Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

More Q&A From Carrie Morgridge Author of The Spirit of the Trail

More Q&A From Carrie Morgridge Author

1.      What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
· I first wrote our bike across the country as a blog.  The hardest challenge was reading my scratch from my phone – which we turned into a book.  Both John and I had to go back and just look at the photos and re-write the entire trip.  The crazy thing is that our memory is sparked by each day of photos and we both could remember crazy details each and every day (46 total) of that summer.
2.      On a Friday night, what are you most likely to be doing?
· I love a good glass of red wine. I love to be outside for sunset with John, Nina our dog and many times friends. I work seven days a week, so sometimes I am not sure Friday night from Sunday night. 
3.      What do you like to do when you are not writing?
· I love to work out.  I play tennis, go to the gym, snow ski, SUP, swim, snorkel, and at the very end of the day – get a massage.
4.      Who are some of your favorite authors?
· Adam Grant, Thomas Friedman, Walter Isaacson, Jim Collins, Malcom Gladwell, Sheryl Sandburg, E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, Peter Reynolds, Bill Peet
5.      Do you have a bucket list? What are some of the things on it?
· Be a great grandma – I have 4 grand puppies and 2 grand kittens
· Inspire women to be whatever they want to be.
· To be a great wife
· To visit Mully and President Kugama in Africa
· To laugh each day
· To love more each day than the past day
6.      Have you won any awards or honors (not just for writing)?
· Several -
· Arthur B Lorber Award for Distinguished Service from National Jewish Health – where they never say never and our foundation supports a school for medically frail children, and residences for up and coming doctors for all of America.
· Frances Wisebart Jacobs award – United Way Denver (back in the day Frances was not allowed to serve on boards, yet built the bus system so that medically frail people could get to National Jewish Health.  Frances started United Way – in Denver Colorado with a rabbi and a priest. 
· Urban Legend Award – for our work with homeless teens and young adults
· Hope Award – from Tony LaRussa for our work in rescue animals
· Josef Korbel Humanitarian Award – from the University of Denver for our work in our community and around the US. 

7.      What person(s) has/have helped you the most in your career?
· My husband, John is my rock.  He put me through college, believed in me as my parents did, and 150% supports me every day
· My in-laws – John and Tashia Morgridge – they are the BEST in-laws ever. 
· My parents – they still think I am amazing and I love them dearly.
· John Farnam – my consultant, best friend, and colleague of 6 plus years
· Kellie Lauth – The CEO of a non profit that we spun off from Morgridge Family Foundation – but she is the inventor, the creator and just uber smart.  Someone I look up to.
· Dr. Bridget Coughlin – CEO Shedd Aquarium – Has taught me so much about business, science, evolution.  Smartest woman I know, and one of the kindest.
· George Sparks – CEO of Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Taught me how to connect with people better, to work crazy hard, and to never give up.
· Dr. Michael Salem – CEO of National Jewish Health.  So smart, so driven and willing to talk with me as an intellectual about all subjects.
· Arthur Brooks – CEO of American Enterprise Institute.  Arthur can share his intellectual thoughts to the point where you can understand what he his saying, yet his words seem to be my words.  He pushes me to be better.
· Jo Kwong – Director of Economic Development at The Philanthropy Roundtable.  Jo never stops.  Her passion to make America self-reliant is contagious. Our best projects in our foundation is because of Jo’s introductions and I am a better philanthropist because of her. 
· Robert Wolgemuth – He was my agent for my first book, Every Gift Matters – How Your Passion can Change the World. He and his late wife Bobbie, brought me closer to God, and each day since magical things have happened in my life that I would have never dreamt possible.
8.      What’s the best writing advice you have ever received?
· Edits are great!  Go with it.
9.      What was your favorite book as a child?
· Dr. Seuss – Green Eggs and Ham
10.  What is the one book no writer should be without?
· Their first book that makes them fall in love with reading. This is very individual and each of us can remember our first book, that we just couldn’t put down and pulled an all nighter to finish. This is the book to hold on to forever. 
11.  How do your spouse/significant other/friends/family feel about your writing career?
Carrie and John
· If you knew my background deeper you would understand that my family is pleasantly surprised.  However, I am a hard worker, so my husband was not surprised when I asked him if I could write my third book, even though I am just finishing book 2.  I am getting better, and it is coming much easier, and as Malcom Gladwell says, when you have 10,000 hours you too, will become an expert.  No writer is ever an expert, but we do get into our groove.
12.  If your book was turned into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
· Reese Witherspoon
· Patrick Dempsey

