Who Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle by Jane Marlow

02_who-is-to-blameWho Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle by Jane Marlow

Jane Marlow’s debut novel is a beautifully written historical saga of two families—one born of noble heritage and the other bound as serfs to the noble’s household. Set during the mid-1800s in the vast grainfields of Russia, Who Is to Blame? follows the lives of two star-crossed serfs, Elizaveta and Feodor, torn apart by their own families and the Church while simultaneously trapped in the inhumane life of poverty to which they were born.

At the other end of the spectrum, Count Maximov and his family struggle to maintain harmony amidst a tapestry of deception and debauchery woven by the Count’s son. The plot twists further when the Tsar emancipates twenty million serfs from bondage as the rural gentry’s life of privilege and carelessness has taken its final bow, while much of Russia’s nobility faces possible financial ruin.

Aficionados of historical fiction will be captivated by the lyrical flow of Marlow’s intertwining stories of love, loss, courage, and pain against her backdrop of social upheaval. The novel’s riddles flow subtly throughout, spurring readers to ponder where the blame actually lies. In the end, we must tap into our own hearts to navigate the depths and quandaries of the author’s perplexing question.

“When you try to describe Russia you can use well-known historical events. If you want to know about the lives of the Russian people, it becomes a little murkier until now. Jane Marlow has done a marvelous job in giving the reader a deep and beautiful insight into the day to day life of the Russian people from nobles to the peasants in the 19th century. As you immerse yourself in the book you can feel their struggles and experiences as though you were walking in their shoes. Brilliant!” -Mark Schauss, host of the Russian Rulers History Podcast.

The book is set in the 1800s before the emancipation of the serfs and follows Count Stepan Maximov and Elizaveta who is a peasant.

Elizaveta loves her childhood friend but they can’t marry because marrying your godparents’ child can’t happen. Instead, she has to marry a man she knows is a violent one and the marriage isn’t a happy one. But it seems like abusiveness kinda runs in Ermak’s family and Elizaveta’s sister-in-laws aren’t having any more luck in their lives.

Maximov’s lost their child and Stepan’s wife never got over her grief and it starts to affect their marriage too. Stepan struggles to run the estate, to find new ways to grow and develop it but new things takes time. In the latter part, we see more of Anton, the eldest Maximov son who spends most of his time drinking and playing cards.

I don’t really know what to say about this. I loved the book and was pleasantly surprised how good it was. It’s always hardest to write about a book you like… I just wanted to keep reading and wanting to know what happens next!

You can see that the author has done her research and there are lots of little details but it’s well written in the story.

We get to see how disconnected the nobility and the peasants were and had so little contact with each other. Nobility thought that the peasants should be thankful because they are being taken care of…. By working them to death yet they were seen as just lazy…

I wanted to slap Anton so many times that I’m not surprised that Stepan was so frustrated with him. He did change his ways a bit in the end but I would like to know if he manages to really change. But I think there is next book coming so I’m hoping we’ll see that.

4/5

Published: River Grove Books (October 18, 2016)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 301
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Mailbox Monday (28.12.2016)

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is now hosted on its own blog.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted my mailbox but these are what I’ve got in the past month or so. I’ve already read Who Is to Blame? and loved it.

books28-12-16
The Heaven Tree by Edith Pargeter (bookmooch)
Storm Born by Richelle Mead (bookmooch)
Who Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle by Jane Marlow (for review)

Roma Amor: A Novel of Caligula’s Rome by Sherry Christie

02_roma-amorRoma Amor: A Novel of Caligula’s Rome
by Sherry Christie

Marcus Carinna hears a voice whisper, “Your turn,” as he rides past his family tomb. An unseen presence also startles the Germanic priestess Aurima, whom he is bringing to Rome. But hardheaded Romans scoff at ghosts, and Marcus can’t believe it’s a warning from his brother, who killed himself three years earlier.

37 AD: To great acclaim, 25-year-old Caligula Caesar has become Rome’s new master. No one is more pleased than Senator Titus Carinna, who helped him succeed to the throne. It’s a shame the Senator’s older son–Caligula’s closest friend–committed suicide after being charged with treason. But that still leaves Marcus, his second son.

Headstrong and hot-tempered, Marcus would rather prove his courage by leading legions against Rome’s enemies than take his brother’s place. Yet when his father orders him to befriend Caligula, he has no choice.

