Archive for the ‘history’ Category


Author: Greg Mitchell

Published: 20 October 2016
Reviewed: 7 October 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Bantam Press in return for an honest review



In the summer of 1962, one year after the rise of the Berlin Wall, a group of daring young West Germans risked prison, Stasi torture and even death to liberate friends, lovers, and strangers in East Berlin by digging tunnels under the Wall.

Then, as the world’s press heard about the secret projects, two television networks raced to be the first to document them from the inside, funding two separate tunnels for exclusive rights to film the escapes. In response, President John F. Kennedy and his administration, wary of anything that might raise tensions and force a military confrontation with the Soviets, maneuvered to quash both documentaries.

As Greg Mitchell’s riveting narrative unfolds, we meet extraordinary characters: the legendary cyclist who became East Berlin’s most wanted man; the tunneller who had already served four years in the East German gulag; the Stasi informer who betrays the ‘CBS tunnel’; the young East Berliner who escapes with her baby, then marries one of the tunnellers; and an engineer who would later help build the tunnel under the English Channel.

Capturing the hopes and fears of everyday Berliners, the chilling reach of the Stasi secret police, and the political tensions of the Cold War, The Tunnels is breaking history, a propulsive read whose themes still reverberate today.

My Thoughts & Review:

For years I’ve held a fascination with the Cold War period and eagerly read a variety of espionage thrillers, historical fiction and factual material recounting life during these times, so when I heard about this book I knew it wasn’t one to pass up the chance to get an early copy to review.

Greg Mitchell takes a fresh approach to recounting history, his writing style makes this book read like an espionage thriller but all the while is informative and insightful.  The numerous hours of research and investigating evidence for this book show in the detailed narrative and also through the cast of wonderfully intriguing characters.  Mitchell also shows thought towards his reader when he writes reminders about a character in the narrative – very useful when the cast list is extensive and it is easy to forget who had what role.

This is a book that is worth taking time to read, it’s not a quick read like the spy novels written by John le Carré or Len Deighton, but it is just as enthralling.  I can honestly say that I feel it was a rewarding read.  It added to my knowledge of the Wall and the politics of the time but the human element, the stories of the individuals involved in tunnelling made this a compelling read.
Being a child of the 1980s, I was too young at the time to realise what the Berlin Wall meant, too naive to realise how momentous its deconstruction was, but The Tunnels manages to convey the importance of the Wall its history in a way that brings it alive.  Forgotten details are brought to the fore and incorporated into what might possibly be one of the best non fiction books I have read this year, quite frankly, I would be tempted to say ever.

I would thoroughly recommend this book and you can order a copy of The Tunnels here. 


About the Author:

Greg Mitchell (born 1947) is the author of more than a dozen books. His next book, coming on October 18 from Crown, is available for pre-order and has already been optioned for a major movie with Paul Greengrass to direct. It is titled “The Tunnels” and explores daring escape tunnels under the Berlin Wall in 1962–and the JFK White House attempts to kill NBC and CBS coverage of them at the height of nuclear tensions.

Mitchell has blogged on the media and politics, for The Nation. and at his own blog, Pressing Issjes. He was the editor of Editor & Publisher (E&P), from 2002 to the end of 2009, and long ago was executive editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. His book “The Campaign of the Century” won the Goldsmith Book Prize and “Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady” was a New York Times Notable Book for 1998. He has also co-authored two books with Robert Jay Lifton, along with a “So Wrong For So Long” about the media and Iraq. His books have been optioned numerous times for movies (including “Joy in Mudville” by Tim Hanks). He has served as chief adviser to two award-winning documentaries and currently is co-producer of an upcoming film on Beethoven with his co-author on “Journeys With Beethoven.”


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The Virgin of the Wind Rose 

Author: Glen Craney
Published: 27 October 2013
Reviewed: 11 July 2016
Copy kindly supplied by the author in return for an honest review

4 out of 5 stars


While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane becomes obsessed with a magical word square found inside an underground church guarding the tomb of the biblical Adam.

Drawn into a web of esoteric intrigue, she and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas must race an elusive and taunting mastermind to find the one relic needed to resurrect Solomon’s Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads them to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined with this modern mystery-thriller, a parallel duel is waged:

The year is 1452. One of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal’s Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary, Prince Henry the Navigator. He and his medieval version of NASA merged with the CIA scheme to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who plan to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies to usher in the Tribulations promised by the Book of Revelation dovetail in this fast-paced thriller to expose the world’s most explosive secret: The true identity of Christopher Columbus and the explorer’s connection to those now trying to spark the End of Days.

