Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Lunatic Life

My Lunatic Life
Sharon Sala
Bell Bridge Books
ISBN: 978-1611940428
$ 11.95
156 pages
Young Adult

For any teenaged girl, moving during high school can be upsetting. If the move is at the beginning of
the senior year, it can be a traumatic.

Tara Luna has a few other issues to add to this like living with her single parent, bachelor
uncle since the death of her parents. Also having psychic powers and two ghosts as her closest
companions definitely keeps her life interesting. More importantly, these are not the best conditions in
starting a new life with new friends.

In this new house where Tara lives with her uncle, she feels the presence of another ghost, a dark spirit
who is not communicating with her but who seems to have been murdered. What does this
apparition want from Tara? She discovers that her body is buried somewhere in the backyard, but
where? Who killed her and why?

The high school is not exactly the best for Tara since she immediately has acquired some adversaries,
the head cheerleader and her best friends. Added to that, the head cheerleader’s former boyfriend is
very interested in Tara.

Tara’s psychic powers allow her to sense things which are troubling others. She can sense when
someone is missing money because the babysitter is stealing from her or if someone is near death So
how do you tell the teachers that someone is dying in a bathroom in another part of your building
without directly involving yourself?

All of these definitely cause Tara to think about her lunatic life.

My Lunatic Life is fast-paced and engaging. Tara has special abilities but solves real problems that are
normal to most teenaged girls. She fortunately has two ghosts who greatly assist her with the
injustices of life. Between wondering about the questionable background of a boy who seems to be
interested in her, to dealing with a bachelor guardian who tends to like the life of a nomadic gypsy, to
making new friends, to having meddlesome interfering but caring ghosts, to researching the past and
greatly upsetting those alive, all of these are what makes My Lunatic Life a delightful book.

Since one thread that was started in My Lunatic Life was not concluded, I look forward to the sequel,
The Lunatic Detective.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Bitter Veil

A Bitter Veil
Libby Fischer Hellman
Allium Press
April 15, 2012
ISBN: 978-0983193814
316 pages

For many of us growing up as children in the middle of the twentieth century, we expected to have our
dreams fulfilled, love, marriage, education, a successful career, …

Hindsight always gives a person an advantage. However, in A Bitter Veil, an American girl, Anna, meets
an Iranian boy, Nouri, who is studying engineering in Chicago. They meet in a bookstore and begin to
discuss Persian poetry. This is the beginning of their loving relationship. It seemed like the perfect
match even though she was blond and he had dark hair. Both had that Aryan look about their eyes.
At that time not many people in this country had married someone from this area of the world. Being
That in Iran at this time had about 46,000 Americans living there and appeared progressive with
technology, styles, and habits, no one could have predicted how things could and would change in a
very short time.

Anna had never been close to her family so her love for Nouri fulfilled her and she eagerly anticipated having an extended family, even if it is in Iran. Fortunately, Nouri’s family was wealthy and greatly benefited from the Shah’s reign basically living a Western life in Tehran.

As the couple begins their new life in the modern Iran of 1978, the southern section of Tehran is having demonstrations and riots due to the inequality of opportunities inside this country. The southern part of this city is poor, the northern section where this couple lives, appears not to even be aware of the problems.

When the Shah leaves and the Ayatollah returns to the country, many people are eager for the change, this should fulfill their hopes and dreams. However, when the U.S. Embassy is attacked and those inside are held hostage, the attitude towards Americans and modernization quickly changes. This reversion to the old beliefs is difficult for those who were in favor with the previous governmental powers.

In A Bitter Veil, the voice of Anna is realistic and believable. Libby Fischer Hellman extensively researched this time period, the changes in Iran, and those people who actually underwent this experience. This in-depth fictional story is well-organized, engaging, as well as informative of actual historical episodes and the effects on those Americans in Iran.

A Bitter Veil is a true historical experience. Even though it is a romance at first, it is also a mystery, and definitely reflective to the changes within Iran.

Hindsight always makes us reflect into a right or wrong situation. A Bitter Veil allows us to view the changes through the eyes of a naïve Westerner while also having the reader develop a deeper understanding of the people.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hurt Machine

Hurt Machine
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books
F + W Crime
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4405-3199-6
$ 15.95
310 pages

“Death, not time, is probably the only lasting remedy for hurt and even that’s just an educated guess.”

