Sunday, February 24, 2019

REVIEW: A Woman of War by Mandy Robotham

A Woman of War
by Mandy Robotham

Publisher: Avon
Page Count: 352
Release Date: December 7, 2018
Format: Netgalley ARC

How got: Free from publisher via NetGalley

First attention getter: setting

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

Germany, 1944. 

Taken from the camps to serve the F├╝hrer himself, Anke Hoff is assigned as midwife to one of Hitler’s inner circle. If she refuses, her family will die.

Torn between her duty as a caregiver and her hatred for the Nazi regime, Anke is swept into a life unlike anything she’s ever known – and she discovers that many of those at the Berghof are just as trapped as she is. And soon, she’s falling for a man who will make her world more complicated still…

Before long, the couple is faced with an impossible choice – and the consequences could be deadly. Can their forbidden love survive the horrors of war? And, more importantly, will they?

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3.5
Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What would have happened if Hitler had a kid? I’m sure that phrase pings a lot of interest for a lot of folks, myself included. So consider me intrigued when I got offered the opportunity to read/review this title. We follow Anke as she’s plucked from the horrors of the Holocaust to help care for and deliver Eva Braun’s child, all the while dealing with certain personages of Hitler’s inner circle and the politics of her odd situation.

As the book went along, it developed some issues I had a hard time with, but they never detracted from my enjoyment of Anke’s journey. She’s an incredible character with enormous strength of character and will, willing to take large risks to ease the burden of those under her care. I enjoyed her unwillingness to be cowed by Nazi officials, even those with the power to send her back to the hell she was pulled from or even kill her outright.

Her romantic connection to ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Dieter made for a sweet subplot. An SS officer with certain reservations about government policies and acting in small ways to counteract them was a nice gel with Anke. I pictured a Kurt Gerstein sort of figure, a man caught in a horrible scenario with few ways out and limited room to move.

I also found the history and midwife tidbits the author included interesting. Though they could be graphic in places and made me squirm, the details of childbirth and all involved really made me picture Anke, her character, and profession better. I also loved getting a window into the precarious life of Hitler’s inner sanctum home. Staff members, guards, and inner circle heavy weights played their parts in the scheming for places on top or just for survival.

Now for those issues I mentioned. I know the last few paragraphs extol the many virtues of this title and deservedly so. However, there are some problems that either irritated me, made me raise my eyebrow in disbelief, or just plain sour me.

The first problem is the premise of the book. The idea of a gal being stuck in the world of Nazi politics while trying to deliver the child of the Fuhrer was intriguing. However, my issue arises from where they pulled her from. I guess I have a hard time believing, no matter who wanted the child or not, that a random midwife from a concentration camp would be pulled to take care of this very politically charged scenario. While Anke is a good midwife, no where does it give an explanation why she was the one picked rather than another random midwife or even a sanctified Nazi midwife. This is especially given Anke’s personal and family history of anti-Nazi activity. The whole situation was my main issue with the premise.

Then there’s also the ending. I don’t want to go too far into things and give anything away. Yet, let’s just say that things are wrapped up, warp-speed! A ton of story threads are wrapped up in an epilogue that consists mainly of “this happened, then this happened, then this…”. I never really felt like I got to say goodbye to any of these people or situations properly. To me, it felt like there was at 2 or more chapters of story to tell to gather all the threads up to a satisfying conclusion.

However despite those two issues I had, ultimately I enjoyed this look into Nazi inner politics and seeing Anke grow as a woman and professional. As I’ve mentioned, I loved her journey and felt very connected to her as she went through these trying times. If those two issues hadn’t arisen, I’d feel very comfortable giving this a firm 5 stars. However, they do, so it’s a 3.5 rounded up to a 4 for me. Definitely give this a look, though, it’s a great journey despite the flaws.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

REVIEW: Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
by Sara Ackerman

Publisher: MIRA
Page Count: 394
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Format: ARC Paperback

How got: GoodReads giveaway

First attention getter: that colorful cover!

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

When her husband mysteriously disappears and rumors swirl about his loyalties, a mother must rely on the remarkable power of friendship in war-torn Hawaii


It’s 1944, combat in the Pacific is intensifying, and Violet Iverson and her daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives back together one year after her husband vanished. As suspicions about his loyalties surface, Violet suspects Ella knows something. But Ella refuses to talk. Something—or someone—has scared her.

