Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fantastical Guest Post Event- Giveaway

Fantastical Event:
It's December, that time of year for buying gifts and giving them. It's also the time when a number of Fantasy books are releasing new books. This year, as part of a Guest Post Event, there will be three authors posting here at Backing Books to share with you their new titles. Each is having a giveaway, as well am I, so stop by for each post to enter in and learn about new books you might like!


-Event Kick-off Post: Dec. 1st

-R.J. Larson: Dec. 8th

-Jaye L. Knight: Dec. 15th
-Patrick W. Carr: Dec. 22nd
-Wrap-up Post: Dec. 29th

Main Giveaway:
I'm giving away an awesome (at least I think it is) prize for this event. It is a pair of touchscreen gloves, some hot chocolate, and choice of either Emissary by Thomas Locke or To Capture Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino. Winner will be chosen at the end of December. Open to US entrants only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Respectable Actress- Dorothy Love

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Description: When the illustrious India Hartley is accused of murder, she has to uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.

India Hartley, the famous and beautiful actress, is now alone in the world after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.

A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.

Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia low country and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.

My Thoughts:  This book had ups and downs for me. The opening page is gripping, and the conflict directly after is engaging. But after the first couple chapters, the story waned to interests and conflicts I cared little about. Toward the middle, the story picked back up again with the trial keeping me interested. However, I was soon upset and confused when it appears that a whole day of the trail is skipped only for the reader to pick back up with the story in the most befuddling of circumstances. This, unfortunately, was how I felt about much of the book.

Don't get me wrong, the murder conflict was interesting in itself and I would have loved if the book focused more on this aspect. Yet much of the book focuses on issues outside the murder (bored children, long dead relatives, nosy neighbors, ect.). While these issues did lead to answers about the murder, I found them bothersome to read because they seemed to cut out the murder trial's tension. As well, both India and Philip come upon theories that baffled me and I felt like I could not follow their logic.

Dorothy Love writes beautifully and her history is spot on, however her story did not grip my attention all the way through. While there were some truly great scenes, the story was dominated by scenes I didn't care to read, especially when the story jumps around in certain places.

I received this book through the Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Whispers in the Reading Room- Shelley Gray

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description:  Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.

Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.

Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

My Thoughts: I really loved this story, though not as a romance. The characterization and themes were what drew me in and made sure I read it all the way through. While the book is marketed as historical romance, I did not find much to be "romantic" about it. The hero is attentive and gallant but there was not much of a "spark" between the two characters. They don't hold hands, exchange glances, or even kiss until the last page. So if you want a romance, I don't suggest this book.

However, if you are like me and can take or leave the romance because it is the history and characters that you are looking for, then there will be enough romance to make it worth it. Sebastian is one of the most realistic bad boy heroes I have ever read, and I loved him for it. He is not romantic in the slightest but he is fiercely loyal and I loved him for it.

Now Lydia was not my favorite, but the other characters made up for her lack. I found myself wishing the whole series were just stories about these four characters' lives and struggles. Once you get to the end of the story, you see that there is still plenty of room for Sebastian and Lydia to learn and grow as people. I love how Shelley portrayed them as real people, without all their faults and sins fixed and tidied up at the end. It fit well with the end theme of even the most downtrodden and faulty people are not too far gone for God to redeem them.

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Power of the Matchmaker- by Karey White and others

My Rating: 4 Stars

 A prequel novella to the POWER OF THE MATCHMAKER Series
                     Mystical . . . Beautiful . . . Romantic . . .
                        12 novels by 12 bestselling authors
                          Released once a month in 2016

Read the matchmaker’s story to find out where it all starts . . .

Mae Li has been in love with Chen Zhu for years, and he with her. But when the matchmaker arrives at the Zhu family home, she recommends another village girl for Chen.


Heartbroken, Mae Li watches as Chen does his duty by marrying another. Mae flees her village with the clothes on her back and her only possession—a pearl embedded comb, given to her as a goodbye gift from Chen Zhu.

Upon Mae’s arrival in Shanghai, she quickly learns that she’ll starve within days unless she sells her prized comb or joins a courtesan house. She goes to the Huangpu River and promises the River God that she’ll always be selfless if he will save her from becoming a prostitute . . . Her wish is granted when Ms. Tan, the matchmaker of Shanghai, finds Mae. But Mae must completely change her future and her name if she is to become the next matchmaker.

