The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

Have you ever read a book and wondered why it’s not one of those reads everyone is talking about? That was me after reading The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood a couple years and why I decided to make it one of the first of my “lost” reviews to bring back.

My review of The Balance of Heaven and Earth:

Where do I begin???

I had no idea what to expect when I began reading this book. I know little about the time period in China during which The Balance of Heaven and Earth takes place, but part of what I LOVE about historical fiction is getting to learn about different places and times through fictionalized accounts of the past.

There was so much that I loved about this book, but the characters are what really pulled me in and had me both laughing and crying! Even the names of people and places made me happy – Jade Moon, Horse, Always Smiling Orphanage – I just loved them!!

The story begins with Jade Moon saving a merchant during an attack by bandits in the marketplace. Jade Moon, normally quiet and mild-mannered, was transformed that day.

But while she may have saved a life, her own life and future is at risk thanks to a deal made by her mother before the time of the marketplace incident. Now, the new magistrate, Magistrate Zhu, must decide the fate of Jade Moon…

Magistrate Zhu was born into wealth and power, when you first meet him it seems as if he doesn’t want to do actual work and is unhappy with his new position as magistrate of Tranquil Mountain. But as his story is revealed and he interacts with all the inhabitants of the town, the Magistrate’s attitudes and actions begin to make sense and he really grows on the people in the town (and the reader of the story, as well)!

And poor Magistrate Zhu! He arrives in what he believes will be a boring town where he’ll be required to do very little. But upon arriving, he finds many demands put upon him other than maintaining the tea trade — there’s been a murder AND the matter of what to do about Jade Moon must be decided!

The Patriarchs, who used to run Tranquil Mountain and provide for the economic stability of the town, fear Magistrate Zhu has come to steal their land and the little authority they have left.

Jade Moon’s situation is made more complicated (at least in the magistrate’s eyes) by the fact that she’s not fully Chinese. Her father was a barbarian, whom she loved fiercely even though her mother despised him. There are those who believe her to be supernatural – a reincarnation of a warrior from long ago!

No one in Tranquil Mountain knows what to think of Magistrate Zhu. They find him odd, though smart, but uncaring about them. Tea is the most important thing to the citizens of the town, but Zhu seems only to care about catching a murderer!

As the story unfolds, Jade Moon’s story is tied up in the Magistrate’s, though it’s not quite clear how, and they don’t even see it themselves. Then there’s a moment near the end of the book where it all comes together and I cried it was so perfect!

I love the theme throughout the book of balance. No one is perfect. All make mistakes, but they don’t have to ruin everything… Still, all decisions have lasting consequences, and every character in The Balance of Heaven and Earth has to deal with their own.

You would think that this would be a story with a more serious tone, considering it’s a mystery dealing with a murder and a legal mess left behind by the former magistrate. But The Balance of Heaven and Earth is much more on the humorous side than the serious!

The ending was nothing like what I expected! Normally, when I’m caught off guard by an ending I hate it, but I was pleasantly surprised this time. It was SO much better than I had anticipated it being!

Actually, the ending wasn’t the only thing that surprised me about this book… I’m always a little wary of any story that has so many characters it includes a helpful guide at the beginning. I find that even with the guide, I tend to get confused. (I think Dark Queen Rising was the last story to do that to me.) But I actually never had that problem in The Balance of Heaven and Earth. The characters all have unique personalities and there was never so many characters in one scene together that I couldn’t keep up with who was who, and who was saying what. (I probably wouldn’t even have noticed there were so many characters in the book if the list wasn’t there.)

This is one of those books that isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite cup of tea, but it’s worth reading even if you don’t absolutely love it like I did!!! I definitely recommend this book for anyone that enjoys historical fiction and historical mysteries (especially those set during the time of the Song Dynasty).

**I received a free copy of this book from the author a couple of years ago. This did not influence my review then or now.**

In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce – aka the book that keeps me up at night weeks after reading it!

My first thought after finishing In the Garden of Spite:

WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ?!?!?!?! My daughter just asked if I’m okay and the answer is NO! I’m definitely NOT okay!!!

“They never expected me to hold a grudge.”

Those words will haunt me for quite some time now.

My review/thoughts:

I admit I’ve been fascinated by fictionalized stories of serial killers. Usually, they don’t haunt me in my dreams and keep me up at night. But this… this… THIS has scarred my brain, I think. And (unfortunately) also caused me to want to learn more about the serial murderess Belle Gunness.

I literally lost count of how many bodies had dropped by the time I made it to the mid-point of this novel, but that’s not what kept me reading. It was the way Belle was portrayed as yes, a killer, but also a victim whose compulsion to kill was deeply embedded as a way to protect herself and her children. I hated that I kept finding myself feeling just a teensy bit sad for her. And then she’d do something completely horrid and turn my stomach and I’d have to set my Kindle down and hold my babies super tight because.. UGH! This was horrible!!! (But in a good, super creepy, can’t ever close my eyes or trust people again sorta way. )

Do I recommend this to fans of historical fiction who enjoy a good serial killer story? ABSOLUTELY!!! But make sure you’re in a good head space before you pick this one up, because it WILL keep you up at night and send shivers down your spine!

