Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: "Picnic at the Iron Curtain" by Susan Viets

From Goodreads:  Welcome to the world of collapsing Communism. It is the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall when people are still willing to risk all to cross the Iron Curtain to the West. In this adventure-packed memoir Susan Viets, a student turned journalist, arrives in Communist Hungary in 1988 and begins reporting for the Guardian, not at all prepared for what lies ahead. She helps East Germans escape to the West at a picnic, moves to the Soviet Union where she battles authorities for accreditation as the first foreign journalist in Ukraine and then watches, amazed, as the entire political system collapses. Lured by new travel opportunities, Viets shops her way across Central Asia, stumbling into a tank attack in Tajikistan and the start of the Tajik civil war. "Picnic at the Iron Curtain" shows every day people at the centre of dramatic events from Budapest to Bishkek and Chernobyl to Chechnya. It is a memoir that spans a period of momentous historical change from 1988-1998, following through with an eyewitness account of Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004.

My Thoughts: This book appealed to me because of my interest in all things Russia and Eastern Europe.  Ms. Viets, in her role as a journalist, had a front row seat to the fall of communist Eastern Europe and details these events in Picnic at the Iron Curtain.  She travels through Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Central Asia, and Bosnia and describes the good, the bad and the ugly as life as people knew it changed forever.  

I really enjoyed this book.  It was fascinating to see these events take place through the eyes of someone from the 'West'.  Ms. Viets had some really interesting experiences and she tells them in such detail that you can almost 'see' what she is describing. This book was very readable; it read like a work of fiction which added to the enjoyability of the story.  Her discussions of life in Ukraine appealed to me the most and it saddened me that Ukraine is still dealing with many of the issues she mentioned were occuring there over 20 years ago.  She also discusses events in Bosnia; the section on Bosnia was so heart-breaking.  I feel like the war in Bosnia is kind of forgotten and I was glad that it was mentioned in great detail.  I was also very intrigued by the people she met.  Many of the people she encountered seemed so kind and friendly and it seemed that Ms. Viets found friends wherever she went.  She mentioned that she wondered if people back home would be as friendly to strangers and I kind of have to wonder the same thing.

Picnic at the Iron Curtain is a thoroughly enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone.  4 stars.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Blast and Giveaway: The Graham Saga by Anna Belfrage

I am so excited to host a book blast for The Graham Saga by Anna Belfrage!  This is one of my favorite series and if you haven't read it yet, you should!!

Join Anna Belfrage as her beloved time-slip series, The Graham Saga, is featured around the blogosphere from July 28-August 15 with HF Virtual Book Tours and enter to win your own set of Books 1-6!

About The Graham Saga

The Graham Saga Series

This is the story of Alex and Matthew, two people who should never have met - not when she was born three hundred years after him.

It all began the day Alex Lind got caught in a thunderstorm. Not your ordinary storm, no this was the mother of all storms, causing a most unusual rift in the fabric of time. Alex was dragged three centuries backwards in time, landing more or less at the feet of a very surprised Matthew Graham.

In a series of books we follow the life and adventures of the expanding Graham family, both in Scotland and in the New World - and let me tell you it is quite an exciting life, at times excessively so in Alex' opinion.

Sometimes people ask me why Alex had to be born in the twentieth century, why not make her a woman born and bred in the seventeenth century where the story is set? The answer to that is I have no idea. Alex Lind is an insistent, vibrant character that sprung into my head one morning and simply wouldn't let go.

Seductively she whispered about terrible thunderstorms, about a gorgeous man with magic, hazel eyes, about loss and sorrow, about love - always this love, for her man and her children, for the people she lives with. With a throaty chuckle she shared insights into a life very far removed from mine, now and then stopping to shake her head and tell me that it probably hadn't been easy for Matthew, to have such an outspoken, strange and independent woman at his side.