Caught in a web of deceit, conspiracy, and betrayal, he will uncover a secret that threatens his family, the woman he desires, even his life… and may bring chaos to the young Roman Empire.

The first installment in a page-turning saga that revisits the heroes and villains of the grandest city of the ancient world…. Comes alive with the long gone characters who were its lifeblood” -Kirkus Reviews

‘Combines current political concerns, the wide lens of the serious historical novel, and emotional maturity and realism with an utterly splendid grasp of what it must have been like to live in Rome under Caligula’s reign.” -Sarah Smith, Agatha Award winner and New York Times Notable author

Marcus Carinna isn’t happy when his father orders him to leave the army life behind and come back to Rome and befriend the new Caesar Caligula. Three years ago Marcus’ brother (and Caligula’s best friend) committed suicide after charged with treason and Marcus hasn’t forgiven his father that he let it happen. It’s after he becomes Caligula’s friend he starts to unravel old family secrets.

I liked Marcus who was so devoted to learning the truth about his brother’s death. He had earned quite a reputation in Rome but seemed committed to reforming his name and to live up to his father’s expectations. When Marcus develops an interest in the Marcomanni Priestess called Aurima, his father is less than pleased.

I really liked Aurima and the chapters with the so-called barbarians. We see that women had much more rights in their life than the Roman women. I’ve never read books with Caligula with in it so this was new. Didn’t really make me like Romans more than usually…

In the end, I really loved this and it was quite a quick read too.

Published: Bexley House Books (April 15, 2016)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author03_Sherry Christie

After earning a Phi Beta Kappa creative award in college for an early draft about a nobly born charioteer, Sherry Christie spent many years of research and revision developing ROMA AMOR into the story about fathers and sons that it wanted to be. It’s a joy to immerse myself in the lives of first-century Romans–and a distinct change from my day job as a . In addition to writing, Sherry is a professional copywriter. She lives on the coast of Maine with a native-born Viking and two cats.

For more information, please visit Sherry Christie’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 24
Kick Off at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 25
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, October 26
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook

Friday, October 28
Guest Post at What Is That Book About

Monday, October 31
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, November 1
Review at Bookfever

Wednesday, November 2
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, November 4
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, November 7
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, November 9
Review at Bookramblings
Review at The Book Junkie Reads
Interview at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, November 10
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, November 11
Review at Beth’s Book Nook
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Guest Post at The True Book Addict

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An Address in Amsterdam by Mary Dingee Fillmore

adress-in-amsterdamAn Address in Amsterdam by Mary Dingee Fillmore

Rachel Klein hopes she can ignore the Nazis when they roll into Amsterdam in May 1940. She’s falling in love, and her city has been the safest place in the world for Jewish people since the Spanish Inquisition. But when Rachel’s Gentile boyfriend is forced to disappear rather than face arrest, she realizes that everything is changing, and so must she—so, although she is often tired and scared, she delivers papers for the underground under the Nazis’ noses. But after eighteen months of ever increasing danger, she pushes her parents to go into hiding with her. The dank basement where they take refuge seems like the last place where Rachel would meet a new man—but she does. An Address in Amsterdam shows that, even in the most hopeless situation, an ordinary young woman can make the choice to act with courage—and even love. (publisher)

Rachel is 18 when the Nazis invade Holland. Soon after she joins the Dutch resistance by delivering letters and false documents. She tries to change her father’s mind about going into hiding but he doesn’t believe Nazi’s would actually harm people, especially German born like himself.
When the war breaks out, Rachel falls in love with Michel who turns out to be a resistance member. She wants to marry him but doesn’t believe that her parents would approve her relationship with a Gentile.

I liked to see how Rachel changed from a rather naïve schoolgirl into a resistance member living a dangerous life. At the start we see the Nazis behaving quite well but the situation started to worsen suddenly. I haven’t read books where it’s been told that things were moderately ok at first. Then there was this huge change in the attitude of all people.

I didn’t get Rachel’s father who just refused to see what was going on. I mean the situation had been horrible for some time before he even started to think about going into hiding.

The first half of the book is told from Rachel’s point of view but then it changed in the second half. In there we have Rachel’s, her parents and, if I remember correctly, Rolf’s. Rolf was Michel’s friend who also worked in the resistance and came into hiding with them. I didn’t see the point of that but oh well.

I would have liked to know what happened to them. I didn’t see the point of getting invested in these people and then not to know if they made it through the war.

Overall I enjoyed the book and I liked to read about the resistance work.

