Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Past Book Reviews 2020 – The Cruel Romance: A Novel of Love and War by Marina Osipova


I read some amazing books in 2020 and I would like to share them again with you, updated with the authors most recent releases and their biography.

Today I am sharing my review from June 2020 for  The Cruel Romance: A Novel of Love and War by Marina Osipova

About the book

October 1941. A small village outside Moscow. Serafima bids farewell to Vitya, a Soviet officer going to the front. With only moments left together, she places a cross around her beloved’s neck and reluctantly releases him into a cruel world where nothing is certain, especially whether she will ever see him again. Days later Germans invade her village and take over her tiny house. Serafima and her mother must comply with orders, endure abuse, and stay put or their village will be annihilated.

As World War II intertwines Serafima’s and Vitya’s life with that of a young German violinist and a Russian intellectual, their destinies are irrevocably altered. Can they rise to the challenge of agonizing moral choices and learn to forgive and love again?

My review for the book 20th June 2020

A well written novel with central characters and events that will stay with you long after the book is finished.

The story is told with stark realism of life in a small village near Moscow and of the conflict on the Eastern Front, at a time when Russia and Germany were back and forth across each other’s border with devastating consequences. For all the horror, suffering and death of the men fighting on the front line, it was the women and children who ended up being brutalised, starved and reviled by their own.

There is already poverty in the village where Serafima lives with her single mother in a small house that catches the eye of the commander of the invading German forces as his billet.

Despite the forced labour and the harsh Russian winter, Serafima keeps her dreams alive by thinking of Vitya who she loves and is now on the front. Then one day there is a devastating event that would not only change her life for ever, but that of a young German soldier whose gentleness has been twisted by the military code of domination.

Threaded through the inhumanity of war, is the beauty of music, kindness from unexpected sources, compassion, rekindling of maternal love and forgiveness.

All the characters are strongly drawn and evolve through the story as events bring about fundamental changes to their personalities and behaviour. Some become dehumanised whilst others seek redemption. We follow their lives during the conflict and in the uneasy peace that follows, discovering their inner thoughts in letters written to family and loved ones.

With the war ended, the race to grab power in the resulting vacuum is lethal in its unbending drive to annihilate any resistance. Even from those who have fought for their country or worked as slaves in the factories to support the war effort. For a population already starved of food, freedom and rights during war, there is little difference in peace time.

This book is not a Mills and Boon romance, it is stark, realistic and emotive with a surprising ending that does at least bring all the threads together with a feeling of closure. Whilst a little more justice was deserved by one or two, in the real world that does not always happen, especially when the people concerned are shielded by the uniform that they wear.

It is a reminder that whilst there is bravery on an individual basis in war, there is also inhumanity, cruelty and dishonour, tragically aimed at those least able to defend themselves. Recommended.

Read other reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And Amazon UK: Amazon UK

Other books by Marina Osipova

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And on: Amazon UK –  follow Marina : Goodreads –  website:Marina OsipovaTwitter: @marosikok

About Marina Osipova

Marina Osipova was born in East Germany into a military family and grew up in Russia where she graduated from the Moscow State Institute of History and Archives. She also has a diploma as a German language translator from the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Languages. In Russia, she worked first in a scientific-technical institute as a translator then in a Government Ministry in the office of international relations, later for some Austrian firms. For seventeen years, she lived in the United States where she worked in a law firm. Eventually, she found her home in Austria. She is an award-winning author and a member of the Historical Novel Society.

Thanks for dropping by today and I hope you have enjoyed my review and will check out this book and the others by Marina Osipova. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Book Reviews – The Cruel Romance: A Novel of Love and War by Marina Osipova


This week I am reviewing The Cruel Romance: A Novel of Love and War by Marina Osipova

About the book

October 1941. A small village outside Moscow. Serafima bids farewell to Vitya, a Soviet officer going to the front. With only moments left together, she places a cross around her beloved’s neck and reluctantly releases him into a cruel world where nothing is certain, especially whether she will ever see him again. Days later Germans invade her village and take over her tiny house. Serafima and her mother must comply with orders, endure abuse, and stay put or their village will be annihilated.

As World War II intertwines Serafima’s and Vitya’s life with that of a young German violinist and a Russian intellectual, their destinies are irrevocably altered. Can they rise to the challenge of agonizing moral choices and learn to forgive and love again?

My review for the book 20th June 2020

A well written novel with central characters and events that will stay with you long after the book is finished.

The story is told with stark realism of life in a small village near Moscow and of the conflict on the Eastern Front, at a time when Russia and Germany were back and forth across each other’s border with devastating consequences. For all the horror, suffering and death of the men fighting on the front line, it was the women and children who ended up being brutalised, starved and reviled by their own.

