Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review: The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Pages: 810
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 2001
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, " The golden skies, the translucent twilight, the white nights, all hold the promise of youth, of love, of eternal renewal. The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler's armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad.  Yet there is light in the darkness. Tatiana meets Alexander, a brave young officer in the Red Army. Strong and self-confident, yet guarding a mysterious and troubled past, he is drawn to Tatiana—and she to him. Starvation, desperation, and fear soon grip their city during the terrible winter of the merciless German siege. Tatiana and Alexander's impossible love threatens to tear the Metanova family apart and expose the dangerous secret Alexander so carefully protects—a secret as devastating as the war itself—as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever."

The story opens up during WWII Russia with siblings Tatiana, Dasha, and their brother living in close quarters along with their parents and grandparents.  Russia is on the brink of war, so to keep Pasha, Tatiana's twin brother, safe as he is old enough to be in the Red Army, they send him to summer camp away from the city of Leningrad with the hopes that he would avoid the war.  Dasha, Tatiana's oldest sister still is unmarried and lives at home.  However, her very full social life keeps her out late; in fact, she has met someone special. Hitler has broken the nonaggression pact with Stalin and has invaded Russia, which obviously means war is even closer on the horizon now.  Tatiana is only sixteen years old, but one night when she is out getting ice cream she can't help but notice a solider in the Red Army and he can't help but notice her as well.  They hit it off despite the fact that he is older and to complicate matters further, she finds out that this is the guy Dasha has been seeing.  Things start to get really tough for the Metanov family as there are food rations and more upsetting complications from war to come. Paullina Simons' sweeping saga, The Bronze Horseman, is about family, love, survival, and war.  It is a page turner not only filled with a lot of historical details, but a lot of romance as well.

Tatiana really grew on me as she got older and more mature in The Bronze Horseman. At first her naivety was troublesome as well as her forgetfulness, but as the story progressed, I really enjoyed her journey.  My heart went out to her countless times and although I didn't always agree with her choices, I still cared a lot about her plight.  Dasha, on the other hand, was a tough pill to swallow. At times, I felt badly for her, because the readers know that her boyfriend likes her younger sister. Yikes. But even before she comes to realize this, she treats Tatiana horribly. In fact, Tatiana's entire family treats her poorly to the point where she's like Cinderella doing anything and everything for them.  This irked me to no end.

Alexander, the solider that Tatiana feels a strong connection with, is also a compelling character in The Bronze Horseman. He isn't just your average Red Army solider. His back story is really intriguing and like Tatiana, I didn't always agree with his choices, but I sure did care about his story. I wanted him to come clean to Dasha about his feelings for Tatiana, but of course there were some major complications. The course of true love never did run smooth, right?

The war was like a character in and of itself in The Bronze Horseman. Simons did a great job creating a sense of place and the complications that WWII brought to many people in Leningrad. I had no idea how badly the city suffered. It brought tears to my eyes to think of what the people had to endure. Between the rations, the starvation, and the bombing it was all heart wrenching. Often when we think of the horrors of WWII, we think of the Holocaust and Pearl Harbor, and while that is obviously horrific, I wish more people would talk about the Siege of Leningrad. It lasted two and half years and caused the greatest destruction as well as the largest loss of life in a modern city! I was horrified and so deeply saddened as Simons made it feel very real.

Now The Bronze Horseman isn't just all about history.  There are some major swoon-worthy and steamy moments in this novel. If you don't like a lot of romance in your historical fiction, this one may not be for you, but I, on the other hand, thought it was a nice compliment to such a serious story.  I adored the romance between Tatiana and Alexander - truly an epic love story.