My Thoughts & Review:

I have to admit, this is not a book I would typically pick up, but after reading the book description and a brief preview I was very intrigued and wanted to find out more. 

Weaving back and forth between present day and the 1400s, the author takes us on a journey of discovery around the globe, teaches us mysteries and the history of the countries visited.  The historical aspect of the book is almost an entire story in itself, both fascinating and enjoyable.  Clearly a lot of research has been done for this book and I found myself keen to learn more about Columbus and related histories. 

The present day story is fraught with mystery and danger, the author takes great care to ensure the reader is caught up in the fear and adrenaline surrounding Jaqueline (Jaq).   

A fast paced read, cleverly weaving back and forth between the past and the present whilst maintaining a strong plot packed with secrets, lies and conspiracies all the way to the end.   

I enjoyed Craney’s style of writing, his crafting of a watertight plot was enjoyable to read and I would have no hesitation in recommending it.  
You can buy a copy of The Virgin of the Wind Rose here.

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Stasi Child

Author : David Young
Published: 01 October 2015
Reviewed: 27 September 2015
What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Bonnier Publishing in return for an honest review via NetGalley.


  5 out of 5 stars

East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: it seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the People’s Police, but in East Germany her power only stretches so far. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure her the case is otherwise closed – and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Müller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home .

Karin Müller wakes up to a mistake, not realising that this will set the tone for the next few weeks of her life.  A body has been discovered, and the Stasi want her involvement with the investigation, why she does not know, but there’s something about this case that drives her to need the answers to some important questions.  Who was this teenage girl?  Why was she escaping from the West?  What could the Stasi need from her on the case?  And why is her personal life falling to pieces?
Müller and her deputy Tilsner are on a tight leash, the Stasi operative has set strict parameters for their involvement with the case, find out who the identity of the body, nothing else.  But Müller is not so easily deterred, after the post mortem, she is more determined to find out who the murderer is, unaware of how dangerous it could be for her and Tilsner.  

The political minefield that the characters must wade through is intense, who can they trust; Can she trust her superiors?  Can Müller even trust her deputy? 

As the plot, and sub plot twist and turn you feel yourself drawn in, desperately trying to guess ahead what might happen, and how it all links together.  Desperately trying not to say any more about the plot, it would give too much away and ruin it for other readers, but I will say that this is a gripping read, don’t read it at bedtime, or you may fall into the same trap as me..”just one more chapter then I’ll go to sleep….oh hold on, this is getting interesting, just another chapter….”

The use of German language in this novel is good, it adds an authenticity to the text, as well as had me enjoying using my long forgotten German to translate words before reading on.   
The descriptions of the settings are superb, a lot of attention to detail has been made, this is a cleverly complicated novel, but not one that’s difficult to follow.  
For a debut novel this is an incredibly high standard for Young to follow, and I really do hope that the next Karin Müller is out soon!  

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, and Historical genres, especially books set during the time of the Berlin Wall,  

I would like to thank Bonnier Publishing for the copy of this novel in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book will be published on 1st October 2015 .  A copy can be purchased here Stasi Child (Kindle UK Version)

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The Memory Weaver

Author : Jane Kirkpatrick
Published: 01 September 2015
Reviewed: 11 September 2015

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Revell in return for an honest review via NetGalley.


3 out of 5 stars

Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now a mother of two, Eliza faces a new kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her mother’s grave–and returning to the land of her captivity.

Haunted by memories and hounded by struggle, Eliza longs to know how her mother dealt with the trauma of their ordeal. As she searches the pages of her mother’s diary, Eliza is stunned to find that her own recollections tell only part of the story.

Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick’s latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman’s heart. Get swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.

The novel is based on the true story of Eliza Spalding Warren, and not knowing anything about her I did a little research online before reading just to give myself an understanding of who she was.  
The opening pages of this novel filled me with dread, the lengthy character list was almost enough to put me off reading this, thinking there was no way I would manage to remember who all the characters were and what their place in the story was.  Whilst the list was useful as a point of reference, it really didn’t work well as the first pages of the Kindle copy of the novel I reviewed. 

After the troubles in 1847 and the death of Eliza’s mother a few years later, she becomes carer to her younger siblings and father, before meeting and marrying Andrew Spalding and having his children.  
As the story unfolds, the narration switches back and forth between Eliza and her mother’s diary entries, for me this seemed to slow the pace of reading drastically.  The diary entries were necessary to explain historical events and give detail that only Eliza Spalding (deceased) could give, but at the same time there was a lot of repetition in those entries so I did find that it was tempting to skip ahead sometimes. 