Violet enjoys the camaraderie of her friends as they open a pie stand for the soldiers training on the island for a secret mission. But even these women face their own wartime challenges as prejudice against the island Japanese pits neighbor against neighbor. And then there’s the matter of Sergeant Stone, a brash marine who comes to Violet’s aid when the women are accused of spying. She struggles with her feelings of guilt but can’t deny the burning attraction—or her fear of losing another man when Stone ships out for Iwo Jima.

Set amid the tropical beauty of Hawaii, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers offers a fresh perspective on World War II as it presents timeless depictions of female friendship, the bond between a mother and her child, and the enduring power of love even in the darkest times.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

I loved this book from page one. The tale of female friendship and the unique WWII home front tale in Hawaii drew me in and wouldn't let me go. In a land commonly known as a paradise, it was jarring to see how war affected those left behind: death, detainment, and prejudice. This was one of the best books I read in 2018!

I loved Ackerman’s descriptive prowess. She brings to life the vibrant world of lush Hawaii and its various people groups. For such a small island community, there is an incredible diversity in cultures and races. Ackerman really does it justice in making the reader experience and appreciate how each group saw life and the war. Then you bring in the army on a war footing; with their paranoid lookout for any thought up spies, a proverbial stick of dynamite is thrown into that cultural pot and everything boils over in different ways. Let's just say you never get bored exploring the people groups of this island.

The dual story telling of Violet and her daughter was jarring at times; however, once I got used to that format, flowed fantastically. As the story went along, seeing the same events through the eyes of a mother and her child, each with differing POVs and information known, made the story all the more interesting. Those different perspectives gave the reader two completely different views of a family torn apart by tragedy and a society in flux.

Violet was an amazing character through which to tell this story. Her mix of vulnerability and strength of character and will made for a potent mix. She puts down prejudice and hatred wherever she encounters it, not letting her Japanese neighbors stand alone in the winds of war. Yet, she also feels a vast emptiness not knowing the ultimate fate of her husband and trying to help a daughter facing severe emotional crisis. Every time I encountered Violet, I knew I was in for a rich experience.

With a unique setting and vivid storytelling, Ackerman has given us a window into an island in turmoil during war. I loved all the characters and her way of telling a story. If ever you consider reading a book detailing WWII on the home front, give this one a look as it’s a great example thereof.

Note: Book received for free from GoodReads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

REVIEW: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

The Stolen Marriage 
by Diane Chamberlain

Publisher: St. Martin's
Page Count: 384
Release Date: Oct 3, 2017
Format: ARC Trade Paperback

How got: GoodReads Giveaway

First attention getter: that gorgeous cover!!!

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love—and the life—she was meant to have?

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

Note: Book received for free in exchange for an honest review via GoodReads giveaway.

At first I found Stolen Marriage hard to get through. The first third seemed to slog through stereotypical scenarios from a standard gothic mystery novel and a main character that only rarely did anything proactive. However, once the story really hit its stride, I found myself engrossed more and more with Tess. She finally finds her feet in her new life, finding her spine and not letting society or anyone stand in the way of her dreams.

I adored where the story went. From the back description and how the book started, I thought I’d be getting a gothic mystery full of suspenseful twists and chills, with a background and some tidbits on the polio epidemic and hospital. Yet, those parts actually became the main focus, much to my delight. I loved exploring how this small southern town pulled together to create this polio hospital practically overnight, donating time, energy, material support, and medical logistics to the task.

Polio was such a big scare in the mid-20th century. Most people nowadays don’t even think about it. It was fascinating to see that explored in this small town setting, where rumors about the condition spread like wildfire and everyone knows the victims. Where another story could be a bleak portrayal of a small town in crisis, held in the hands of an epidemic, Stolen Marriage gives us a town who pulls it all together to get over this tragedy. I loved how the author portrayed this town.

The polio epidemic also seems to give Tess the kick in the pants to find her own path in life. She starts out trying to please everyone in Hickory, her new husband’s family especially. Quickly, she finds out this is impossible, given she’s the outsider who has stolen the life expected for a local gal. I loved how she shook off this mindset when faced with a bigger crisis. She seems to find herself and mature fast, coming out the other side stronger and with an iron will.