3/5

Published: She Writes Press (October 4, 2016)
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

Mailbox Monday (17.10.2016)

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is now hosted on its own blog.

It seems I haven’t done Mailbox for some time but these are what I’ve got in the last month or so. I haven’t had much time to read either but I hope life will get back to normal soon.

But here’s what I got:

books17-10-16

Frau by Terhi Rannela (Finnish novel about Lina Heydrich, wife of Reinhard Heydrich) (purchased)
The Diplomat’s Wife by Pam Jenoff (bookmooch)
The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff (bookmooch)
For The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser (bought)
Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle (bought)

Days of Sun and Glory by Anna Belfrage

02_days-of-sun-and-gloryDays of Sun and Glory (The King’s Greatest Enemy 2) by Anna Belfrage

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimerís rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the kingís greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere ñ among Mortimerís former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the kingís grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queenís plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war ñ and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrageís series, The Kingís Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

It was great to see that Adam and Kit have managed to get such a happy marriage despite the way it started. It’s not all happy times but they’re still there for each other and I love their relationship.

I wasn’t a fan of Mortimer in book 1 and I’m still not but I was waiting to see how Adam would feel about the future and Mortimer’s role in it. It seems Adam has chosen prince Edward’s side and I’m glad about that. I wonder how that will go in the future.

I was so glad that Joan didn’t just forgive her husband all the misery he had cost her. I’ve always wondered what she thought about all that Mortimer was doing and his affair with the queen.

I liked the future Edward III and I hope we’ll see much more about him in the next book. I felt bad for Hugh Despenser but then again I have a soft spot for him. This isn’t my view of him in the book but it worked here.

Another great book by Anna Belfrage and this was even better than the previous book. I just wanted to keep reading! I really loved this and I can’t wait for the next book.

4,5/5

Published: Matador (July 4, 2016)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 418
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author03_Annna_Belfrage 2015

Had Anna been allowed to choose, sheíd have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century ñ and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met ñ not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimerís rise to power. The Kingís Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where todayís traitor may be tomorrowís hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, will be published in July 2016.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com ñ unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 29
Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, August 30
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Wednesday, August 31
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight at Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, September 1
Review at Lampshade Reader
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, September 2
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, September 5
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, September 6
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, September 7
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, September 8
Interview at Books and Benches
Character Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, September 9
Review at A Holland Reads

Monday, September 12
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, September 13
Review at Let Them Read Books
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, September 14
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, September 15
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Monday, September 19
Review at A Book Drunkard

Tuesday, September 20
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, September 21
Review at It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, September 23
Review at The True Book Addict
Spotlight at The Reading Queen

Monday, September 26
Review at Diana’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 27
Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Thursday, September 29
Review at Bookramblings

 

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Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson

karolinas-twinsKarolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson

From the author of Once We Were Brothers comes a saga inspired by true events of a Holocaust survivor’s quest to fulfill a promise, return to Poland and find two sisters lost during World War II.

Lena Woodward, an elderly woman, enlists the help of both lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart to appraise the story of her harrowing past in Nazi occupied Poland. At the same time, Lena’s son Arthur presents her with a hefty lawsuit under the pretense of garnering her estate—and independence—for his own purposes. Where these stories intersect is through Lena’s dubious account of her life in war-torn Poland, and her sisterhood with a childhood friend named Karolina. Lena and Karolina struggled to live through the atrocity of the Holocaust, and at the same time harbored a courageous, yet mysterious secret of maternity that has troubled Lena throughout her adult life. In telling her story to Catherine and Liam, Lena not only exposes the realities of overcoming the horrors of the Holocaust, she also comes to terms with her own connection to her dark past.

Karolina’s Twins is a tale of survival, love, and resilience in more ways than one. As Lena recounts her story, Catherine herself also recognizes the unwavering importance of family as she prepares herself for the arrival of her unborn child. Through this association and many more, both Lena and Catherine begin to cherish the dogged ties that bind not only families and children, but the entirety of mankind. (Goodreads)

Lena Woodward is a Holocaust survivor who wants to fulfill a promise she made to her friend over 70 years ago. She wants to find her friends twins that were lost during the war in a Nazi occupied Poland. She hires Liam Taggert and Catherine Lockhart to solve the case but Lena’s son isn’t happy about the plan. He thinks his mother is delusional and senile and wants guardianship over Len’s matters.