I am thrilled The Bronze Horseman is part of a series and I look forward to checking out the next installment. Be forewarned though. This book is a huge undertaking and takes some commitment. I promise though that you will be absorbed in this engrossing tale about life, loss, and love. (And at the time I write this review, it's on sale for 1.99 as an ebook! An incredible deal!)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Post (20)

Waiting on Wednesday: The Lake Effect
Book Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Guys, I finally read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Wow. It was a really lengthy undertaking, sort of like the Outlander series, but I have been meaning to read it for years, so I am glad I finally tackled it. It was a really great book, especially if you like romance in your historical reads. So, keep your eye out for my review this week! I will also be sharing a new Top Ten Tuesday focusing on books that I loved way more than I thought I would --- don't you just love when that happens? And coming up in the next week or two my thoughts on Daughter of the Pirate King, a new YA debut that is so much fun! 

Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer - Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine
Trusting You and Other Lies by Nicole Williams - Thanks to NetGalley and Random House

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord - Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury

Have you read any of these books or are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts! Thanks for visiting! This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Five (37)

Happy Friday! Sometimes I like to talk about what I am currently into that is not necessarily book related. Here's what I have been up to/thinking about/enjoying lately. Let me know what you think!

1. DoTerra Essential Oils - My son has started preschool this year and although he has a great immune system and rarely needs to take antibiotics, he has been bringing home colds. A lot of them.  I know this is bound to happen, but it has taken its toll on my youngest son and even myself! We seem to be catching every cold. Anyway, my friend recommended DoTerra's OnGuard essential oil to boost our immune system. I have a sample of OnGuard and I bought a diffuser, so I am ready to go. Anyone else a fan of essential oils? I love the concept and I could use some calming ones as well.

2.  Reign - So, Reign is back on! Anyone else a fan? They didn't even advertise (to the best of my knowledge) its return very well. All of a sudden I saw it on my DVR. What's the deal? Either way, I am glad that it has returned despite its glaring historical inaccuracies.

3.  The White Princess - I am so excited that this show will be coming to Starz in April. Did you guys see the trailer? I think it looks awesome. The Cousins' War series by Philippa Gregory is one of my favorites. I am sure this show will do the book justice. So far the casting looks spot on. What do you guys think?

4. This Weekend - The weather this weekend is going to be around 60 degrees!  For February in Pennsylvania, this is pretty much a heat wave. I can't wait to soak up all the sunshine and spend some time outdoors. Who is with me?

5.   Valentine's Day Trifle - I made this with my oldest son on Valentine's Day.  We wanted to do something somewhat healthy and quick for a week night.  This was so easy and a lot of fun to make. A perfect Valentine's Day Treat!

I hope you all have a great weekend. Let me know what you are all up to and what you're reading. I finished up Daughter of Pirate King, which was so much fun and has a Black Sails vibe to it. I am currently reading The Hollywood Daughter --love anything Old Hollywood! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Lake Effect

This is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  "Waiting on Wednesday" spotlights upcoming releases that I'm eagerly anticipating.

The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan
Pub. Date: July 11, 2017

Goodreads says, "Fans of Nick Hornby, Huntley Fitzpatrick, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will love this smart, funny, poignant YA romance and coming-of-age story—from the boy’s perspective  - lake effect | n.  The effect of any lake, especially the Great Lakes, in modifying the weather in nearby areas.  It’s the summer after his senior year, and driven, focused Briggs Henry is ready to leave behind his ex-girlfriend, his comically aggressive grandmother, and his parents’ money troubles for Lake Michigan and its miles of sandy beaches. He’s lined up a summer job working as a personal assistant and living in a gorgeous Victorian on the water—exactly the kind of house Briggs plans to buy his parents once he’s a multi-millionaire. But when he arrives, his boss, the eccentric Mrs. Bosic, tells him to get dressed for her funeral. Uh . . . It’s the first of many funerals they’ll attend this summer—to hilarious and eye-opening effect. Add to this a new set of friends-enemies - friends-again, and Abigail, the mysterious girl next door on whom Briggs’s charms repeatedly fail, and “the lake effect” is beginning to take on a whole new meaning.

