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Paperback published 1 June 2017

 

Description:

The pain woke him up. He was grateful for it. The train had stopped and somewhere, up above them, the drone of aircraft engines filled the night sky. He could almost remember her smile . . . It must be the morphine . . . He had managed not to think about her for months now.

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . .

My Thoughts & Review:

“The Constant Soldier” is an incredibly wonderful novel set in 1944 following Paul Brandt a German soldier.  After being severely wounded in the line of duty on the Eastern Front he is sent home to convalesce and it is from here that the tale really begins.  Paul’s return home brings him face to face with the devastation left in the wake of the ongoing war, life has changed immeasurably for German citizens, the villagers that he remembers are different people – whether aiding in the war effort, victims of the Nazis or simply gone.  As Paul and his father make their way towards the family farm, Paul’s eyes are drawn to an SS rest hut and the female prisoners working there, and he is startled to realise he recognises one of them.

Through atmospheric flashbacks the reader is immersed in Paul’s life before the army, giving a wonderful insight to the man he was before the Nazi war machine spat him out and more importantly hinting towards the link between Paul and the female prisoner.
The sights that Paul saw during the war have undoubtedly left their mark on him, he is haunted by what has been done in the name of Germany and for victory and wants to atone for these sins.

William Ryan has written an exceptionally emotive novel, the writing itself is a thing of sheer beauty.  The fragility of the characters juxtaposes expertly with the danger and harshness of their situations.  The female prisoners surviving from one day to the next, fearfully alert for any punishment that might be meted out is just one example.  Another is the wonderful imagery of the advancing Soviet forces with young Polya the tank driver.  A young female who has worked on her tank from the moment it came into creation, she cares for her tank and cares about it even though it is an instrument of war.  This contrasts well with the menacing edge that builds with the advancement of the Soviets.
The physical descriptions of characters and settings are almost overpowering in places, the omnipotence of the German officers is evident through the writing, their actions inspiring abhorrence from the reader.  The brutality of the treatment faced by prisoners is not sugar coated, the atrocious acts carried out by the German army are detailed in places to add depth and authenticity and in doing so, William Ryan does his readers a service.  The portrayal of life during WWII depicts the harsh realities and the determination of partisans to do what they could to obstruct the ruling forces.

Paul Brandt is an extraordinary character, whilst not proud of what he has done, he wants to redeem himself.  Drawing a metaphorical line in the sand, he intends to live a life of atonement from that point onwards.

“The Constant Soldier” is a very special book, one that I will be marking out to read again very soon.  The emotion that it evoked from me was powerful and I absolutely loved every frantic moment of this book, my heart broke for the characters, I felt elation for those fleeting moments of victory for some characters but best of all I felt utterly immersed in this book.

Now I’m off to treat myself to other books by this author…..

My thanks to Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin for the recommendation and to William Ryan for sending me a copy of this truly exquisite book, I am forever in your debts.

You can buy a copy of “The Constant Soldier” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

 

 

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Welcome along to my Friday post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to bring you another book from  Cranachan Publishing and share my review “Charlie’s Promise” by Annemarie Allan.  I was also lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Annemarie’s time so interrogated her thoroughly for the author feature!


Book Feature:

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Published: 19 March 2017

Would you break the rules or break your promise?

On the outskirts of Edinburgh, just before the outbreak of WW2, Charlie finds a starving German boy hiding in the woods near his home. Josef can’t speak English and is desperately afraid, especially of anyone in uniform. Charlie’s promise to help Josef find his Jewish relatives in the city is the start of a journey that will force them to face their fears, testing their new-found friendship to the limit.

 

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Cranachan Publishing are fast becoming my go to publisher when I want to read something a little different.  Several of the books they have published have been narrated through the eyes of a child and I find this richly rewarding.  There are so many things that when viewed through childhood innocence seem much more poignant and untethered by the politics of adult life and this is one of those books.

Set in the outskirts of Edinburgh in small coastal town called Morison’s Haven in 1938, we encounter young Charlie, who seems unphased by the looming war and will do whatever he can to avoid the school bully.  His luck is challenged one day when he is roped into helping his friend Jean find missing dog Laddie.  The pair of youngsters enter the woods they’d been told to stay away from, warned that collapsed mine entrances posed great danger, but Jean is determined to find Laddie and Charlie cannot let her go in alone.  When they do find Laddie they also discover a starved stranger, a young German boy.  Josef does not speak English, Charlie and Jean speak no German but the trio soon find a way to communicate to help Josef.  Realising that the only clue they have as to how Josef ended up in Scotland is a piece of paper with an Edinburgh address and a name on it, Charlie makes a promise to get his new friend to safety – he just needs to work out a plan first.