Moe Prager is the realistic protagonist in the latest book in this series by Reed Farrel Coleman, Hurt
Machine. Moe is a private investigator who also happens to be Jewish, who spent years working as
NYPD, but made the choice to do the right thing, rather than be promoted. His thoughts are
on his recent diagnosis of stomach cancer with the upcoming surgery and having his daughter, Sarah,
getting married. He doesn’t plan to tell Sarah about the cancer until after the wedding. The surgery is
scheduled during her honeymoon.

A former investigative partner, Carmella Melendez, asks for Moe’s help with discovering the murderer
of her sister, Alta. Alta was stabbed to death after a highly publicized incident where Alta and her
partner refused to give medical help to a dying man even though they were trained as EMTs. The press
crucified the two which cost them their careers complete with public hatred. The partner was forced
into complete isolation due to the public hatred. Why would two EMTs refuse to help a dying man?
What logical reason could there be? What really happened? Why were there no witnesses who came
forward regarding Alta’s death?

Hurt Machine is the seventh novel in the series featuring Moe Prager. This novel works both as a
standalone or as a series installment. Reed Farrell Coleman has written thirteen other novels including
two other series, two standalone novels, various short fictional stories, essays, and poetry. He
works as noir poet laureate for “The Huffington Post”, is adjunct professor at Hofstra University, and an
instructor at Mystery Writers’ Association University. His writing has been nominated and won
numerous awards for the Shamus, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony awards.

Hurt Machine excels in realistic characterizations. The plot is well-developed, complex, detailed, and lifelike. The entire story feels real as you are with Moe with his physical pain of cancer and the emotional pain of working for his former wife, Carmella. This awkward situation of working with his ex-wife while she is also not completely forthcoming, while Moe at the same time chooses to keep secrets from his present wife and daughter, makes this investigation into his former relationships complex, but also genuine. His feelings of loss for Israel, Carmella’s son, but not Moe’s natural son, is a convincing emotion for any parent whether after a divorce and a long period of time with no contact at all. This emptiness for Israel leaves an, an enormous void engulfing Moe.
Moe’s approach to this investigation was to go back to the original incident with the EMTs ignoring the dying man. When he questions Alta’s partner, to him it seems obvious the secrets that he is not being told. Unfortunately, no one chooses to inform Moe about the reasons behind this decision in ignoring a dying man.

Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers

Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers
Chris Gravenstein
Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-202620-0
$ 16.99
320 pages

Sometimes everyone needs a little help to do the right thing.

When a fifth-grade student is being bullied, who is there to help him? Riley Mack and his friends, that’s who. For fifth-grader, Jamal Wilson, he is grateful to become one of the troublemakers..

Riley Mack is almost a typical seventh-grade student. Almost. His father taught him that bullies are
basically cowards. With the help of a few friends, Jake Lowenstein who is a technology genius, Briana
Bloomfield, who is an acting talent unlike any others, and Mongo, who has the size and bulk of a football
player, this group uses their talents to help people. With the addition of Jamal who has lock-picking
abilities, they are called the Gnat Pack.

Unfortunately, the bully is Gavin Brown whose father is the local town sheriff. It was Sheriff Brown who
labeled Riley, a troublemaker when years ago, Riley was caught shoplifting. Riley learned his lesson
about crime quickly, the sheriff though runs his town according his version of justice, especially if it is
benefits him, even if it is against the law.

The real bullying problems show ingenuity with the solutions and the importance of having friends.
Riley has a father in the military serving in Afghanistan while his mother is working at a local bank. The
importance of communication with his parents and having defined limits, added to this realistic aspect
of the story.

Another issue is the business of puppy mills. Most children are magnetically attracted to
dogs and have little background about the problem of puppy mills. Grabenstein graphically explained
this issue clearly.

Chris Grabenstein is a successful author who has written an adult series of book featuring John Ceepak,
Tilt-A-Whirl, Mad House, Whack a Mole, Hell Hole, Mind Scrambler, Rolling Thunder, and
soon-to-be released, Fun House. His children’s books are geared for ages 10-14. His haunting
children’s trilogy beginning with The Crossroads, The Hanging Hill, and The Black Heart Crypt is
spellbinding. The Explorers’ Gate is a delightful romp through Central Park.

Riley Mack and the Other Known Troublemakers is fun. The story is fast-paced and most importantly,
gives hope for those who are being bullied. At times, some events were a little contrived, but this is
fiction. The thematic strength is to solve a problem by discussing it with others and working together.