Monday, May 28, 2018

Q&A with Carrie Morgridge Author of The Spirit of the Trail

1.      Where did you grow up /live now?
· Born in Santa Barbara, California.  Moved to Aspen CO from CA, and then split time between CO and FL.  Warm cold thing.  Now live in Stuart FL on Hutchinson Island and Steamboat Springs CO.
2.      As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
· My mom said I could be anything I wanted to be – every night as a child.  I met prince charming in San Francisco and lived happily ever after.
3.      What is your education/career background?
· I graduated HS by one point.  I was totally disengaged, but my parents always told me I was smart.  Went to college at 36 and graduated Suma Cum Laude.  Timing was everything.  I have an Associates in Arts from a VoTech School in Tampa – International Academy of Technology and Design.  I graduated as an Interior Designer. 
4.      Do you have kids and/or pets?
· Yes -  A son John – age 26 and a daughter Michelle – married age 25.  One loveable dog Nina – Toy Australian Sheppard – who travels with us, on planes and in our RV sprinter. 
5.      When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?
· I don’t consider myself a writer, as I always need help with editing, and grammar.  However,  I am a story teller, and I have been exposed to so many amazing things being a Morgridge for 27 years.  Two men in my life, both from the non profit world believed that I had a story to tell.  Every Gift Matters, my first book became an amazon best selling book. Then I won best non fiction from Indie Book Awards and the rest is history.  I have toured India twice from the book, and have a third book in me – Courage Money. The stories come easy, and I acknowledge that there are great writers out there who can help me make my books sing. 
6.      Where/When do you best like to write?
· I am a very early riser, and I like to write first thing when I wake up.  Writing is not a push for me, but a pleasure. When I am into a book, I write first thing, then do a really hard work out – shower – and come back to the story. My brain processes through work out and overnight, so I take advantage to both. When I experience something new or worthwhile, I will write about it and bank it in google docs. I already have many stories ripe for book three.
7.      Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions?
· Yes. see answer 6..
8.      When you are struggling to write/have writer’s block, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?
· Yes. Since I write about the now, I do two things. I go on site visits and meet people from my favorite charities and interview them. Their energy feeds my soul, and inspires me to write about them, share their stories and share the goodness in the world. We need to know more about what is out there and focus on the good.  Secondly, I go for a hard workout, which is probably harder than the normal person.  Training for Ironman is hard, and there are many things that one must sacrifice to do finish.  As a mom of small children at the time, I had to balance, family, college, and training all at the same time.  I made a daily goal, and worked one day at a time to a weekly goal, which lead to a monthly goal. So when I mean a hard workout it is 3-5 hours nonstop. I will go unplugged and let me mind take me where I need to go.  From there – I can write about anything.  I honestly can feel all my senses and the writing just flows.
9.      What do you think makes a good story?
· A good story to me is worth repeating. So when I read, hear or learn of a great story, I immediately try to share in my network.  A good story to me is a simple person, doing a heroic thing, yet they don’t even know it, because it is second nature.  A good story is someone who was willing to take a change to try something different and succeeded/failed.  The point is that they were willing to take a risk – and I like risk taking. 
10.  What inspired your story?
· My story is about a couple – who celebrated their 25th anniversary by going on an epic adventure.  We needed each other more and more each day, and helped each other in ways we hadn’t done in 25 years – with kids, careers, etc.  Our trip brought us closer together as if we just met and fell in love.  It was incredibly hard.  There were hard days, tough nights and scary points – all worth sharing.  I hope to inspire others to fall in love again, to adventure cycle, or if anything – unplug for the weekend – take a bike ride and enjoy nature. 
11.  How does a new story idea come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you?
· My next book came to me right away.  When you publish a book, it is like having a baby – “when is the then one coming?” is the general question.  So that got me thinking, but I biked across the country first, and it was a fun, inspiring, from the heart book that I had to get out there. It is the 20th anniversary for the Adventure Cycling Association, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, so my timing is perfect, and I can afford to give 100% of the proceeds to them from the book sales.  This will allow them to continue the great work in open space trails and adventure cycling for all.  
12.  Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
· I hope my message inspires others to hit their bucket list and bike across – you fill in the blank – the country, the state, the city, the place.  But to go out there and do it. If a small town girl like me can bike across the country – so can you.
13.  What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
· Writing is the easy part. Editing requires professionals. I spend more time with edits and making it perfect for the reader.. Again, I rely on the professionals, and I welcome edits, I don’t disagree, as I know they are making the book better.  I want the book to be 100% perfect for the reader.