Besides Tess, the reader also gets a great grasp on Chamberlain's secondary characters as well. I grew to love most everyone, even the grumpy mother-in-law. Even her, I came to know why her attitudes were such and why she acted how she did. After I learned of Henry’s story, my sympathy for him rose fast. He’s faced with an impossible situation given the societal mores of the time.

Despite the rocky start with Tess being a bit of a doormat, I learned to love this book as it explored a seldom used historical story and combined it with well-rounded characters. As Tess progressed on her journey, the reader can’t help but be sucked in by her struggles and triumphs. If you’re looking for a great read, give this one a look. The book only gets better the longer you read.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

REVIEW: A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

Publisher: Dutton Books
Page Count: 480
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Format: HardCover

How got: personal buy via Amazon

First attention getter: already loved series

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.

Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.

Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Their story is again illustrated throughout by haunting vintage photographs, but with a striking addition for this all-new, multi-era American adventure—full color.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

When I heard that Riggs was writing a new Peregrine trilogy, my anticipation was through the roof. I was ready and willing to dive back into the world of Peculiar-dom with vigor. So as soon as the new book hit Amazon, I put that pre-order in ASAP and got reading as soon as I got it. For the most part, Riggs has hit a home run again. There are a few blips that bugged me, but at the prospect of more Peculiar works, I’m still game.

I adored seeing Peculiar-dom explored in America. In ways it’s a far darker place than Wight/Hollow haunted Europe as it’s Peculiar on Peculiar cruelty. The way history developed in America was FAR different than Europe due to the continuing absence of certain people and the history of racism in 19th century and early 20th America. I was kept enthralled by this history and world building, a specialty that Riggs seems to excel in.

Exploring Abe’s background and getting more details and what he really did in Peculiar America made for fascinating background and plot elements. Rigg’s suspenseful storytelling never lets up as Abe and his cohorts travel north from Florida on new missions and discoveries into Abe’s past. I couldn’t help but be pulled forward chapter by chapter as the story was masterfully told.

I also enjoyed exploring Jacob’s continuing development. Riggs does a great job in showing how Jacob starts to chafe at his status in the European Peculiar world and the continuing restrictions placed by the Ymbryne overseers of that world. He’s finding his footing in his powers and his identity as a Peculiar all while still showing traits true to his true age, that of a teenager. He’s still head strong, impulsive, and at times, childish. However, I can start to see the man he’s going to become.

The one aspect I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of was Jacob’s traveling companions. Not that I didn’t enjoy more of his cadre of Peculiar friends from across the pond but it almost felt kinda random, their inclusion into the story. While elements of the story did hinge on the peculiarities of the specific individuals, I feel like the story could have been told with less individuals to put in an opinion. It almost felt like the author was just trying to keep this new book tied to the first trilogy rather than incorporating those characters into a new story arc.

I felt like the story would have been served better if he’d shed his travel companions faster. By the end, we do have Jacob firmly on his new journey; yet I felt he could have started on that new journey sooner with more exploration given to his new situation and companions. The whole thing with him and Emma just really drove me up a tree. While a part of his growing up and shedding his old identity, it felt like an add on detail that I could have done without.

Despite this little quibble, I felt this was a great new addition to the Peculiar series. With Jacob firmly on his new journey and with more maturity under his belt, I feel like his continuing adventures will keep me entertained for far into the future. I look forward to exploring Peculiar-dom in American in far greater details and can’t wait for book two!

Monday, August 20, 2018

REVIEW: The Romanov Empress by C. W. Gortner

The Romanov Empress
by C W Gortner

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Page Count: 431
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Format: Trade Paperback ARC

How got: LibraryThing giveaway

First attention getter: author

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.
Narrated by the mother of Russia's last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia's most compelling women who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.

Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage--as her older sister Alix has done, moving to England to wed Queen Victoria's eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to his reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie--now called Maria--must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.

Her husband's death leaves their son Nicholas as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas's strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.

From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

I always know that when I pick up a C. W. Gortner book, I’m in for a great read. This title is no different. An incredible woman’s journey through glittery extravagance, personal tragedy, and the downfall of an era, the reader gets a fantastic tale that stays with the mind far longer after it’s over.

