Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets/Svetlana Alexievich

Oral history of the people who “lived” through the transformation of the new Russia from the old fragments of the Soviet Union. In the West, we have vague recollections of the horrors of Stalin and his ilk, recoil in disgust from many of the actions of Putin, but we forget how completely the USSR collapsed and what an abysmal state it was in Yelstin’s time, a time when violence and death dictated the economic landscape and turned Russia into a lawless land devoid of rule of law, into a country of obscenely rich oligarchs who stole the nation’s wealth with Putin’s blessing and vast swathes of poor, beaten-down ordinary people who little more freedom than they did under the Bolsheviks.

A Gentleman in Moscow: Amor Towles

I am by no means immune to the charms of literary fiction. Indeed, I have advanced degrees in the location and time period of Towles’ book. However, not even the supposed charms of Count Rostov or the Hotel Metropol could keep me interested in this literary tale, bereft as it is of bon mots, startling insights, clever turns of phrase or the economy or beauty of language. Not only does not nothing happen through the entire course of the book, there is not even a hint that something will happen. Ever!

Olen Steinhauer: An American Spy

Anything Steinhauer writes is usually spun gold; this time, he weaves it differently, with strands of differing viewpoints and multiple characters starting at various time points in the story and at differing locations. Other than the opening (he never should have started with the Chinese thread there) it mostly works.
Milo Weaver, and his sister, is a gem.

I will miss Evgeny Primakov.

Letitia should be granted her own series.

Reamde: Neil Stephenson

Neil Stephenson must have heard the joke: a priest, rabbi and a minister walk into a bar…

Except in Stephenson’s universe it’s an Ethiopian girl, Russian mercenary, Hungarian computer hacker, Chinese gamer, Idaho survivalists, Muslim jihadists, pot smugglers, game developers, MI6 and CIA spies and Russian mafia who all stumble into a terrorist plot.

If we were back in the bar joke, the entire menagerie would simply walk into the plot. Here, they amble, stroll, sashay, drift and saunter.

Stephenson creates great characters but although a lot happens in the book, it is definitely not, as one reviewer called the book, “fast-paced.”

Thank you, Sylvia for the 5-star review!

Community Reviews
(showing 1-6 of 6)
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Jan 26, 2015Sylvia rated it 5 of 5 stars ยท review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, blog
Snow is a Canadian on the other side of the world in Russian vodka country, content to be depressed and miserable for the rest of his life, until an accident puts him into a coma.

We’re then taken into the past and what has happened to him up to that point with the help of the woman, Magda, who won’t give up on him. There is also a danger that is making the workers sick, and as a keeper of the documents for the company, he may be the deciding factor in exposing the threat before it continues on its dangerous course.

Magda was an interesting character, and her determination to not give up on Snow and pull him out of his darkness defines her complex character even more. I felt a lot of sympathy for Snow as well, and his past that helped put him where he is now. The conditions that they have to endure are harsh and in many ways unforgiving. This is a great read for anyone who enjoys unconventional thrillers that have something to offer other than the usual.

Free E-Book Week!

Read an E-book for free week on

Tens of thousands of ebooks for free for the week of March 2-8 only.

Make sure to check out my novels “MOLOTOV’S COCKTAIL” and “PIG: A THRILLER” for absolute gratis. You can also dowload my translation of Japanese folk tales, “THE LOVE OF A SILVER FOX.”

PIG: A THRILLER gets first five star review on Amazon!

PIG has received it’s first five-star review on Amazon. Thank you, Alexandria, for taking the time to provide feedback after reading it.

And I’m glad you enjoyed it, too!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty & Entertaining July 28, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
I wasn’t sure what I would be getting when I started reading “Pig: A Thriller”, but the premise for the book was interesting and I have to admit that the book cover drew my eye. This book ended up being a really well-written, witty and entertaining read that drew me into the lives of Snow and Magda from within a small oil camp in Russia. The author has crafted a plot that keeps you guessing and driven along as more and more of the plot unfolds, providing a stimulating glimpse of Russia after the fall and the lives of those affected by it.

The developing relationship between Snow and Magda is at the center of a strange illness sweeping through the oil camp and a hidden plot of misdeeds by Pig, the camp boss who’s nothing if not a true tyrant. Things begin to pick up pace as the hidden mechanisms of the oil camp begin to be uncovered and it’s up to Magda and Snow to bring Pig to justice before things truly get out of hand.

Throughout reading this I found myself absorbed into the curious relationship of Snow and Magda, each of them with a backstory that provides just a little bit more depth and startling characterization that makes the plot even more real. Overall, I found this book to be enjoyable and it kept me interested through to the very end.