Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Air Raid Killer (Max Heller, Dresden Detective, #1) by Frank Goldammer

This was an excellent crime novel set in Dresden immediately before and after the end of WWII.   Max Heller is a police detective who is not a Nazi and does not ascribe to the Nazi philosophy.   His only goal is to be true to himself and keep the peace.

A serial killer known as the Fright Man terrorizes Dresden at the close of the war.   Max is stymied in his hunt for the serial killer by the entrenched Nazi hierarchy.  The author does a great job showing the character of Max Heller.

The author also does a great job at showing the desperation of the populace after the war.  The horrific aspects of life at that point in time was clearly portrayed.  It was also interesting to note the way that the average person was so intimidated by the Nazi party that they were afraid of doing anything.

I recommend the book.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain

Smoking KillsSmoking Kills by Antoine Laurain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain

Cigarettes are now associated with death but not normally with murder. An infatuation with both lends the macabe to the story.

This author dwells on character introspection.

Fabrice Valantine is a head hunter of the job opportunity persuasion rather than the jungle dwelling type. However they both have an affinity for poisons.

This book was a bit strange.

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This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Q&A with Jane Marlow, author of How Did I Get Here?

A Q&A with Jane Marlow, author of How Did I Get Here?
Book 2 in the Petrovo series

1.       What inspired you to write How Did I Get Here?

While I was conducting research for the first novel in the Petrovo series, Who Is to Blame, I kept bumping into this thing called the Crimean War. Eventually, I realized it simply had to be the backdrop of my next novel for two reasons. First, the Crimean War was the guinea pig for a myriad of innovations that forever changed the face of warfare. The second factor that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go was the War’s magnitude as a gruesomely ugly historical reality.  Not only was the carnage on the battlefield hideous, but an even greater number of fatalities were attributable to disease, malnutrition, winter exposure, and lack of competent leadership. Not until World War I would more people die as victims of war.  

2.       What led to your fascination with Russia in the 1800s?

I trace my interest back to 6th grade when mother dragged me kicking and screaming to a professional stage performance of Fiddler on the Roof. But as my feet began tapping with the music, I experienced the proverbial smack-to-the-forehead. I was just at the right age to gain an inkling of understanding about prejudice, suppression, rural culture, and the deep-seated role of religion.

3.       You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know when you started how extensive your research would become?

Research turned out to be a little more problematic than I expected. Although I located a modest number of books and articles, the Crimean War doesn’t play a prominent role in US history, and I was left with many uncertainties. I attempted to locate a graduate student in the US who would proofread my manuscript for historical accuracy but found no takers. I ended up consulting with the Crimean War Research Society in the U.K. I’m particularly grateful for their expertise for the chapter that took place at the Malakov bastion.

4.       What is one of your favorite stories or details about life in 19th century Russia?

While conducting research, I was taken aback by the fact that prostitution was a regulated business in Russia during the 1800s. For example, in order to control syphilis and other venereal diseases, prostitutes were required to be examined periodically. Their customers, however, had no such obligation. The policy seems akin to placing a dam half-way across the river, doesn’t it?  My third book in the Petrovo series offers readers an insider’s view of a Russian brothel.

5.       Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you? Any advice for other authors writing historical fiction?

My research began way back in the late 1980s. Because the Internet wasn’t an option in those days, I scoured the library for books and articles. Thank goodness for the Interlibrary Loan program! I also took a sightseeing trip to Russia which included spending time in the rural farmland that serves as the setting for my fictional village of Petrovo. Nowadays, I’d urge any historical fiction writer to befriend their local librarians. They know the ins and outs of the various online databases.

6.       What was it like writing from the perspective of a male character? Any challenges?
Such a daunting undertaking for a senior-citizen woman to plunge herself into the mindset of a young, virile male! One tool I used was to read and reread Jonathan Tropper’s novels. His flawed, lustful protagonists crack me up!

7.       What distinguishes How Did I Get Here? from other narratives about the Crimean War?

American authors have produced very little in the way of fiction set in the Crimean War; therefore, it’s a wide-open canvas. Second, my novel doesn’t end with the war. It shows a veteran’s struggle with the then unnamed consequence of war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Third, as a veterinarian, I felt compelled to demonstrate the agony war inflicts on animals. My eyes tear up every time I read my own passage in which the protagonist has to kill a horse that was injured in battle.

8.       As a writer, how do you weave fact and fiction into a novel?

Conceptually, it’s easy if your mind is prone to flights of fancy. However, meticulous research and double-checking is required if the characters are well-known persons or if the setting is a well-documented event. 