As always, Gortner does a great job in setting his scenes. Maria’s dazzling wedding, endless parties and charities in the early years, rumblings of unrest in bombings galore, and the eventual takeover of Russia by the Bolsheviks suck the reader in by the author’s generous usage of descriptions and sensory details. He strikes a subtle balance between descriptive passages and dialogue that gives the reader a wonderful imaginary world to explore the events portrayed. All this without going overboard and drowning the reader in too many details.

The only exposure I’ve had to Maria’s story is her fictionalized portrayal in the animated movie Anastasia, and I mean come on, can that really count?? So this woman’s incredible life was a complete mystery to me. I loved getting to know her strength of will, her deep love for her children, how she grew to adore her new country, and her adaptability in ever increasing changes in Russia’s political landscape. My heart hurt for her personal tragedies and crowed in triumph when things went well. I was that drawn into her story with Gortner’s great job at building her character.

I also loved how well we got to know the people in Maria’s life: her husband, father-in-law, children, and grandchildren. The lives of Nicholas Romanov, his empress, children, and Rasputin has been built up so much over the years to be almost legendary and mythical nowadays. I loved getting to know their personalities in all their human glory. I loved how human Gortner made everyone, really. From foreign spouses to cousins to grandchildren, everyone is beautifully fleshed out.

I've been reading or interested in reading Russian history lately. So I had great timing in winning it. I loved exploring how the Russian world of tsarism changed to Bolshevik revolutionary fervor in such a landslide time frame. I mean within only a couple generations, Russia went from a autocratic monarchy to what amounted almost to anarchism until Communism took firm hold. Seeing all that bold change through Maria's strong-willed eyes was a treat. She falls in love with Russia when crowned as one of it's royals and mourns to see it's fall into deprivation, anarchy, and death.

Again, Gortner has created a true masterwork of biographical historical fiction. He creates bold, intriguing characters and explores a world rich in detail and change. He's got another work here I'm more than happy to recommend to any reader, but especially if you love Russian history. This is truly a book to get lost in. Thanks again, Mr. Gortner, for another fantastic work!

Note: Book received for free from LibraryThing giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

REVIEW: The Tudor Legacy Trilogy by Laura Andersen




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THE TUDOR LEGACY TRILOGY (Virgin's Daughter, Virgin's Spy, & Virgin's War)
by Laura Andersen

Page Count: Combined - 1,104
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2015-2016
Format: Trade Paperbacks

How got: personal buy via Amazon

First attention getter: alt history genre and enjoyed the 1st tril enough to try the 2nd

Synopsis:

Usually I'd put GR's synopsis here as they're usually straight from the book/publisher/Amazon/what have you. But since I'm doing three books in one review, if you really want to know synopsis', please head to their respective GR pages.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

I enjoyed this trilogy FAR better than the first. The author keeps her fantastic skills in alternate historical, suspenseful storytelling. She also corrected the issues I had with the first trilogy in the areas of characters and melodrama. While there was a whiff of that last in this trilogy, it in no way stood out.

I loved exploring the “what-ifs” explored here. The different dynamics of Elizabeth I actually marrying and producing a child with Phillip of Spain, Mary Queen of Scots having a different path in life, and far different power dynamics when it came to the Spanish Armada all made for a powerful read. I loved how in-depth the author got with the very human side to her story as well. The horrors of English occupation of Ireland and the human cost of war all kept me emotionally engaged.

I loved her characters this time round. While I was initially disappointed that we had such a time jump skipping over Elizabeth’s actual marriage with Phillip (was especially looking forward to exploring that relationship), I still found myself loving everybody. All characters are three-dimensionally portrayed, with virtues and foibles in everybody.

What little bit I did get of Elizabeth’s and Phillips relationship, I enjoyed immensely. These two great minds and monarchs would have been true matches for each other, if religion hadn’t played a divisive roll. Besides being a political advantageous matched, there also seemed to be mutual respect and attraction between them. I’ve even read that this was historically the case as well. Maybe it’s just me, but I almost think they could have been another Ferdinand and Isabella.

Characterization was where the first trilogy came into problems. The main couple there read as too perfect. At least here, our main characters, the children of Dominic, Minette, and Elizabeth have their downfalls. From too much stubborn pride to initial immaturity to overconfidence, each character is very well rounded. We see real growth in both maturity levels and personalities as war looms on the horizon and loss is felt. I saw this greatest in Kit’s case. I loved watching his growth as he gets an unexpected boost in life prospects, and he grows to fit into that new roll.