Even though this is the third book in a series, it works fine as a stand-alone. It was a sad book but also very good. I didn’t want to put the book down but keep reading!
We have two timelines: Modern day where Lena tells the story to Catherine and Liam, and past where we follow Lena during the war. I thought it was easy to follow what timeline we were but I’ve read that many thought was messy.

I liked Lena, Catherine and Liam but Lena’s son Arthur was a jerk. He was just concerned with his inheritance and not his mother’s wellbeing.

I loved this and I’ll have to read the previous books soon.

5/5

Published: St. Martin’s Griffin (September 6, 2016)
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

schwabA Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall. (Goodreads)

I usually write the review right after reading the book and now it’s been some time I finished but still wanted to write few things about it.

First of all, that ending was evil! And it’s so long before book 3 comes out. I just hate cliffies…

I’m still not a huge fan of Lila. She’s bit less annoying here than in the last book but still. She’s arrogant and too reckless without thinking if anyone else gets hurt. She meets the pirate captain Alucard whom I liked. Hope we see more of him in the future.

Rhy and Kell aren’t doing too well after the events in the last book. Kell is out of favor with the king and queen. I really wanted to hit them, king and queen I mean.

Rarely book 2 is as good as book 1 but this really was. Loved this and can’t wait for book 3. I need book 3!

4,5/5

Published: Titan Books (February 23, 2016)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 508
Source: Library

Mailbox Monday (5.9.2016)

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia and is now hosted on its own blog.

I haven’t posted Mailbox Monday for some time so these books aren’t very new. But here’s what I got:

books5.9.16
Days of Sun and Glory by Anna Belfrage (for review)
The Rival Queens by Nancy Goldstone (bought)
Twelve Kings by Bradley P. Beaulieu (purchased)
Eater of Hearts: The Book of Coming Forth by Day: Part Three by Libbie Hawker (bought)
House of Rejoicing: Part 1 of the Book of Coming Forth by Day by Libbie Hawker (bought)

Time and Regret by M.K. Tod

02_Time and Regret

Time and Regret by M.K. Tod

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his pastóand to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfatherís puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French manóand suddenly aware that someone is following her.

Through her grandfatherís vivid writing and Graceís own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasnít the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

The book alternates between Martin’s life during WWI and his granddaughter Grace’s life in early 1990s. Grace is recently divorced with two kids who’s trying to get her life back together. When she discovers her grandfather’s old war diaries and a message with a puzzle in her attic, she decides to visit the war sites in France.

I don’t remember if I’ve read books set in WWI before, it’ usually WWII so this was a great change. Although reading Martin’s diary entries it could have been set in either war. I’m not usually fan of letters in books and mostly just skip them but here it worked.

I liked both Grace and Martin and couldn’t choose which POV I liked better which is rare. Martin was so eager to go to war but it soon turns into bitterness and rage as the war goes on. The war changed him forever and it wasn’t easy to come back and live with a survivor’s guilt.

I wasn’t huge fan of Pierre. He was a nice guy and it was great that Grace found him but I don’t know. I think he was boring and that they had no chemistry between them.

I didn’t understand Grace’s grandmother Cynthia’s coldness towards her. I wonder what happened to her because she wasn’t like that in Martin’s diaries. I would have liked to learn more about her.

This was my first book by the author and it definitely won’t be the last. I really loved this book and look forward reading more from her.

4.5/5

Published: Lake Union Publishing (August 16, 2016)
Format: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

About the Author03_M.K. Tod

Time and Regret is M.K. Todís third novel. She began writing in 2005 while living as an expat in Hong Kong. What started as an interest in her grandparentsí lives turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction. Her novel Unravelled was awarded Indie Editorís Choice by the Historical Novel Society. In addition to writing historical novels, she blogs about reading and writing historical fiction on www.awriterofhistory.com, reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and the Washington Independent Review of Books, and has conducted three highly respected reader surveys. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and is the mother of two adult children.

For more information visit M.K. Tod’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, August 16
Review at Diana’s Book Reviews
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, August 17
Guest Post at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium

Thursday, August 18
Review at Creating Herstory
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, August 19
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, August 22
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Tuesday, August 23
Review at The Book Return

Wednesday, August 24
Spotlight at Broken Teepee

Thursday, August 25
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Friday, August 26
Review at A Bookaholic Swede
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog (Author)

Sunday, August 28
Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, August 29
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, August 30
Review at Bookramblings
Guest Post at The Gadoury Dreamer

Wednesday, August 31
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

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