I have read all of Chris Grabenstein’s novels and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. Each story is
entertaining, well-written, and having the theme of doing the right thing. Even as an adult,
Grabenstein’s children’s stories are intriguing, fast-paced, and enthralling. Riley Mack is an entertaining
romp for everyone.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dead Forever: Apotheosis

Author: William Campbell
Copyright 2010
Glyd-Evans Press
Paperback $ 16.95
ISBN 978-0-9717960-5-8
362 pages

Sometimes you just can’t be at the right place at the right time. Maybe it could be that your right time is wrong for you but perfect for someone else.

What if you narrowly escaped with your life and find yourself imprisoned on an alien planet with what appears to be a humanoid catlike creature? Due to your intelligent ability to talk your way through many conflicts, the captors eventually see you as a god rather than an enemy. So now you have been elevated to the divine level, thus apotheosis.

Adam has lived through many body changes and has fortunately survived with maintaining some of his previous memories. He really values his memory of the one he loves, Christine, and his former nemesis, Jared.

Instead of a body dying, the memories search out a new body at a farm where they are created. There are not births, just moves the consciousness to new bodies. The hope of each individual is for a new body rather than a permanent death. Due to genetics, the need for births are no longer needed and no one has a childhood.

Unfortunately, once Adam accepts his god status, his immediate thoughts are for Christine and begins a search for her accompanied by Physuro and Stu, two loyal catlike humanoids. During the search they are captured by the snakelike creatures that are at war with the cats.

This futuristic sequel to DEAD FOREVER: AWAKENING continues the personal conflicts of these human characters as they change physically, but maintain their friendships, love, and animosities. The addition of Physuro and Stu add comical and delightful situations.

DEAD FOREVER: APOTHEOSIS is the second in this proposed trilogy. You cannot understand APOTHEOSIS without reading AWAKENING. The characters and the storylines overlap too much for this to be a successful stand alone novel.

The strength of APOTHEOSIS is the continuation of the relationships between the characters, even with their body changes. The humanity towards others or the lack of with the characters makes both books an action adventure with sincere relationships that make each entity visible to the reader.

I look forward to the final installment, DEAD FOREVER: RESONANCE.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Train to Nowhere

Train to Nowhere: Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation
Colleen Bradford Krantz
Ice Cube Press
ISBN: 978-1888160451
174 pages

For those who live in Iowa, it is not unusual to observe trains with coal and grain cars marked with graffiti that seem to be endless. Whether the railroad cars are full or empty, their constant presence is part of the landscape. Who would expect there to be eleven dead bodies in a grain car of one train headed to be loaded with grain in a remote Iowa town?

In the small town of Denison, Iowa, during 2002, a worker was inspecting the grain cars before loading them at the local elevator. As he unlocked one car, he looked a little longer, believing that he was seeing a shadow. When the shadow resembled human skeletons, he immediately informed the local law enforcement agency.

After further investigation, eleven skeletons were discovered. These were people who apparently willingly entered this grain car with the idea that they would only be temporarily locked inside. However, the short time turned out to be months of being baked inside a metal car during the hot, humid summer months. Who were these people? Why would anyone willingly enter a locked train car during a hot Texas summer?

Train to Nowhere investigates who these people. Why would anyone take a chance to be locked in this grain car? What would make someone take a chance on entering and allowing themselves to be locked into this metal oven?

This story mainly centers on one person whose family searched diligently for him and finally found him on this train.

From the varied perspectives of the families of the survivors to those who have been considered to be responsible for their deaths to the investigators, Train to Nowhere uniquely keeps each of their stories unbiased allowing the readers to develop their own judgments about who is responsible for these deaths. This novel also has extensive research into the aspects of the health issues as these eleven suffered tortuous deaths as well as the issues involving illegal immigration in this country.

Colleen Bradford Krantz was masterful with writing this novel. Her journalistic expertise demonstrated only factual information as in a court case with the reader being the jury, passing judgment on who is to blamed for this horrendous tragedy. This book has also been also made into a PBS documentary.

It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction, read Train to Nowhere. You decide who is responsible and how to be certain that this never happens to any living soul again.

