Maybe they will be together more in the next book.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Betting on Hope- Debra Clopton

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: A bet gone wrong. A small town's meddling. And a cowboy intent on saving his ranch.

Maggie Hope is an advice columnist whose background leaves her with little advice to give . . . and it's beginning to show. When Maggie fills in at an interview with champion horse trainer Tru Monahan, the on-camera chemistry between them is undeniable. Maggie's bosses know this is the opportunity she's been looking for to launch her career--and their bank accounts. In order to save her column, Maggie takes Tru up on the bet that he can teach her to ride a quick-stepping cutting horse like any cowgirl, despite the fact that she has never been on a horse. And in the meantime, she can get the scoop on the man under the cowboy hat.

Tru has been on the competition circuit for longer than he'd like, but he knows it's the only way he can afford to keep the Four of Hearts Ranch that means so much to his ailing grandfather. So when his sponsors see the opportunity for Tru's fans to get to know the star on a more intimate level, he knows he must oblige. To his dismay, Maggie not only invades his small town of Wishing Springs, but she also invades his heart, and that is something he cannot let any woman do--for her own good.

In Wishing Springs, Maggie finds what she has always been looking for: a community and a home. But when her past catches up to her, it threatens everything, even the tender hope that this town holds all of her heart's desires.

My Thoughts: Normally I don't care for contemporary novels, as they seem too farfetched or else too much like real life to be interesting. Betting on Hope falls in that perfect place in the middle. As a columnist and a rodeo star, the hero and heroine fall far enough outside the realm "normal" to be interesting, and are yet not so far gone from reality as to be unbelievable. They have great voices and I loved to read through their struggles and watch as they worked through them.

At points there were things I didn't care for. The towns people of Wishing Springs, for instance, seemed a bit stereotypical (though it seems many other reviewers loved them). It seemed a little like the only thing most of them cared about was Tru's love life. I also wish that Maggie could have told Tru about her past without a certain someone showing up and forcing her to. Yet I loved how he was able to support her with her relationship with Jenna.

Clopton does an amazing job of making the characters feel like you next door neighbor. I'm excited to see what happens to Bo in the next Wishing Springs book. Hopefully the story will be just as sweet.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for honest review.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Petticoat Detective- Margaret Brownley

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: Pinkerton detective Jennifer Layne is no stranger to undercover work. But posing as a lady companion named Amy at Miss Lillian’s Parlor House and Boots is a first for her. She’s finally landed a high-profile case and is on the trail of the notorious Gunnysack Bandit, when one of Miss Lillian’s girls essential to her investigation meets an untimely demise. Only a handful of people are in the house at the time of her death, including handsome Tom Colton, a former Texas Ranger determined to clear his brother’s name. Amy has many reasons to suspect Tom of murder—and one very personal reason to hope that she’s wrong about him.

My Thoughts: The Petticoat Detective is a romance that reads with the feel of a mystery. Unfortunately, because the author does not include a lot of information about the secondary characters which later turns out to be the very information which Amy uses to solve, there is little chance you will be able to follow along and make a guess like you might for a regular mystery novel. For example, a perfume scent is used to identify a female suspect, yet until it was important, there was no mention of any of the women wearing perfume.

It is the romance that holds up the best in this novel. Tom is a truly amazing guy who is not afraid to be seen with a soiled-dove, or to treat her as a human being. Even when he has been betrayed, he still gives people the benefit of the doubt and does what he can to trust their word. While Amy's role at Miss Lillian's is a barrier in their relationship, he doesn't give up on Amy all together.

There is a great message in this novel about treating people with love and respect, no matter what their sins. It is nice to see that message told from the perspective of someone who has become a social outcast (the summary does not seem to include that Amy is undercover as a prostitute) rather abruptly. I think that the only issue I had with Brownley's portrayal was the one woman who did not change her career at the end of the novel. While there was mention that she could still change her ways, it was almost as if to say that any woman who didn't take any opportunity leave such a life, must be a nasty person.

I did enjoy the Petticoat Detective. There was a good message and a sweet romance. My issue was that it seemed so much like a mystery, which I would have loved, and yet did not deliver that mystery. Hopefully the next book will be different. I fully intend to read it either way.