This is a beach bag must have for summer of 2017.  Also, the author wrote one of my favorite novels, Love and Other Foreign Words, so I am excited to check this one out.  What do you guys think? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Through the years, I have shared some great posts in honor of Valentine's Day. Here are some of my favorites: 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Love Stories

Top Ten Tuesday: Heartbreaking Books 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Make You Swoon  

What are some of your favorite love stories?  I love me some Claire Fraser and Jamie Fraser from Outlander, but my heart will always hold a special spot for Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables

I hope everyone has a great Valentine's Day and spends some quality time with those you love. Oh, and eat all the chocolate, too.  That's what I plan on doing! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Pages: 432
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: February 21, 2017
Source: Publisher for review
Publisher: Harper Teen
Other Books By Author: A Wicked Thing
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.  Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.  Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.  Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.  As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown."

Freya is a distant relative to the king, so it has never occurred to her that she could one day sit upon the throne.  She has spent most of her time studying science and hanging out with her best friend. At the king's birthday dinner, she sneaks off to start a new experiment along with her best friend, and while she is gone, the entire court has been poisoned.  Freya finds herself as one of the only royal survivors and in turn, she is next in line for the throne!  She is thrusted into this position and consequently must take on new responsibilities and kiss her dreams of being a scientist goodbye. She has never really prepared herself to be a queen as she was so far removed from the throne, so Freya has much to learn about court life.  Plus, there's the huge issue of whole poisoned the court and what if they do it again?  Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas has a little bit of everything. There's court politics, a murder mystery, strong female friendships, and Freya's journey to becoming a queen.

Freya is an interesting character in Long May She Reign. I like that she cares about science and isn't your usual female at court.  She's a bit socially awkward, but nonetheless, I liked her determination as she really wants to find out who is responsible for poisoning the court.  After all, her life is at stake as well until they find out who is the culprit.  Freya must also navigate court politics and that is not easy. There's the new heir at court who is Freya's polar opposite and is very charismatic, then there's the king's charming illegitimate son, her father who seems too eager for power, and lastly, the king's best friend who even suspects her as the poisoner.  And these are just a few of the cast of characters that Freya must deal with all while maintaining power as queen. Who can she trust?

What I like most about Long May She Reign is the fact that it's a standalone fantasy which is pretty much like spotting a unicorn.  We need more standalone YA novels, because who has time to commit to an entire series? Series have become the new fantasy genre norm and it's very time consuming to get through them all, so I enjoyed the fact that I could just take in Freya's journey presently without dealing with a setup for book two or major cliffhangers.

I also really enjoyed the strong female friendships in  Long May She Reign, which I think we also need more of in YA literature. I always appreciate a supporting female friendship when I see it, so it definitely was one of the strong points in this novel.

The romance in  Long May She Reign was a little weak at times; in fact, this book is more about politics and a murder mystery. While this didn't bother me, I thought I would share it as I know many people like a strong romance in their stories, which was not the case here.

So, if you are looking for an interesting YA fantasy that is a standalone (YAY!), then try out Long May She Reign this winter.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Post (19)

Waiting on Wednesday: Changes in Latitudes
Book Review: Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

I've been a bit behind on my posts lately, because my entire house has been sick for awhile. It started off as colds and then progressed to something more, which has been tough for my sons, especially my 9 month old. I even caught strep for the first time! UGH!  We are so ready for spring!

Anyway, we are on the mend now, but I am still a bit behind with my blogging and reading.  I'll be sharing my thoughts on Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas this coming week. It's a new YA fantasy that is stand-alone, which is nice as it seems there are way too many fantasy series out there lately. I'll also be sharing a fun Valentine's Day post in the next few days.

Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone - Thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss
Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney - Thanks to Katherine Tegen and Edelweiss

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse - Thanks to Little, Brown and NetGalley
Bad Blood by Demetria Lunetta - Thanks to NetGalley and Random House

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer - Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel - Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Crown


Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz - Thanks to Putnam
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser- Thanks to Becky at Stories and Sweeties

Have you read any of these books or are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts! Thanks for visiting! This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

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