The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

One might classify this book as an Ancient Chinese murder mystery, complete with a mysterious love interest, and, technically, it is. Because the story does take place in ancient China (as in the year 1085 ancient) set in a remote border town of China near where the “barbarians” are still causing trouble.  And indeed the finding of a murderer is central to the plot line. And there is a handsome female of certain interest. However in reading it I would say it was much more about the new town’s magistrate finding his way through the moral and practical pit falls of guiding a city rather than the solving of a mystery.

“So officials grew to believe clerks were obstructive, and clerks grew to believe that officials were mostly tyrannical and impractical. That anything was ever achieved in China at all was a miracle.”

And while it was not what I would call action packed, the characters (even the minor ones) were excellently portrayed. They always called each other by their full names (a mouthful if your full name is Trainee Legal Secretary Li) but they all exuded their unique personalities with not a bit of wry humor sprinkled throughout so well, I couldn’t fault them a bit for it.

“I have never heard such nonsense! Every man needs a wife. How else is he to make good decisions?”

Would I recommend it? I would say this book is for the deep thinker and the history buff rather than one looking for a murder mystery and a love story but if that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

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Five Snowy Books With A Family Connection

Winter comes with more than it’s fair share of holiday and family traditions but here are five books that celebrate family connections on ordinary days.

 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen illustrated by John Schoenherr

A girl and her father go out looking for owls in a book that brings magic to an ordinary snowy night.

Snow Sisters by Kerri Kokias illustrated by Teagan White

 

Two sisters with very different ideas about what makes the perfect snow day.

 

What if Butterflies Loved Snow? by Jessie Stevens and Madhawi Karaya

 

A girl and her mother snuggle in bed and wonder what it would be like if butterflies brightened up the winter.

Snow Comes to the Farm by Nathaniel Tripp illustrated by Kate Kiesler

 

Brothers spend the day together watching the woods fill up with snow.

The Mitten by Jan Brett 

 

Grandmother knits her grandson a pair of snowy mittens in this silly winter story.

 

What’s your favorite winter book? Does it also celebrate a family connection?

 

The Executioner’s Face by Jerry Johnson

If you’ve been a long time reader of my blog you might not be too surprised to see another review of a Jerry Johnson book here. I found him blogging about bird hunting and I have gathered his books as they were released. They are predominantly essays full of dogs and birds, old guns and wild country and I have enjoyed sharing them all with family and friends. His newest work of fiction is out and it is another hunting story… of sorts…

The hunters in this book are professional executioners that prowl the streets looking for felons in a post plague world where there isn’t the energy, manpower, or time to run the Chicago court system as we know it.

Would I recommend it? This is one of those books where it’s hard to shake the characters. When I finished this book I set it down, breathed for the first time in what felt like hours and have spent the last few days feeling as though the characters were riding on my shoulders. They are just hanging with me, waiting to see if and when I would judge them for their actions. They have stuck with me waiting to see, not if I cast their character in black or white, but rather what shade of grey they might be.  I’m finding it hard to shake them. The only cure I can think is that someone else needs to read this book so that we can talk about it together. So, go on! Order it and then tell me when you’ve read it, we will need to talk!

 

The Rose Thief by Claire Buss

Stealing roses might not seem like such a crime but some foolish person (the Emperor, may he live forever and ever) had the real meaning of love linked to a red rose growing in his garden.

I’m with the main character, Thief-Catcher extraordinaire, (or at least quite good) when he says, “What bloody idiot decides to tie love to a bloody flower.”

36386711Perhaps the Emperor (may he live forever and ever), was an idiot to bind love to a flower but the story that follows makes me glad he did!

Would I recommend it? Is irreverent fantasy humor a genre yet? If it is, file this book with it’s thief catching team of a stinky sprite, luscious tree nymph, spying firefly and a pair of spell casters right in the middle of it along with Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony and A. Lee Martinez. Likewise if you are a fan of the aforementioned authors you might want to pick this one up!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

Dinosaur-Hearted by Ra Avis

Poetry is not for everyone.

Or is it?I read through this collection of poems about love, and not romantic love, but love of life and children, love of family and friends, love of the frightfully wondrous world we live in and thought through it all…

-Oh! My friend should read this one!

-Oh! My cousin would love this!

-Oh! I should send this to my friends with the new baby!