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with an e-galley of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I’m done listening to the voices in my head.

This is going to be a very honest (slightly venting-filled) post but I’m gonna keep it as short as I can.

If you’ve stuck around since the start of me joining the blogging community, then you’ll know that this site has been through a number of changes. Most of them have happened over the last couple of years (if that). Almost every single one of those changes was prompted by someone (or many someones) telling me I should do this, or that, or I NEED to do something else.

Especially after deciding to pursue voice acting as my career instead of viewing it as this thing I enjoy doing, I had a LOT of voices in my head. There was quite a bit of contradictory advice thrown at me from so many different didn’t directions my brain started to feel like jello.

But all of them agreed on ONE thing. I NEEDED a voice acting website and my blog didn’t count.

I heard many reasons for this – it’s too personal, there’s too many book reviews and not enough showing my voice, etc. etc. blah blah blah… Eventually, I took the advice of those who know much more than I do about how to do this internet thing. And, to be honest, it felt GREAT!!!

I dumped my reviews, switched all my social media, everything was about audiobooks I’m narrating, commercials I’m voicing, and absolutely nothing was about me personally. It was freeing. I no longer had to read before a book’s pub date and get my review up or make sure I was keeping up with a self-imposed number of posts every week. But here’s the thing…

I missed it.

I started blogging to fulfill a need in my life. It was a place I came to share my thoughts, to vent, to connect with people from all over the world and to discover new things, ideas, and to get inspiration. I still need that.

And I’m not just a voice actress.

I’m a mom to six kids, a wife, a friend, a knitter, a reader, a writer, a dungeon master, and… well… I’m human. I’m complicated. I both cannot stand people and cannot be without them either. And here’s ANOTHER “thing”…

I’m also someone who no longer cares.

I don’t care about what or how anyone else thinks I should be doing things. I love books and I love helping boost indie authors especially… so that’s what I’m gonna do. I love pouring my heart out sometimes about my kids, life, or just some random thought I had at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep. So I’m gonna do that too. And yeah, I’m still gonna post about my voice acting and there’ll be a page where people can go who are interested in that, but this is MY little space on the internet and I’m gonna use it the way I want to.

So I’m gonna try to get all those reviews I lost back up over the next weeks/months. I’m gonna be changing things to reflect my personality again, posting more reviews and more just “me” things.

Blood Payment (a City of Blood prequel) Now Available on Audiobook!

Blood Payment is the third audiobook I’ve narrated for Laura Greenwood. It’s a prequel to the City of Blood series and I had a blast recording it! If you’ve read any of the series, then you know that the City of Blood is supposed to be some kind of safe haven for the vampires (I’ve yet to figure out why on earth humans choose to come there). The founder and leader, Reese, rules with an iron fist and is really a narcissistic dictator. Blood Payment is told from her point of view when she’s just forming the City of Blood so getting into her head was a little creepy, but super fun!

You can purchase Blood Payment on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. And please, if you can, take a minute to leave a review and/or comment your thoughts below!

Thanks!

Publisher’s Summary of Blood Payment:

“Vampires have become weak, and I’m one of the only people who sees it. Now, I just have to prove it.

I’ll rule with an iron fist and sharpened fangs. I will usher in a new era.

Welcome to the City of Blood, where I’m going to make every vampire’s paradise.”

— Reese

“Blood Payment” is a short story and a prequel to Drop of Blood.

©2020 Laura Greenwood (P)2020 Laura Greenwood


Drop of Blood by Laura Greenwood Now Available as an Audiobook

Drop of Blood by Laura Greenwood is the second book I’ve narrated for the author and the first in the City of Blood Series. It tells the story of a vampire, Chloe, who has entered the City legally as a spy for a powerful vampire on the outside, Dimtri. They’re determined to put an end to the insanity that is the City of Blood, but Chloe finds herself in over her head as she joins with the resistance. The prequel, Blood Payment, is also available now so be sure to check it out as well!

You can purchase the Drop of Blood audiobook on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. I also have some free Audible codes available (US and UK only, sorry!) so please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in a copy!

Reviews and comments are always appreciated! Thanks!

Publisher’s Summary for Drop of Blood by Laura Greenwood:

The City of Blood should be a safe haven for vampire kind, but it doesn’t look that way from where I’m standing.

Strict curfews, mandatory check-ins, and the constant threat of being executed, it’s almost as dangerous for vampires to live here as it is to be human. And I want to bring the regime down.

One wrong step, and lives will be lost…including my own.

Drop of Blood is book one of the City of Blood series, a gritty vampire urban fantasy with a slow burn romantic sub-plot.©2020 Laura Greenwood (P)2020 Laura Greenwood

N S Ford

Writer, reader, blogger

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