The Mikado

How can a young man be happy if he is betrothed to a much-older woman? Nanki-Poo is in this dilemma. Since he is the son of the Mikado of Japan, his obligation is immense. So what is the solution? He runs away and is disguised as a wandering minstrel, who is returning to search for the woman he really loves, Yum-Yum. Of course, Yum-Yum is betrothed to a man who happens to be her guardian but she still loves Nanki-Poo. Are you confused yet?
This is the story of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera,” The Mikado”.
“The Mikado” thrilled the audiences at the Orpheum Theater last weekend. This comedic opera had an updated flavor with many parts of this traditional production being substituted with modern technology and local references and preferences much to the delight of the audience.
Definitely a favorite of the audience was the chief executioner, Ko-Ko, portrayed by Brian-Mark Conover. His constant antics on stage, definitely found a kinship with this audience. Most notably, when making a list about who was on the executioner’s list and even referring to Nebraska football as to whether they are successful or not, left the audience laughing and eager to hear the encored, “Appendix” list of additional people on the list, including the Kardashians.
The musicianship and power of The Mikado, portrayed by Kevin Short, was outstanding. This is one person who definitely knows how to take command of the stage. Also notable was Melissa Parks, as Katisha complete with her colorful outfit of pink, orange, and purple and truly wickedly long fingernails, she perfectly became the overly demanding jilted lover with a powerful presence.
The members of The Opera Omaha Chorus were excellent in their performances with their voices, acting, dancing, and definitely fan flicking. The Omaha Symphony was outstanding and expressive with their task of accompanying the varied voices. All members of this cast showed how opera can be fun while still in the process of creating beautiful and complex music.
There were instances when people just couldn’t hear what was said on the stage and were even asking others about what was being said. The voices on stage needed to be a little louder. Often, even in the singing, the voices did not flow out from the stage.
Overall, “The Mikado”, is a fun opera that I would love to see again and again. For those who have never seen an opera to the seasoned opera-goers, “The Mikado” is always an entertaining experience.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lend Me a Tenor

“From here on out, it’s clear sailing. Nothing can go wrong now.”
These are dangerous words from the play, “Lend Me a Tenor” and can give you a hint of what might happen.
“Lend Me a Tenor” is a comedy about a well-known tenor, Tito Merelli, who likes the ladies much to the distress of his wife. Tito is to be the featured singer at a fundraiser for the Cleveland Grand Opera Company. With the entire play taking place in his hotel room, that should give you a hint to this farce.
When a woman who wants Tito’s autograph and affections is in his hotel room, he quickly hides her in the closet to prevent his wife from being jealous. She naturally discovers the girl and decides to leave Tito. When he finds her note, he overdoses on sleeping pills. This is only the beginning of the snap judgments which don’t always have the best results.
Council Bluffs’ performer, Joseph Dignoti, was perfectly cast as the philandering Tito. His voice was both powerful and charismatic as an accomplished opera singer. He also masterfully commanded the stage as an actor in this demanding role. Noah Diaz, also a Council Bluffs’ resident, was wonderful ly overbearing as the bellhop who wants his time with the star.
Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek as Max was masterful as his character developed from the bundling assistant to the confident performer. Maggie, portrayed by Jodi Vaccaro, was enchanting as the ingénue who admires the romantic gestures of a lady’s man. As the short tempered and passionate wife, Laura Leininger, beautifully became Maria complete with flashily curving actions, clothes, and furs. Dennis Collins as Saunders, Cathy Hirsch as Diana, and Stacie Lamb as Julia were also wonderful in their roles.
The costumes, lighting, sound, directing, and sets were all perfect for the comedic production.
Performances of “Lend Me a Tenor: continue at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 6th with performances on Wednesdays through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For adults, the tickets are $19 to $35 and $21 for students. You can either purchase tickets online at or or by calling (402) 553-0800. A special ticket price of $10 will be on Wednesday, April 18th for those who purchase their tickets at the Playhouse box office for that night’s performance only.
For truly an entertaining experience, go see “Lend Me a Tenor” at Omaha Community Playhouse.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Jo Nesbo
Translated by Don Bartlett
Harper Collins
March 2012
Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-06-211969-8
480 pages
$ 7.99