At this point Matthew groaned into life. Nay, he sighed, this woman of his was at times far too obstinate, with no notion of how a wife should be, meek and dutiful. But, he added with a laugh, he wouldn't want her any different, for all that she was half heathen and a right hand-full. No, he said, stretching to his full length, if truth be told not a day went by without him offering fervent thanks for his marvelous wife, a gift from God no less, how else to explain the propitious circumstances that had her landing at his feet that long gone August day?

Still, dear reader, it isn't always easy. At times Alex thinks he's an overbearing bastard, at others he's sorely tempted to belt her. But the moment their fingertips graze against each other, the moment their eyes meet, the electrical current that always buzzes between them peaks and surges, it rushes through their veins, it makes their breathing hitch and ... She is his woman, he is her man. That's how it is, that's how it always will be.

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest (November 2014)
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)

About the Author

Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she's multilingual and most of her reading is Anna Belfragehistorical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer - or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she's still there.

For additional information regarding Anna, her characters, extra scenes, and teasers for her next books, have a look at Anna's website at: You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, July 28
Broken Teepee
Kincavel Korner
bookworm2bookworm's Blog

Tuesday, July 29
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, July 30
A Bibliotaph's Reviews

Thursday, July 31
Book Drunkard

Friday, August 1
The Lit Bitch

Saturday, August 2
Book Nerd

Sunday, August 3
Literary Chanteuse
Just One More Chapter

Monday, August 4
A Bookish Girl
Historical Tapestry
To Read, Or Not to Read

Tuesday, August 5
CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, August 6
The True Book Addict

Thursday, August 7
Impressions in Ink

Friday, August 8
A Bookish Affair
The Mad Reviewer

Saturday, August 9
Historical Fiction Connection

Monday, August 11
Gobs and Gobs of Books

Tuesday, August 12
Pages of Comfort

Wednesday, August 13
History Undressed

Thursday, August 14
Passages to the Past

Friday, August 15
Mina's Bookshelf


To win a set of Anna Belfrage's Graham Saga (Books 1-6) please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Two winners will be chosen. Giveaway is open internationally!
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 16th and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mailbox Monday (23)

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme started by Marcia at To Be Continued.  Check it out here.

I've been busy reading my multitude of library books and haven't got anything new for a few weeks until Friday.  I got one book this week and it looks like it will be a good one!

For Review (from publisher):

Isn't the cover pretty?

What books did you get this week?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quick Review: "The Book of Life" by Deborah Harkness

From Goodreads:  After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

My Thoughts:  I loved this trilogy, but The Book of Life is by far my most favorite of the three.  It had this awesome mix of history, folklore and science that just made for a fantastic story and I absolutely loved how Harkness wrapped everything up. 

It's hard to talk about all the things I liked about this book without giving things away so I am not  going to say too much.  The characters are one of my favorite aspects of this book.  There were a ton of them so at times it was hard to keep track of who everyone was but they were all so unique and interesting.  I know Baldwin is supposed to be a bad/good guy but I really loved him.  I also adore Gallowglass; his loyalty to both Matthew and Diana makes him so lovable. Benjamin was a super scary villain and his antics were beyond creepy.

I loved the scientific and DNA discussions in the book.  I find genetics to be incredibly interesting and the whole discussion of witch and vampire genetics was really cool.  I also enjoyed learning more about the Book of Life, what secrets it held and the magic involved.  This book is not just a great read, it is also an intelligent read.  Harkness obviously did a ton of research to be able to write this story and it was definitely worth it.

I can't recommend this book, and the others, enough.  If you have any interest in historical fiction and/or fantasy, this is the book for you. 5 stars.