This book beautifully portrays a tale of the kindness of strangers as well as the innocence of childhood.  It reminds us to think about those who might need help without having to look for a route cause, and in this instance Charlie saw a young lad that was cold, alone and hungry.  He saw that Josef was scared and needed a friend, he needed comfort and he needed someone to help him find his way.
The characters in this, especially the three main ones are so realistic and you cannot help but take them into your heart.  Charlie needs to do the right thing, even if in a round about way he ends up telling a wee white lie or doing things he shouldn’t, he believes that if he has made a promise that he should honour it and that’s very commendable.  Jean is fearless, to a point.  She is a genuine friend to Charlie, who often is seen as an outcast because of disability.  Jean is the driving force in the duo, headstrong and determined.
Fear plays a big part in the lives of these characters, whether it is the fear of the belt at school, being sent to the headmaster, a warning from parents or in Josef’s case, a fear of strange grown ups and the way in which it is written makes it realistic.  You get a strong sense of the panic that is felt by the youngsters when faced with certain situations.

I found that this was a book I didn’t want to put down, the tale was so wonderfully crafted and expertly woven that I almost raced through it, relishing the small details as well as frantically trying to find out if the trio would make it to Edinburgh and just who Josef was trying to reach.

This book acts as a great reminder about humanity as well as a wonderful resource to teach youngsters about the harrowing events of Kristallnacht.  And although the target audience is 9-12 year old readers I would say this is a book that readers of any age can read and enjoy.

 

You can buy a copy of “Charlie’s Promise” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository


Author Feature:

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Annemarie Allan was born in Edinburgh, lived in California and London, before returning to Scotland, where she decided it was time to take her writing seriously.
Her first published novel, ‘Hox’, won the 2007 Kelpies Prize and was shortlisted for both the Scottish Children’s Book of the Year and the Heart of Hawick book awards. Her third novel, ‘Ushig’, a fantasy based on Scottish myths and legends, was shortlisted for the 2011 Essex Children’s Book Award. Her latest novel, ‘Charlie’s Promise’ is set in Scotland on the eve of the Second World War, but the issues it deals with are still relevant today.
She writes for both adults and children and has authored several booklets on the history of East Lothian, where she now lives. She was a contributor to the historical review of East Lothian 1945–2000, edited by Sonia Baker, which was awarded first prize in the Alan Ball Local History Award 2010. More recently, her short story, ‘Entrapment’, won the flash fiction section of the 2015 Federation of Writers (Scotland) annual competition.
Her novels and short stories range from fantasy and science fiction to historical and contemporary fiction, taking their inspiration from the landscape and culture of Scotland, both past and present.

If you would like to know more about Annemarie and her writing, you can contact her at:
http://annemarieallan.com/
https://twitter.com/aldhammer

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I love the sense that I’m making something that has never existed before, the challenge of bringing to life the characters who previously lived only inside my head. I also love the opportunity to meet readers and talk about my stories. If you write for children, it’s fairly easy to interact with readers through schools and libraries. I also write adult short stories and it’s much harder to connect with readers when writing that type of fiction.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

I think that would be the sense of rejection when a story is turned down. Almost every fiction writer has a collection of novels, short stories, poems etc, that have been sent out into the world and returned unwanted. It’s hard to be thick-skinned enough to put that to one side and move on, but I tell myself that it’s not always the case that the writing fails to engage the reader. The story might not be polished enough, or might not fit with a publisher’s current priorities. I have found that submitting for prizes as well as for publication is a good way to find out if a story has merit. I took that route twice before I found a publisher. One of my novels was shortlisted for the Saga/HarperCollins children’s book award and another won the Kelpies Prize. It was enormously reassuring to discover that the judges rated the quality of my writing.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why? 

I don’t think I know how to answer this question! Every writer has their own style. Some are so strong you can recognise them from even a couple of paragraphs and I can’t imagine myself writing in someone else’s voice unless it was a parody. There are, of course, a huge number of writers I admire, both past and present. Contemporary ones include Frances Hardwicke, whose fantasies turn the idea of good and evil upside down, especially in ‘The Cuckoo Song’. Or Joanne Harris, who is so skilful at laying a false trail that you have trouble even identifying who is who until the last few pages of the story.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I am an avid reader. Apart from the demands of everyday life, I spend almost all my time with my nose in a book. I also like to walk and I am very grateful that I live in a part of the world where I am close to the sea and the countryside. Apart from anything else, walking is a great way to find time to think about writing! The process of creating a story goes on even when I’m not sitting down to write.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I don’t know if I would call them set rituals, but I like to work at the computer in the morning and go over what I’ve written in the evening or add to my day’s writing with pen and paper. I use a yellow pad for my notes and scribbles. I do have a specific pen that I use for book signings. My daughter bought it for me when I had my first book published and every time I use it, I am reminded of what a wonderful moment that was!