My Thoughts: I've been taking a class on Chinese religions, so when I found this novella up for review, I couldn't pass it up. I'm so glad I did, because the novella so well written and perfectly incorporated Chinese traditions and beliefs.

The novella prequels a series of books, each by book by a different author with one released each month of 2016. Now, since the other books are written by different people and are all set in different time periods, I don't know if the other books will be as good as this but I am interested in trying them none the less.

I received this book through I am a Reader, Not a Writers ebook review program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bathsheba- Angela Hunt

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: After sending his army to besiege another king's capital, King David forces himself on Bathsheba, a loyal soldier's wife. When her resulting pregnancy forces the king to murder her husband and add her to his harem, Bathsheba struggles to protect her son while dealing with the effects of a dark prophecy and deadly curse on the king's household.

Combining historical facts with detailed fiction, Angela Hunt paints a realistic portrait of the beautiful woman who struggled to survive the dire results of divine judgment on a king with a divided heart.

My Thoughts: Bathsheba by Angela Hunt is the first book I have read about this particular character. Followers of my reviews might have noticed that I love Biblical fiction and I enjoyed the first book in this series about Esther. But while I enjoyed certain aspects of this book, it was not my favorite.

Bathsheba is not one of the most compelling characters. While her life is tragic and I felt bad for her, she didn't do anything to influence the story personally. It seemed almost like her beauty was all that mattered about her, both to David and to the plot as she only ever observed what went on around her. Though she was kind, she was not compelling.

Though I would have preferred a narrator who took a greater role of action in the story, I did enjoy reading about Solomon's childhood and the conflict between his brothers, Amnon and Absalom. I would recommend this book to anyone who does not mind a bystanding narrator to Biblical events.

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest- J. A. Myhre

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Ten-year-old Mu, orphaned as a toddler, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember, he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness and little hope that anything will ever change. But one day everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through an everchanging landscape. Through his adventure, Mu learns many things about himself. Along with Mu, you will walk through Africa, encountering good and evil. Read carefully and you just may find out who you are too.

For 8-14 year olds

My Thoughts: This book certainly has it merits, mostly in setting. For any parent wishing to give their kids a view of life outside their own everyday world, A Chameleon, a Boy, and A Quest is perfect. Written by a mother who lived in this environment, the story has a full and colorful setting, depicting life as it often is in African villages. As well, it manages to teach lessons that are often difficult for children to except from their parents, instead presenting it from the mouth of a wise chameleon. For children who are used to dogs and cats, the book offers a large array of foreign animals for them to picture.

Yet at times I found myself wondering if a child would fully understand the story. It uses a lot of "big words", some of which I had trouble with (particularly "gesticulating"), and referenced animals that I have never heard of. The back cover describes the novel as being for young adults as well, which works vocabulary wise, but I'm not sure that many teenagers would enjoy a book about a talking chameleon and a ten year old boy.

If you're looking for a book that challenges your children (or yourself) to improve their vocabulary and learn about new cultures, this book is perfect. But if you want a book your child can read and enjoy all on their own, I'm not sure this is it.

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Girl from theTrain- Irma Joubert

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

My Thoughts: To my knowledge, this is the first novel I've read that was translated into English (outside of a few I had to read in high school and have pushed from my memory). For that reason, I had been slightly worried that some aspects of the story would have been lost in translation, either because of differing cultures or else words that had no exact definition in English. I was pleased to find that if anything was lost in translation, I didn't notice.

The Girl from the Train was a wonderful read. While most of the plot takes place after WWII, it was still interesting to see how Europe coped after the war, as well as how the effects were felt all the way to South Africa. My favorite conflict through the story was that between nationalities, languages, and religions that Gretl and Jakob had to navigate in order to survive.

* Now for a spoiler* From the beginning, I knew that the story would have to end in a romance between Jakob and Gretl. It was the only relational conclusion I could picture since Jakob never took up the role as father to Gretl, even though he could have. And while I rooted for it before it happened (it is not the first time I have seen a 15 year age gap), I was not sure of how I felt about it once it did happen. Even though they were a couple, Jakob still bossed her around like a parent and Gretl whined and manipulated him like she was his child. It made it hard for me to believe they were in love.
*End spoiler*

The part I really had issue did not come about until near the end, leaving the rest of the story to enjoy. I hope to see more translations of Irma's books in the future.

I received this book from the publisher through The Fiction Guild in exchange for an honest review.