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: "The Boleyn Reckoning" by Laura Andersen

From Goodreads:  Elizabeth Tudor is at a crossroads. After a disastrous winter, the Duke of Northumberland has been executed for treason while his son, Robert Dudley, claims from the Tower that the true traitor has not yet been caught. And though her brother, William, has survived smallpox, scars linger in the king's body and mind and his patience is at an end. As English ships and soldiers arm themselves against the threat of invasion, William marches to the drumbeat of his own desires rather than his country's welfare. Wary of this changed royal brother, Elizabeth assembles her own shadow court to protect England as best she can. But William, able to command armies and navies, cannot command hearts. Minuette and Dominic have married in secret, and after an ill-timed pregnancy, they take to flight. Faced with betrayal by the two he loved most, William's need for vengeance pushes England to the brink of civil war and in the end, Elizabeth must choose: her brother, or her country?

My Thoughts:

Likes:  I love the whole alternative history aspect of this book. It is the third in a trilogy and I thought the author did a wonderful job of wrapping everything up.  I loved the romance between Minuette and Dominic and how it withstood all the horrible things that were thrown their way.  I also really liked Elizabeth's character.  She was the voice of reason in what was a really chaotic situation.

Characters:  William was crazy.  I hated him in this book because he was a complete mess and basically a horrible person.  I kind of felt bad for him but he really needed to get a grip.  Also, a lot of characters died in this book.  I was a little surprised by how many were killed off but it's an alternative history so I guess anything can happen.

Dislikes:  The only thing I really 'disliked' was that I wanted an epilogue or something to tell me what happened to Dominic and Minuette years after.  I really want to know how things worked out for them!

Overall:  This was a great finish to a really good series.  I have to give Ms. Andersen a lot of credit for writing such a creative and unique story.  4 stars.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mailbox Monday (22)

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme started by Marcia at To Be Continued.  Check it out here!

Since the local library closed on July 9 for a few weeks, I had to make a second trip there last weekend to pick up some more books.  You would think they were going to be closed a few months, not simply a couple weeks with how many books I checked out. I definitely won't run out of books to read.

From the Library:

(I've featured this book before but never got around to reading it.)

For Review (from HFBVT):

(pictured above)

What books did you get this week?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Quick Review: "A Triple Knot" by Emma Campion

From Goodreads:  Joan of Kent, renowned beauty and cousin to King Edward III, is destined for a politically strategic marriage. As the king begins a long dynastic struggle to claim the crown of France, plunging England into the Hundred Years’ War, he negotiates her betrothal to a potential ally and heir of a powerful lordship.

But Joan, haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution at the hands of her treacherous royal kin, fears the king’s selection and is not resigned to her fate. She secretly pledges herself to one of the king’s own knights, one who has become a trusted friend and protector. Now she must defend her vow as the king—furious at Joan’s defiance—prepares to marry her off to another man.

In A Triple Knot, Emma Campion brings Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent” to glorious life, deftly weaving details of King Edward III’s extravagant court into a rich and emotionally resonant tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal.

My Thoughts:   I loved that this book covered a period of history that I am not very familiar with.  It was so refreshing!  It was nice to meet an entirely new set of characters instead of ones that I have seen portrayed in fifteen different ways.  I liked Joan a lot but there were times where it seemed weird that the story was told by a 12 year old (at least in the beginning).  Prince Edward was a little scary.  He wasn't really the villain of the story but every time he showed up, he gave me the creeps.  

I think what interested me most about this story was the case involving Joan's marriage to Thomas Holland.  It was fascinating to read about the extent each side went to in order to 'win' and I really enjoyed reading about the process of investigating her the details of her marriage and interviewing witnesses, etc.  It's just crazy to think about how Joan had to deal with so much and wait so long in order to actually be with her husband.

One of the things I didn't love about this book was that the historical aspects got really confusing.  I spent a lot of time googling different historical characters and their stories so that I could get a better idea of what was going on.  It made it a little hard to get into the story.  I also didn't like that the story kind of just ended; Joan lived a long while after the point at which the story ended.  I was definitely left wanting more.

Overall, this was a good read that made me want to read everything I can find about Joan of Kent. 3 stars. 

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