There is already poverty in the village where Serafima lives with her single mother in a small house that catches the eye of the commander of the invading German forces as his billet.

Despite the forced labour and the harsh Russian winter, Serafima keeps her dreams alive by thinking of Vitya who she loves and is now on the front. Then one day there is a devastating event that would not only change her life for ever, but that of a young German soldier whose gentleness has been twisted by the military code of domination.

Threaded through the inhumanity of war, is the beauty of music, kindness from unexpected sources, compassion, rekindling of maternal love and forgiveness.

All the characters are strongly drawn and evolve through the story as events bring about fundamental changes to their personalities and behaviour. Some become dehumanised whilst others seek redemption. We follow their lives during the conflict and in the uneasy peace that follows, discovering their inner thoughts in letters written to family and loved ones.

With the war ended, the race to grab power in the resulting vacuum is lethal in its unbending drive to annihilate any resistance. Even from those who have fought for their country or worked as slaves in the factories to support the war effort. For a population already starved of food, freedom and rights during war, there is little difference in peace time.

This book is not a Mills and Boon romance, it is stark, realistic and emotive with a surprising ending that does at least bring all the threads together with a feeling of closure. Whilst a little more justice was deserved by one or two, in the real world that does not always happen, especially when the people concerned are shielded by the uniform that they wear.

It is a reminder that whilst there is bravery on an individual basis in war, there is also inhumanity, cruelty and dishonour, tragically aimed at those least able to defend themselves. Recommended.

Read other reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And Amazon UK: Amazon UK

Also by Marina Osipova

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And on: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Marina on Goodreads: Goodreads

About Marina Osipova

I was born in the German Democratic Republic to a military family. I am a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of History and Archives and also graduated from the Moscow Institute for Foreign Languages as a German language interpreter. I worked for a Soviet Governmental Department in the section of International Affairs, then for various German and Austrian firms. Extensive travel to these countries gave me a chance to become intimately familiar with the lands and the people.

In 2001, I immigrated to the United States and eventually made my home in Pawling, NY.
Before publishing The Cruel Romance (Historical Fiction), I have written two other books, The Garden of Weeds and Katyuscha.

My next project is related to the occupation of a part of Austria by the Soviet Army in 1945 – 1955 (working title, österreichisches Engelchen und Alescha. Die Okkupationsromanze).

Connect to Marina

Website: Marina Osipova
Facebook: Marina Osipova
LinkedIn: Marina Osipova
Twitter: @marosikok

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the review… and that you will head over to check out this book and the others by Marina Osipova.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – #Reviews – #Thriller Yigal Zur, #WarRomance Marina Osipova, #Mystery Amy M. Reade


Welcome to the first of the Cafe updates for the week, with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.

The first featured book today is an action thriller, Passport to Death – Dotan Naor thriller series by Yigal Zur

About the Dotan Naor thriller series

Dotan Naor is an ex-Mossad agent, bounced out of the agency not just for a fatal miscalculation in Palestinian Jenin but for his inability to live within the bureaucracy and submit to authority. Dotan is now a private detective who uses his immense skills of persuasion and violence to rescue Israelis who are in peril throughout the world. Through his extensive travels in Asia, Dotan has developed a love for Eastern philosophy and lifestyle; his enhanced spiritual existence also happens to be good for business as many Israelis run off to exotic Asian locales to let off steam after their mandatory and often dangerous military service.

About Passport to Death

Dotan Naor, an Israeli private investigator, ousted from Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—goes to Thailand to find Sigal Bardon, a beautiful young girl from a wealthy Israeli family. Sigal has disappeared in Bangkok—completely. Dotan has connections in Thailand and he’s familiar with Bangkok’s dark side—the narrow alleys with bars and hookers, trenches of stagnant water, hotel rooms with illicit activity. This is where he intends to start his search. But when the passport of the missing Israeli girl ends up in his hands during his first taxi ride in the city, he’s suspicious that someone is playing him. But who? And why?

As Dotan searches for Sigal, police corruption blocks his every path. Every lead he pursues draws him closer and closer to a black hole in his “own” past—one intertwined with his pursuit of Sigal—one that leads him to Reuven—and the haunting failure that led to the dismissal of both of them from Shin Bet. The wound between Dotan and Reuven is raw and deep, but Dotan realizes it must be healed in order to save Sigal.