The novel does teach you that memories are not always as truthful as you think they are, events can be remembered differently by some people and that discovery in the novel was quite interesting.  

However, in all honesty, I felt this novel lacked something.  It held my interest long enough to finish it, but I have to admit that I was glad to have finished it to move on to reading something else.  

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys Historical novels, and Religious novels. 

I would like to thank Revell for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book will be published on .  A copy can be purchased here The Memory Weaver (UK Kindle Version)

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Master of Shadows

Author : Neil Oliver
Published: 10 September 2015
Reviewed:  25 August 2015

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Orion Publishing Group in return for an honest review via NetGalley.


 4 out of 5 stars

From the lawless borderlands of Scotland to the crumbling majesty of Constantinople, the first novel from TV historian Neil Oliver is a sweeping, epic adventure and the story of a man all but forgotten by history.
In fifteenth-century Constantinople, Prince Constantine saves the life of a broken-hearted girl. But the price of his valour is high.
John Grant is a young man on the edge of the world. His unique abilities carry him from his home in Scotland to the heart of the Byzantine Empire in search of a girl and the chance to fulfil a death-bed promise.
Lena has remained hidden from the men who have been searching for her for many years. When she’s hunted down, at last she knows what she must do.
With an army amassing beyond the city’s ancient walls, the fates of these three will intertwine. As the Siege of Constantinople reaches its climax, each must make a choice between head and heart, duty and destiny.

Helpfully, this novel starts with a brief history lesson, the background to Constantinople, its importance as a centre for religion, arts and sieges.  This serves as a fantastic memory aid as well as introducing some key information that would be of use to the reader later in the book.

The prologue gives the reader the first glimpse at Neil Oliver’s abilities as an author, the descriptive narrative immediately bringing clear images to mind of a crouched character struggling in the dark, “”..Crouching, bent over like a half-shut knife, he took a step forward into the cramped space…”
but also gives a good indication of how this novel will go, twists and turns, battles, heroes, damsels and destiny.

Set in Scotland in 1444, the reader is introduced to John Grant, a unique young man, with an “other worldly” air about him, he has the ability to “tune into” his surroundings so deftly that he can sometimes sense what’s coming.
Another intriguing character introduced in the first part of the novel is Badr Khassan, who is magnificently described, the wild and unruly appearance, to the dark eyes and the description of the powerful warhorse that he rode, all helping to give a great image of how “strange” but strong this newcomer was to the Scots at this time.
There is no reason to suspect that the scrawny, young John Grant and bulky, powerful giant named Badr Khassan will have any impact on each other, but their destines have been intertwined for sometime, it’s not long before the true story of this novel begins and John Grant’s life really begins.

The narrative jumps between the stories of John, Badr, Patrick, Lena, Yaminah and Constantine.  Each character has their own interesting back story and it’s brought to life in their “own voice” in separate parts of the novel.  It is from part three of the novel that most of the main characters appear together in the same setting.   In the fairness of not ruining the book for other readers I will avoid spoilers, but will say that I was driven to keep reading to see how it all came together. 

The battle scenes are well scripted, the explanations given through the narrative help give a greater understanding of warfare in that time and this is where the history lesson from the beginning of the book comes in useful.  The hand to hand combat is well written, it’s interesting to read how different weaponry changed the way in which combatants engaged. 

The language used in this novel is very befitting the 15th Century setting, indeed I would expect nothing less from such an able historian and archaeologist, and Neil Oliver does himself proud by having done his homework (although perhaps he was already acquainted with the linguistics from his work).    The descriptions of the settings leave you in no doubt of how the Scottish wilderness or Galician woods looked, the magnificence of the Walls of Constantinople or the wonders of Prince Constantine’s chambers.
Character descriptions are so flowing that you cannot help but imagine John Grant as a scrawny teen, Badr Khassan as a powerful dark stranger or Yaminah as a delicate yet strong, beautiful young woman.

This is an impressive debut novel from a very well respected historian, archaeologist and television figure and I can only hope that the sequel lives up to this high standard. My only criticism was that I couldn’t put it down (even at bedtime!). 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that enjoys Fiction and History genres.

I would like to thank Orion Publishing Group for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book will be published on 10th September 2015.  A copy can be purchased here Master of Shadows (Hardcover UK Version).  The sequel to this novel is expected in 2016.


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