Life is seldom simple for Harry Hole. As a recovering alcoholic, Harry knows that he is an excellent police detective but realizes that he will not rise any higher in the law enforcement hierarchy. He believes in doing the right thing, solving the crime, even if he does step on toes of those who are in power positions. Harry just doesn’t play the political game well. His expertise is doing what is just, in his mind.
Harry Hole is investigating a bank robbery. A man walked into a bank in Oslo, Norway and immediately placed a gun to an employee’s head. He quietly tells this employee to count to twenty-five while the manager is opening the safe. If the safe is not opened within the time limit, the employee is murdered. She is shot in the head. What are her last words to her killer? On the tapes, Harry wonders if she recognized the murderer. She seemed to have a smile on her face and he seemed to definitely be in her personal comfort zone of space.
Being that Hole’s significant girlfriend has returned to Russia for a custody battle with her former husband, he quickly falls into a former relationship with Anna, an artist. Somehow, Harry awakens with no memory of this night and Anna is found murdered. Did Harry kill her while he was in an alcoholic blackout?
Harry has difficulty with many of his superiors in the police force, especially Tom Waaler, who is everything that Harry is not, his nemesis. Tom is handsome, political, accustomed to getting his own way by using people, and with his own sense of morality or ethics. Perhaps in the morality or ethics, the two in some way resemble each other.
Nemesis is the second book in the Harry Hole series which begins with The Redbreast. The successive books are The Devil’s Star, The Snowman, The Redeemer, and finally The Leopard. I would highly recommend that at least The Redbreast be read before Nemesis so that the reader understands the characters and their relationships.
Nemesis is a well-thought out complicated mystery. There are numerous connections following several logical threads that keep the reader thoroughly involved until the last page. The overlapping of the crimes makes this a violent interwoven tale that feels extremely realistic with the flawed characters that are constantly challenged in their daily life.
A sidebar in Nemesis was the history and cultural aspects of the gypsy culture throughout Europe. These relationships with the crimes and the investigations, showed a realistic viewpoint of Harry’s respect for this culture while working with the help of this unique group.
Whether the expertise in story telling of this Norwegian story is the translating of Don Bartlett or the phenomenal writing of Jo Nesbitt, the combination of the two make Nemesis a troublesome, but haunting novel. I definitely plan to read everything by this author as it becomes available in English.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Jack DuArte
Cloud 9 Press
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9847286-0-2
282 pages

In 1940 as Britain prepared to be attacked by the German forces near their entrance into World War II, a new type of weapon developed, the Spitfire. This aircraft was special. The Spitfire was perfect for defending against attack by enemy bombers by flying faster and higher while being able to shoot down enemy aircraft. This unique flying machine became a legendary plane through its outstanding performance during the Battle of Britain.

Anthony Nelson, an experienced pilot, quickly becomes a trainer pilot for the Spitfire in his squadron at Hornchurch Royal Air Force Station while still flying to protect his country. When his younger brother, Fletcher, becomes a part of this squadron at the base, Anthony is fearful of nepotism, but still wants his brother to feel supported while still maintaining his independence, a difficult balance to maintain.

When Anthony meets his brother’s fiancée, Prudence, he feels an attraction towards him. With loyalty to his brother, Anthony purposely avoids his strong feelings for her. Unfortunately, when Fletcher fails to return from a mission, he finally admits to Prudence his feelings. Now he is dealing with guilt in loving her and guilt for whatever has happened to him.

Spitfire is about real history and the phenomenal men who protected their country by performing numerous daring feats of accomplishments with this aircraft. Even though the fictional characters of the Nelson brothers and Prudence gave a glimpse into the actual life style of this time period, the actual flying events showed the reader what these courageous flyers experienced.

The triangular love story seemed simplistic and contrived. Even with the cliff-hanger ending, the story seems predictable. More characters needed to be involved with some overlapping incidents to make this a more realistic novel in terms of romance. Other characters were there peripherally, but could have been intermixed to make this more intriguing.

The life at Hornchurch was written masterfully. Between the training and the episodes of flying the Spitfires while protecting London and the coastal cities was well-researched and brilliantly penned. Jack DuArte succeeds in placing the reader directly in the shoes of the main character and having the same experiences with him.

Spitfire is the third installment in Jack DuArte’s World War II series following The Resistance, and Singapore. With his background as a former Air Force officer in Vietnam, he understands the military life and expertly uses his own experiences in his novels.