This particular book presented an additional challenge. During the 1800s, Russia used what is known as the Old Style calendar (O.S.), which is 12 days behind the Western New Style (N.S.) calendar. Hence, historical Russian events are often dated along the lines of “Oct 24 O.S. (Nov 5 N.S.).”

Imagine being an author (i.e., me) doing research on a war in which one of the military forces used Old Style while the opponents used New Style. Additionally, some authors mark their books, articles, and online resources with either N.S. or O.S., but other authors don’t deem it necessary to specify which calendar style they use. Then try to coordinate actual events (some N.S., some O.S.) into a fictional narrative in which timing was crucial to the story. My sanity underwent a notable decline in during this period of writing.

9.       Were there any unexpected obstacles you encountered when you began writing How Did I Get Here?

The same aspect that I hope will attract readers—a story about a little known but ghastly war—was also a hurdle—finding detailed depictions from the Russians’ point of view.

10.   What do you hope your readers will get out of the novel?

My desire is that readers find several take-home messages:

First, the old adage, “Beauty is only skin deep.” 

Second, malevolence and injustice can mold a child, but fortitude plus a helping hand can remake the man. 

Third, every person is obligated to give back to society. And not just according to what he received from it, but at a higher level.

Fourth, a better understanding of the demons of war as manifested in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

11.   Who’s a character from the book you wish you could meet?

I relish 10-year-old Platon’s inquisitiveness, boundless energy, and joie de vivre. In fact, I’d adopt him if I could. But since I can’t, I’m entertaining the possibility of writing a book with him as the protagonist, so I can watch him mature into a man.

12.   What was your favorite novel growing up?

By the time I reached junior high, I was ready to put the Nancy Drew series behind me. Being a typical girlie-girl, I was forever enamored by the first adult, mainstream novel I read, Gone with the Wind.

13.   What authors/books do you draw inspiration from?

If only I could be as talented a writer as Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo!. During a seminar on writing fiction, the instructor told us that taking pen in hand and writing and re-writing good passages from favorite books would promote brain neuron connections that would improve our own writing. I must have copied the same passage from Nobody’s Fool at least 200 times!

14.   Can we expect more books in the Petrovo series?

You bet! The third novel in the series will offer an insider’s view of the seamier side of 1870s Moscow.

15.   Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?

       Both novels are available in paper, Kindle, and Audible formats on Amazon. If your local bookstore doesn’t stock the book, request that it be ordered.

For more about me as an author, plus a few chuckles from Slavic Slapstick, as well as jaw-dropping tidbits about historic Russia, visit my blog at, and subscribe to my free, no sales gimmicks, no obligation e-newsletter with quarterly in-box delivery.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Spotlight on How Did I Get Here by Jane Marlow

How Did I Get Here? 

by Jane Marlow

In the 1800s, two events altered the course of Russia’s future—the emancipation of the serfs and the Crimean War. Author Jane Marlow takes readers back to this significant time in Russian history, journeying 800 miles south of Moscow to the frontlines of the Crimean War, in her second novel, How Did I Get Here?

Andrey Rozhdestvensky enters his final year of medical studies in 1854 with an empty belly, empty pockets, and secondhand clothes held together by wishful thinking. When Russia blunders into the misbegotten Crimean War, Tsar Nicholas recruits medical students to the front. Andrey grabs at what he believes to be free passage out of his vapid life—a portal to a new identity.

Volunteering as a surgeon for the Russian army, Andrey travels to the frontlines in Sevastopol and Simferopol on Russia’s Crimean Peninsula, where he discovers the atrocities of war, and fights to keep death and disease— scurvy, typhoid, typhus, cholera, gangrene and frostbite—from decimating the troops. As the war progresses, Andrey fears his mind is becoming unhinged as he witnesses the most senseless disregard for human life imaginable.

But even after the ink dries on the peace treaty, the madness of the war doesn’t end for Andrey. He scours city and countryside in search of a place where his soul can heal. Emotionally hamstrung, can he learn to trust the woman who longs to walk beside him on his journey?

A war story told in intimate human terms, How Did I Get Here? is the result of Jane Marlow’s lifelong interest in 1800s Russia and extensive research into the Crimean War. The second book in the Petrovo series, this novel follows Who Is To Blame? A Russian Riddle, reacquainting readers with several of their favorite characters.
In How Did I Get Here?, readers witness the war’s frontlines from a Russian surgeon’s perspective (as compared to the well-known accounts of British nurse Florence Nightingale of the enemy’s forces). The book also examines unrecognized and untreatable Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a century before it was given a name, and explores the precariousness of war—why one man lives, the one beside him dies, and another is impaired for life.