A recent review for the book

Jay 5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-layered detective story Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2020

I received a copy of this book from the author with the request for an honest review. I am glad I got the chance to read the story. The author harkens back to detectives of old with a main character is is world weary, scarred, and pretty pessimistic. He still has a drive to do the right thing, and like all good detectives… he just can’t let go. There is a lot of back story that dribbles out throughout the course of the book, giving the reader a glimpse into our main character’s previous life and providing partial explanation for that pessimism. The majority of the story takes place in Bangkok. The author’s description are highly evocative. Everything from the weather, to the traffic, even the locals’ mannerisms, draws an extremely detailed and accurate picture of the locale. The story itself moves quickly and logically from one step to the next, with a conclusion that leads me to believe there will be more, which I am definitely hoping for. There is a lot of ground left to cover to explain why the main character is who he is – I will definitely read the next installment.

If you like solid detective stories in exotic (and sometimes seedy) locales, I highly recommend this book!

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Also in English by Yigal Zur

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And : Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Yigal on : Goodreads

Connect to Yigal via Facebook: Yigal Zur Author

The next author with a recent review is Marina Osipova for How Dare the Birds Sing:
(Book One in the Love and Fate Series 1)

About the book

Are Lyuba and Günter star-crossed lovers? When they first meet in 1933 Soviet Russia, their young love is filled with hope and naiveté until Günter disappears. Her fleeting relationship with him has devastating consequences, forcing her to take a humiliating way out to save herself and her family. This choice unleashes a sequence of fatal events that shatter her life, affecting everyone involved.

In June 1941, World War II comes to Russian soil, hurling Lyuba, along with millions of others, into the inhuman grinder, testing the limits of her strength and resilience of her heart. Will it be strong enough years later to allow her to reveal the ugly secret she has buried from the only person the war has left for her to love?

One of the recent reviews for the book

Reviewed in the United States on January 31, 2020

An ominous beginning with a beautiful bird singing and then the looming cruelty that is hard to understand. How “we” humans do to each other what we do is more times than not incomprehensible. Perhaps it is in wanting to understand that I am so enamored by this author’s brilliant portrayal of war on the eastern front. Within the hard seed of heartbreaking suffering lies courage, faith, resilience, and what makes up the best of the human condition. Bold and defiant, nothing is held back and it is in the integrity of this author’s writing that the book is hard to stop reading. It takes a great talent to turn something as dark as devastating war into a light that shines on what is possible in the worst of conditions. A compelling, excellent read.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Also by Marina Osipova

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And on: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Marina on Goodreads: Goodreads

Connect to Marina via her website: Marina Osipova

And the final author today is USA Today Bestselling Author Amy M. Reade with a review for her recently published Juniper Junction Holiday MysteriesBe My Valencrime...

About the book

It’s Valentine’s Day in Juniper Junction and love is in the air. Or is that just a dark cloud?
Lilly’s shop assistant, Harry, is about to pop the question to his girlfriend, Alice Davenport. He’s got the ring, he’s planned a romantic dinner, and he’s even thought of a gracious escape if Alice says no.

The only thing missing is…Alice.

Lilly wants to do all she can to help find Alice, even if that means interfering with a police investigation. But as she begins to learn more about Harry’s sweet, unassuming girlfriend, she discovers that Alice is hiding a shocking secret that will complicate everything.

And when Lilly suffers a lapse in judgment, the consequences are swift and painful. Can she pull herself together enough to help her daughter through a tunnel of teenage angst, deal with her mother’s dementia-related wanderings, and still help Harry find his Happily Ever After?

A recent review for the book

Reviewed in the United States on February 26, 2020

Jewelry shop owner, Lilly Carlsen is set for a big sales day this Valentine’s Day, as customers flock in to buy their perfect gift. Her shop assistant Harry has an engagement proposal on his mind–will his girlfriend Alice accept? Lilly has her own special gift planned for her love interest, Hassan–will they take their relationship to the next level this Valentine’s?

Problems on the home front may interfere with the romantic plans as Lilly’s mother, Bev, who suffers from dementia, and her daughter, Laurel, experience health and relationship setbacks. When Harry’s girlfriend Alice is a no show to their planned Valentine’s dinner, everything starts to unravel, and a missing persons investigation is initiated. Lilly is determined to help her friend Harry, but her police officer brother, Bill begs her not to get involved. A hidden lifestyle shocks those who know Alice, and may be the reason she disappeared. As the days pass, the hope for her survival dwindles.

Secrets and family drama muddy Lilly’s investigative attempts, putting her close relationships at risk, and her life in danger. Unexpected twists and turns make this story a delightful who-dun-it read. I really enjoy Author Reade’s engaging style and characters–and those recipes at the end were a treat. I now have another cozy mystery series to enjoy, a delightful read, highly recommended!