Tomorrow: More Q&A From Carrie Morgridge

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Spotlight on The Spirit of the Trail by Carrie Morgridge

The  Spirit  of  the  Trail  
A  Journey  to  Fulfillment  Along  the  Continental  Divide
“Decidedly  not  for  sprinters,  this  battle  royale  braves  mountain  passes  and  windswept  valleys  of  the  Continental  Divide  from  hinterlands  of  the  Canadian  Rockies  to  badlands  of  the  Mexican  Plateau.”  -
"A  venturesome  minority  will  always  be  eager  to  set  off  on  their  own,  and  no  obstacles  should  be  placed  in  their  path;  let  them  take  risks,  ...let  them  get  lost,  sunburnt,  stranded,  drowned,  eaten  by  bears,  buried  alive  under  avalanches  –  that  is  
the  right  and  privilege  of  any  free  American."  –Ed  Abbey,  author,  environmentalist  and  one  of  the  most  eloquent  and  passionate  advocates  of  the  American  West.    

While  The  Spirit  of  the  Trail  primarily  describes  the  life-altering,  2,800-mile  bicycling  expedition  on  the  Great  Divide  Mountain  Bike  Route  (GDMBR)  from  Banff,  Canada,  to  Antelope  Wells,  New  Mexico  endured  by  Carrie  Morgridge  and  her  husband,  John,  during  the  summer  of  2016,  it  frequently  touches  on  concepts  and  personal  traits  that  are  of  vital  importance  to  the  Morgridge  Family  Foundation  philanthropic  mission.  The  Foundation  strives  to  open  new  paths  for  children  and  adults.  As  bicycling  offers  a  sustainable  method  of  transportation,  the  Foundation  models  sustainable  philanthropy.  And  while  a  cycling  adventure  is  hands-on,  so  is  the  Foundation’s  search  for  worthwhile  projects  to  support.  The  book  serves  as  an  informative  (but  not  too  technical)  guide  for  those  who  are  ready  to  tackle  the  GDMBR  and  anyone  who  is  curious  about  stepping  out  of  their  comfort  zone  and  facing  a  large  or  difficult  challenge.  Carrie’s  voice  throughout  is  inspiring  and  uplifting,  even  on  the  days  when  she  is  tired  of  eating  out  of  a  can,  sleeping  on  the  ground  and  is  considering  giving  up,  she  finds  a  meadowlark  or  a  field  of  gorgeous  wildflowers  to  remind  her  of  all  that  she  is  thankful  for,  and  presses  on.  

As  with  her  earlier  book,  Every  Gift  Matters,  their  Foundation  plans  to  contribute  all  proceeds  to  the  Adventure  Cycling  Association  in  support  of  the  Foundation’s  enduring  commitment  to  health  and  environmental  conservation.  

Tomorrow: Q&A with Carrie Morgridge

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Shooting for Tenure by Brian Forsyth

This was a good mystery.  Much like a bull fighter and his cape distracting the bull, the author layered the plot in subtle deception, luring false speculations to the true perpetrator of violence.   Solveig’s over arching prejudice against all in the law profession is balanced by the sheer goodness of Gregory.   The oil and water conflict permeates the tone of the novel where Solveig is struggling for tenure.

The sheer strength of Solveig’s prejudice is hard to resolve with the image of a likeable, knowledgeable academic.   However prejudice while reasonably easy to acquire is all to often difficult to dismiss.   A former student sues the university and a rival uses the law suit to try and deny Solveig’s tenure.   There are some blatant stereotypes and the author has Solveig wield them like a club. 

Overall I liked the story but I had some difficulty with the emotional irascibility of the main protagonist.

It all tied together is a well kept secret ending.

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

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.

View all my reviews

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