Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Who is to Blame? Blog Tour and Review

Who Is to Blame? by Jane Marlow
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
eBook & Paperback; 300 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Author/Publisher for an honest review

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

My Take:

Who is to Blame? by Jane Marlow is definitely a worthwhile read, but it isn't a light or easy one. I found the novel to be so very realistic in its depiction of the brutal and often hopeless lives of the serfs tied to Count Maximov's land.

Often in novels, the main character -for instance, the outspoken, idealistic young girl who has dreams of spending the rest of her life with the love of her life -- actually gets their happy ending. This is not the case in Who is to Blame? This novel is stark and almost too realistic in the depiction of the lives of the serfs. But it does a great job of presenting realism instead of a fantasy version of a historical period.

Even the lives of the privileged aristocrats such as the Maximov family have their own problems -- mostly due to arrogance and expecting that everything should go their way, but still there are legitimate problems. The family stresses are the main issues for Maximov - his wife never really recovers from the loss of one of her children and they grow distant; one of his sons lives a life of debauchery and deception and Count Maximov struggles to make his land profitable. The problems of a wealthy class stand in stark contrast to the day to day struggle for survival and simple human dignity of the serfs, which the Maximovs consider to be nothing more than property.

I was drawn into the story and was really interested in how things would play out, but I quickly realized that this was going to be a thought-provoking book - not just entertainment. Working out who is to blame and how to fix the problems are  much harder tasks than we are often led to believe. I really appreciated that Marlow didn't try to sugar-coat things. Sometimes we readers need to tackle difficult topics and ideas. Anyone interested in realistic historical fiction - especially dealing with Russian history - and isn't afraid to tackle tough subjects, will enjoy reading and pondering Who is to Blame?

About the Author

Thanks to my mom and my hometown’s bookmobile, I learned as a youngster to appreciate the written word. Since then, I’ve devoted many years to trying to use it properly. Like many aspiring writers, I wrote weekends, before work, on vacation. I hoped to turn my hobby into a 2nd career, which eventually happened (but first, I had to work at it for eighteen year, plus I had to reach retirement age!).

My commitment to my readers: Every bit of me will work to provide a reading experience that is engrossing, emotive, thought-provoking, & historically driven— a tale that offers meaningful insights for today’s world.

For more information please visit Jane Marlow’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Infinity of You & Me Blog Tour and Review

The Infinity of You & Me by J.Q. Coyle
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: November 8, 2016
Source: Publisher for an honest review


Almost fifteen, Alicia is smart and funny with a deep connection to the poet Sylvia Plath, but she’s ultimately failing at life. With a laundry list of diagnoses, she hallucinates different worlds—strange, decaying, otherworldly yet undeniably real worlds that are completely unlike her own with her single mom and one true friend. In one particularly vivid hallucination, Alicia is drawn to a boy her own age named Jax who’s trapped in a dying universe. Days later, her long-lost father shows up at her birthday party, telling her that the hallucinations aren’t hallucinations, but real worlds; she and Jax are bound by a strange past and intertwining present. This leads her on a journey to find out who she is, while trying to save the people and worlds she loves.

This novel explores the ideas of choice and destiny. Baggott says, “We created a concept that explains that feeling of being haunted by the path you didn’t take, a concept that explores some natural human emotions like regret, nostalgia, a grief for the life unlived.” This concept influences the world-building within the novel, making it complex yet thoughtful.

The dynamic duo behind J.Q. Coyle make THE INFINITY OF YOU & ME a wild ride through unruly hearts and vivid worlds guaranteed to captivate. Smart and magical, this novel will catch hold of any reader, young or old.

My Take:

Alicia has some issues -- she has lots of diagnoses, but that doesn't seem to help her much. Fortunately, she has one loyal friend, Hafeez, and he stands by her no matter what. Alicia is the brunt of much abuse by some of her other classmates and it seems odd why - until much later in the book. There are so many things that have been hidden from Alicia, but her fifteenth birthday is coming up and things will change quickly and drastically for her - and so many things will be revealed and then things get even more complicated for her.

 I found Alicia and the story to be engaging and once the reason for all of Alicia's supposed issues is explained, the story really takes off. I found the descriptions of the multiverse and how Alicia eventually learns to travel between the different versions of the world to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel. 

The different versions of people that Alicia knows and is related to are quite interesting as well. Actually I found the whole novel to be quite fun and intriguing. I expect that the relationship between Alicia and Jax will be quite important to the YA reading audience, but for me it was just part of the plot. Maybe I'm too old and too much of a nerd, but the travel between multiverses and the way the knowledge and abilities are used and exploited were just the most fascinating parts for me.

There is a lot to think about in the novel in regards to how our experiences shape the person we become and taking responsibility for our choices and actions.

I look forward to reading more about Alicia's adventures -- I can't believe that this one book is it for this writing duo and the worlds they have created. My daughter was practically bouncing off the walls waiting for me to finish reading the book so she could have her chance. I expect The Infinity of You & Me to be a big success.

About the Author

J.Q. COYLE is the joint pen name of Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton. Quinn is an acclaimed writer who has published two short story collections and two novels. Julianna is the author of over twenty novels, including Pure, a New York Times Notable (2012).

A Man of Honor Blog Tour and Review

  A Man of Honor, or Horatio's Confessions by J.A. Nelson Publication Date: December 9, 2019 Quill Point Press Paperback, eBook & ...