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

A selection of other books by Amy M. Reade

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And : Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Amy on : Goodreads

Connect to Amy via her blog: Amy Reade at WordPress

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books under your arm.. Sally.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair #Reviews #WarRomance Marina Osipova, #Poetry Frank Prem, #Children’s Pamela S. Wight


Since the middle of November I have featured all the authors in the Cafe and Bookstore with a recent review and since we have a few days left, I will now share more up to date reviews that have been posted.

The first author with a recent review is Marina Osipova for How Dare the Birds Sing.

About the book

Are Lyuba and Günter star-crossed lovers? When they first meet in 1933 Soviet Russia, their young love is filled with hope and naiveté until Günter disappears. Her fleeting relationship with him has devastating consequences, forcing her to take a humiliating way out to save herself and her family. This choice unleashes a sequence of fatal events that shatter her life, affecting everyone involved.

In June 1941, World War II comes to Russian soil, hurling Lyuba, along with millions of others, into the inhuman grinder, testing the limits of her strength and resilience of her heart. Will it be strong enough years later to allow her to reveal the ugly secret she has buried from the only person the war has left for her to love?

One of the recent reviews for the book

A beautiful story with so many twists and turns! I was amazed at all the angles this story took. I loved the main character and was heartbroken that she went through so much pain, sorrow and hardship. The author is so good at bringing each character alive and into perfect focus of their personality. An excellent book!! It brings in so many aspects of the war. I loved it!! Sweet love, despising hatred, resigned living in sorrow, pain of loss, hardships, abuse, the Partisans, the camps, Red Army, Nazis, starvation and freezing cold and heartbreak upon heartbreak, as well as forgiveness and freedom, kindness and sacrificial love. So much in this one book! Beautifully done!!

Also by Marina Osipova

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And on: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Marina on Goodreads: Goodreads

Connect to Marina via her website: Marina Osipova

And now a recent review for The New Asylum: a memoir of psychiatry by Frank Prem.

About the collection

The New Asylum is the third volume in a series of free-verse poetry anthologies and personal memoirs from Australian author Frank Prem (Small Town Kid, Devil In The Wind).

This collection is an exposé of life in the public psychiatric system, spanning five decades and describing sometimes graphically, sometimes ironically, often poignantly, and always honestly, a search for meaning in extraordinary and often incomprehensible circumstances.

The journey begins with childhood experiences of watching immigrant parents earn their living in the Mayday Hills Mental Asylum… progresses through the oddities and antics of psychiatric nurse training in the 1970s… on to the high-pressure coalface of managing regional centres facing an inundation of modern urban challenges… and finally, settles into the generally calmer waters of a small town residential facility.

Join Frank Prem on his New Asylum journey, and discover what it means to become that particular ‘mental health creature’ that is a psychiatric nurse.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Deeply and poignantly written, this mental health memoir in free-verse poetry, of the author’s life as a psychiatric nurse takes the reader from Frank’s days when he watched his parents head to work in the Mayday Hills Mental Asylum, through the tragic, heartrending years of life and death, and everything in between.

Humorous at times – “ask the pharmacist” he instructed “for a pair of fallopian tubes” – the author’s ability to have the reader “see” the circumstances; capture the essence in only a few words, is exceptional. Highly recommended.

Also by Frank Prem

Read the reviews and buy the books:  Amazon US

And Amazon UK: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Frank on Goodreads: Goodreads

Connect to Frank via his blog: Frank Prem WordPress

And finally a recent review for an author who writes for children and adults Pamela S.Wight and her book Molly Finds her Purr Illustrated by Shelley A. Steinle.

About the Book

Molly the Cat is lonely. No matter how hard she tries to make friends with birds, they all fly away from her. Even other cats don’t seem to like her. Friendless, Molly has no purr. But a wisecracking squirrel opens Molly’s eyes to a world in which friendship comes in all sizes, shapes, and species.

This delightful tale with dazzling illustrations sparkles with sweet insight that makes all readers purr with pleasure at the end.

One of the recent reviews for the book

What a wonderful story of finding one’s place in the world by connecting with others! Molly Finds Her Purr is a sweet story that is so relatable to children: finding a friend. Yet it has the underlying message that through connection with others our differences can shine. A great conversation starter for older children and a nice message for toddlers. As a third grade teacher I recommend this as a way to tackle the difficult conversations of how to be yourself while wanting to belong. Molly Finds Her Purr reassures us all that we can.

Also by Pamela S. Wight

Read the reviews and buy all the books: Amazon US

And on Amazon UK: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Pamela : Goodreads

Connect to Pamela via her website: Rough Wighting

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books under your arm..Thanks Sally