The melodrama was toned down A LOT. Will’s personality and story arc, combined with Minette’s and Dominic’s perfection, was the main culprit for the first trilogy. Will being absent and the diminished roles of the other two this time round helped matters. While there were occasional whiffs, thinking Pippa’s continual mysteriousness, this trilogy was refreshingly safe from that pitfall.

I went into this trilogy wanting more Elizabeth. Though I didn’t get what I originally wanted, I still got a great story, well-rounded characters, and a well-done exploration of an alternate historical path. You’d probably have to read trilogy one to get all the nuances of this one. But I fell that’s worth it to get into this great follow-up series. I loved all three books this time!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

REVIEW: Who Is To Blame? by Jane Marlow

Who Is To Blame?: A Russian Riddle
by Jane Marlow

Publisher: River Grove Books
Page Count: 301
Release Date: Oct 18, 2016
Format: Trade Paperback

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

Who is to Blame? is a 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 takes its final bow, and much of Russia’s nobility faces possible financial ruin.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

The author gets a real feel for the times. This era of history, 1860s rural Russia, is a complete mystery to me so exploring its diametrically opposed lifestyles was a shock to me. The reader senses how bleak it was as a peasant in serfdom-era Russia and how plush it was as an aristocrat. Serving as small kingdom tyrants in essence, landowners could even dictate things as personal as marriages for their people.

Yet, given the era this book takes place in, we get a sense of the balance of power shifting. As the tsar contemplates freeing the serfs from land bondage, the aristocrats start to feel the pinch of their fortunes slipping away. The peasants also start to feel their bargaining power as they contemplate a future of choice and uncertainty. As they’re freed from the continuing cycle of farming and the seasons, they start to wonder what will happen to them and what their choices are.

In amongst all that, we get an intimate view into these two worlds as well. Stepan’s world of wealth and landowner responsibility contrasts sharply with Elizaveta’s miserable world. We do get a sense of how much Stepan feels that responsibility as it contrasts sharply with his son, Anton, whom shows no interest in manor management nor anything else but vodka, easy money, peasant girl molestation, and gambling.

In the later half, we do show some growth for Anton. He feels his age as the years go on, shows some responsibility towards an illegitimate daughter, and vague interest in land management later in life. Anton’s journey is actually probably one of my favorite parts of the book. I started out really hating him, especially after that first molestation scene. Yet, towards the end, I could see a maturity and sense of wanting to right past wrongs in him. I started to like him as the book closed.

Elizaveta’s journey was just the opposite. She started out young and full of hope, in love with a childhood friend and certain their future together could be arranged despite religious and societal strictures against it. However, in steps Stepan and his dictates which throws Elizaveta’s dreams and life down the drain. Once her downward spiral starts, there’s no end in sight.

Once Elizaveta's life takes that dark turn, it stays dark all the way to the end. While she does get some resolution and victory over one odious antagonist, there's still no HAE here. So bear that in mind when reading her story, as there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Only a bitter satisfaction over one minor dark victory with a lifetime still ahead full of hardship and mistrust.

So ultimately, the author shows her true skills in these two individual's journeys. We get a look into their minds and hearts as they grow and change with the times. While happiness and life goal achievements aren't in the cards, the reader is still taken on an incredible journey of character change and growth with the advancement of time.

The one area of this book that didn't flow as well as the pacing. I felt like the author was trying to force too many years into too few pages. Within less than 300 pages, 25 years of events and complex Russian history is crammed along with examinations on how they affect the various characters involved. Add that to exploring three different character story arcs and you've got too much information squeezed into too little a space. I felt like there were times I didn't get to know Stepan, Anton, and Elizaveta as much as I wanted to.

With that in mind, though, I still feel this is a book worth checking out. Exploring a historical time period not often played in and great character arcs make this a historical fiction tale worth the read. The author isn't afraid to explore the bleakness that came with difficult life circumstances, giving the reader a real sense of the harshness of life at times. Not every author would be brave enough to do this, so kudos for that. I would definitely recommend this tale to lovers of historical fiction, especially for those who enjoy the more obscure of history.

Note: Book received for free from author in exchange for an honest review.