-Oh!

-Oh!

-Oh!

And so, by the end, after mentally assigning a different person to each bit of poetry, I’ve changed my mind.

Poetry, this poetry, is for everyone.

Would I recommend it? Yes! It’s not only poems either, some of the pieces are longer and maybe one should call them essays but it sounds too stodgy for a book filled with doodles and personal touches that make it crystal clear by the time you reach the end of the book that you, yes you, are loved.

 

Book Bee’s Step by Step Guide to Reviewing Books

Step 1: Read a book!

Step 2: Decide to Write a Review.

How often do you pick up a book without a recommendation or perusing reviews online? I still occasionally judge books by their cover at the local library but mostly I rely on recommendations from friends or via reviews online, and I bet you do too.
All of us readers love reviews!
Love a book, want to support an author? The best way is to write an honest review. Reviews are hugely important to us (largely because, like I mentioned, nobody picks up books without looking at reviews).
Love a book and want to support an illustrator? Ditto!
So, if you love readers, authors, illustrators or anyone else in the book industry, support them all and write a review!

Step 3: Don’t Panic!

Maybe you’ve never written a review before, maybe you don’t know where to start.
It’s okay. Take a deep breath. We got you covered.

Step 4: Choose a Star Rating.

Pretty much every place that collects book reviews will give you up to five stars to award the book you are reading. If you are like me this puts you right back to Step 3.
It’s okay, take a deep breath and pick one. 

Still not helping?
Don’t worry, I feel your pain, five
 stars is a completely inadequate number. I wrote a whole blog post rant about it, you can read my thoughts and how I award stars here: https://behindthewillows.com/2015/08/10/a-rate-it-rant/ 

Step 5: Write Your Review.

Starting a review can be daunting. It’s okay, we are here to help. We have created some handy fill in the blank options to help you out with any book review you might be writing!

“I read it to my ___year old_____ and they ____ it!” 

 ” My ___year old _____ read it to me, so ____!”

  “This book is ___ because____.” 

 ” I gave this book to ___ it was a ____ gift.” 

” Reading this book made me _____.”

“This book is the ____’s ____’s.”

Use these as a starting point or go rouge and pour your heart out.
Tell people what you would like to know if you were the one thinking of buying the book.

Step 6: Share Your Review.

The go to book review place is Amazon.com (or amazon.co.uk or amazon.ca or amazon… you get the picture). Be aware that Amazon has RULES about book reviews as they do their best to keep the world honest. There will always be a delay before your review will post and in the end sometimes it won’t. If that happens don’t despair, there are more options!
Goodreads is a fantastic place to leave a review. Reviews can be shared on Facebook or Instagram any other book site you are a part of (LibraryThing anyone?) or even sent straight to the author. 

In fact, since you already wrote it, why not go wild and post it everywhere?

Step 7:  Breathe a sigh of relief, you’ve done it!

You made an author happy, helped out potential buyers and made it out the other side!

Step 8: Do it again!

If you just followed these steps to review What If Butterflies Loved Snow? you’ve brought joy to our lives. Thank you! Now, do it again for the next book you read, authors, illustrators and readers everywhere will thank you!

Book Bee wants everyone to write book reviews!

If you feel the same pop over here: https://behindthewillows.com/book-bees-step-by-step-guide-to-reviewing-books/ to save and share her handy infographic!

(All illustrations done by Tooks of course!)

In A Jam by Cindy Dorminy

“Some might consider waking up in the drunk tank rock bottom. I call it Thursday,” isn’t your typical start to a lighthearted romance but it did start me out with a smile. Things progressed from there all the way through your typical romantic comedy story line. City girl moves to small southern town (hilarity and smiles ensue), enter   brokenhearted man stage left (sweet smiles ensue)… By the time we got to the happily ever after, that small southern town had been fleshed out with so many fantastic characters I was smitten with the whole town.

Happy smiles all around.

 

Would I recommend it?  My favorite kind of romance. Funny, fairly predictable and not too risque, sort of like your family’s favorite jam recipe (actually it’s nothing like my family’s favorite jam… who has funny jam?)… but this book, and the jam in it have a little something extra that makes it just that much better.  But, most importantly, it made me smile, a lot, and I can’t think of a better reason to pick up a book like this than that.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!