A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, How Did I Get Here? is hard-hitting historical fiction for serious readers.

About the Author

Jane Marlow ( was 11 years old when her mother hauled her to a stage performance of “Fiddler on the Roof”—a night that began her lifelong fascination with the grayness and grandeur of 19th century Russia. After a 30-year career as a veterinarian, Jane began writing full-time. She spent years researching 1800s Russia, the setting for her first two novels, Who Is to Blame? and How Did I Get Here?, the first and second books in the Petrovo series. Jane holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Texas A&M University, and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois. A longtime resident of the Austin, Texas area, she now lives in Bozeman, Montana.

Story Ideas / Key Messages

   How Did I Get Here?: An unexpected war narrative set in 19th century Russia

   Jane Marlow’s years of research on 1800s Russia: the Motherland’s tsars, reforms (including the emancipation of the serfs), nobility, peasants, war, culture

   The First of the Modern Wars: The impact of the Crimean War and its influence on both the US Civil War and WWI
   Exploring Russia before Putin, before Stalin, before the Revolution

   The Crimean War (1853-1856): The war that was a game changer in the balance of power in Europe. Never again would Tsardom be regarded as all-powerful.

   The two-and-a-half-year-long Crimean War claimed at least 750,000 lives, rivaling the U.S. Civil War in its death toll. The conflict also forever altered the nature of combat, marking the battlefield debut of railways, telegraphs, steamships, rifled muskets, and newspaper coverage.

   June 2018 is National PTSD Awareness Month, and June 27, 2018 is PTSD Awareness Day: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afflicts between 10% and 30% of the veterans of U.S. wars since Vietnam. In How Did I Get Here?, we see a character affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a full century before it was given a name.

Praise for Who Is To Blame? (Book 1 in the Petrovo series)

“Jane Marlow has done a marvelous job 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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Daddy’s Little Girl by Mary Higgins Clark

Ms. Clark did an excellent job in showing how readily love ones are to accept and project blame amidst a tragedy.   A young woman suffers an untimely demise.  Her demise not only ends her life but negatively impacts those around her.  Ellie, the sister, feels she should have done more.  Andrea’s parents both feel the same.  The loss of a child provides such trauma that all around it are impacted.

Frankly I thought the main protagonist, Ellie, was a flaming idiot on more than one occasion in the book.   However stirring emotion is something every author hopes to provoke so Clark did well.  

The human side of the story, not just the plot is a hallmark of Ms. Clark.   Her books never fail to delve into the motivations of her characters.

I recommend.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER 
have a bearing on my recommendations.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Eye for an Eye by Ben Coes

Power Down was the first book I read by this author.   The author writes with the pedal to the metal and doesn’t hesitate to gun down a character that you like.   This is not a series for the faint of heart.

The main character is  Dewey Andreas.  Dewey was Delta Force but was forced out by some questionable circumstances.  His background allowed him to become a major force in stopping the terrorists as shown in Power Down.   Apparently some time and books have passed as he is back working for the government.

The villain is China and their clandestine service but the economics of China’s investments in the United States also plays a role in the story.

Overall it is a story of vengeance as illustrated by the title.

If you have issues with high levels of graphic violence the book may not be for you but I found it shockingly realistic.

I recommend.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, April 13, 2018

I, Sniper by Stephen Hunter

Bob Lee Swagger a Vietnam Vet, an alcoholic, a sniper and a hunter battling PTSD is back.   Bob is old now, and feels like he is out of the game.   He is not!   Being old myself,  I found reassurance that an old guy can still kick some butt.   Oddly enough, I am not nearly deluded enough to believe I could but Bob Lee Swagger certainly can.

This plot is centered around the defamation of a Marine Corp hero, a sniper.   Bob Lee doesn’t buy into all the hype.   Radicals from the 70s are being murdered by a sniper and the hero stand accused.  Nick Damascus, FBI agent, is back in this book.    He is still a stalwart friend of Swaggers.

The investigation includes very thinly disguised notables.   So thinly disguised as to be amusing.   The theme of Bob Lee Swagger opposing enormous and powerful adversaries with a small network of friends and otherworldly skills continues in this book. 

As I have noted with past Hunter books, don’t plan to get a lot done once you start the book as you will not, I repeat, YOU WILL NOT WANT to put it down.

I highly recommend.

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This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.