Spitfire tells a strong story about the life during this time as well as the challenges of those who flew these magnificent machines. Their own outstanding daring and bravery which ultimately won the war. I definitely look forward to more historical experiences from Jack DuArte.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Momentum Ballet Nebraska March 2012

For professional performers, it is amazing how simple their movements seem when in actuality; it takes years of training to properly move this way. That is my thinking about ballet. These truly professional, well-trained artistic performers move so gracefully, purposefully, and artistically, that their movements might seem easy and simple, but really take years of training to develop this art form.
“Momentum” was presented to the public last weekend by Ballet Nebraska in two performances at Joslyn Art Museum. This was a varied program showing different aspects of ballet. From traditional ballet, to humor, to modern choreography, to true story telling through movement, “Momentum” proved to be a driving force of energy and artistry.
The “Baccanale Variations” was a traditional dance featuring four dancers, to “The Dying Swan” moving gracefully and expressively, to” Americano” which was a modernistic flirtation, to “Love Games”, to the “Perpetuum Mobile”, each demonstrated the artistic variations of dance.
“Dance Sport” was a combination of sports with dance and proved to be a fun and humorous interpretation using sporting movements with ballet. From the sport’s announcer to the referee who seemed to always be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, this athletic romp proved both energetic and masterful. Through replays and slow motion this was definitely a favorite with the audience.
“Cleopatra” was the perfect combination of dance as an expressive form of storytelling. The gracefulness of each member added to the entrancing dramatic and truly romantic story without words. This was dance at its best. Through only movement, the story was easily understood and expressed. The romantic overtones perfectly matched the involvement of the performers with Sasha York as Marc Anthony and Natasha Grimm as the beautiful, enticing Cleopatra. The asp, Matthew Carter was outstanding with his movements and interactions wearing an unusual snake costume which even had influences of Princess Beatrice’s hat from the recent royal wedding. The costume was perfect for this part.
“Ballet Nebraska” superbly incorporates local dance students in their productions which dually give the children experience on stage while also promoting the local talent. Also, the costuming of all the performers was superb. Every outfit fit the selection, the performer, and truly envisioned the purpose of that selection.
“Ballet Nebraska” will perform again next October at Joslyn with a new “Momentum” program, as well as “The Nutcracker” in December, and “Alice in Wonderland” in April 2013. I look forward to all of these gorgeous and graceful performances.

The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
Eva Stachniak
January 2012
ISBN: 978-0553808124
464 pages
$ 26.00

Who really knows what the lives of those who are born into royalty? Obviously, many of us are enthusiastic to view these privileged lives through the eyes of those who are closest to these people, the friends, advisors, and servants.

Barbara Nikolayevna, better known as Varvara in Russian, moved to Russia years ago when her father served as a favored bookbinder to Empress Elizabeth. After this move, Varvara’s parents died leaving her as an orphan. Eventually she was able to remind the Empress of the previous relationship with her father and managed to become a servant to royalty, beginning as a seamstress. Varvara had no talent for sewing but did successfully develop the talent of spying, reporting to the Empress about the activities and conversations, especially about the foreign princess, Sophie who later was called Catherine. Varvara was to become her best friend to find out all her hidden secrets. However, Varara discovered that it was best for her if she acted as a spy to many parties, learning quickly how to hide in passageways, and how to play one participant against the other, all for her personal advantage.

Once Catherine is married to the Empress’s nephew, Peter, an heir is expected. Unfortunately, Peter had other priorities and a relationship with his wife was not important to him. Being the Catherine was both a foreigner and an in-law, most of the blame was placed on her by the Empress. With Varvara doubling as a spy for the Empress, Catherine, and the Chancellor of Russia, Alexi Bestuzhev-Rhumin, each of them keep a full agenda with wanting information on each other.

Whenever you read a historical novel, you always have to keep realizing that this is one person’s perspective. To me, this particular author seemed to have Catherine as the victim of each situation. Obviously, there has been documentation about much of that especially when the Empress took the children after Catherine have given birth. However, Catherine did play many games herself and quickly became a game master herself.

The Winter Palace is about Catherine’s life from the time she became bethrothed to Peter at the age of fourteen to the time she became the Empress of Russia. The morality and ethics of the royal family were revealing, however, rather making me wonder as a reader, how any of these people became competent and respected rulers. This was definitely revealing as to the manipulations and contrived and discriminating nature of their lives.

The Winter Palace is informative as to the time period and the manner of life in Russia at this time. The strength in this novel is definitely the understanding of the constant changes of rivalries with the various countries of this time period and the changes in their influences and power. Also, the personal connections within the novel are well-documented in other sources so this author just developed what was already considered common knowledge about this royal family.