A huge thank you to Annemarie for taking part in the author feature and telling us a little about herself.   If you would like to know more about Annemarie and her writing, you can contact her via her website  http://annemarieallan.com/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/aldhammer

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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Hello and happy Friday!  And you all know what Friday brings, yes,  its time to share another post to celebrate Indie Publishing and this time it’s Elliott & Thompson in the spotlight!   Today I am honoured to share my review of “Hitler’s Forgotten Children” written by Ingrid Von Oelhafen and Tim Tate and I’m equally excited that this post is also part of the blog tour for this book.


Description:

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‘More than 70 years ago I was a “gift” for Adolf Hitler. I was stolen as a baby to be part of one of the most terrible of all Nazi experiments: Lebensborn.’

The Lebensborn programme was the brainchild of Himmler: an extraordinary plan to create an Aryan master race, leaving behind thousands of displaced victims in the wake of the Nazi regime.

In Hitler’s Forgotten Children Ingrid von Oelhafen shares her incredible story as a child of the Lebensborn: a lonely childhood with a distant foster family; her painstaking and difficult search for answers in post-war Germany; and finally being reunited with her biological family – with one last shocking truth to be discovered.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

The Lebensborn programme was not something I was familiar with before reading this book.  I was aware of the Nazi desire to create a “master race” through carefully planned marriages within the SS etc but “Hitler’s Forgotten Children” has opened my eyes to the true scale of the horror and devious lengths that would be aspired to by such villainous perpetrators.

Ingrid von Oelhafen tells the painful story of how she ended up “stateless”, taken as a young child from her homeland and placed into various homes until being fostered by an approved German family to be “Germanised”.  In essence this is part memoir and part history book, Ingrid recounting the memories of her childhood, the journey she undertakes to find out her identity and her roots, but she also provides detail on a chapter of history that many people may not have heard about.  The inclusion of text from Nazi documents, orders and letters provides readers with a glimpse of the shocking truth about what happened during those dark years.

The heartbreaking subject matter of this book can make for difficult reading at times, there were times I was horrified at what I was reading, shocked at the events that had taken place but I was also found this a compelling and addictive read.  I wanted to know how Ingrid would discover her true identity, I needed to know what happened when she met her long lost biological family, but more than that, I was enthralled by the way in which this was written.  Many times I paused whilst reading and considered how I would have reacted to the revelations that Ingrid had discovered during the course of her investigations.  I enjoyed the way that this book challenged my perceptions of nature versus nurture, and reading the accounts of the Lebensborn children certainly gave me pause for thought.

This was a very thought provoking read, that is well researched and thought out.  The struggles Ingrid faced to find out her true roots are similar to many of the victims of the Lebensborn programme, many of them being unable to reconcile the findings.

A highly recommended read!

You can buy a copy of “Hitler’s Forgotten Children” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

My thanks to Elliott & Thompson, especially Alison Menzies for sending me a copy of this wonderful book.


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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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Published: 4 October 2016
Reviewed: 8 November 2016

4 out of 5 stars

Copy supplied by She Writes Press in return for an honest review

Description:

Rachel Klein hopes she can ignore the Nazis when they roll into Amsterdam in May 1940. She’s falling in love, and her city has been the safest place in the world for Jewish people since the Spanish Inquisition. But when Rachel’s Gentile boyfriend is forced to disappear rather than face arrest, she realizes that everything is changing, and so must she—so, although she is often tired and scared, she delivers papers for the underground under the Nazis’ noses. But after eighteen months of ever increasing danger, she pushes her parents to go into hiding with her. The dank basement where they take refuge seems like the last place where Rachel would meet a new man—but she does. An Address in Amsterdam shows that, even in the most hopeless situation, an ordinary young woman can make the choice to act with courage—and even love.

My Thoughts & Review:

An Address in Amsterdam is not the typical sort of book I would opt to review, I often find that the stories surrounding WWII difficult to review without a great emotional attachment or feel so lost in the story that I lose track of taking notes and just read the story.

Without regurgitating the plot, I will say that this is a poignant and mesmerising story of an eighteen year old woman in Nazi occupied Amsterdam and the struggles faced by her and those around her.
The resilience and determination of Rachel Klein makes this such a wonderfully compelling read, joining the underground resistance was a dangerous move for this young woman but she felt that it was something necessary.  The shift from the naive young woman to the member of the resistance allows for great character development.
Initially slow to begin with, the pace soon picks up and holds the reader’s attention throughout.

Despite being historical fiction, this reads almost as a tale recounted rather than imagined.  There is an attention to detail in the writing that feels accurate to the time setting, it is evident that there has been a lot of research done to ensure this historical accuracy as well as the details of the Dutch resistance.  The Dutch resistance was not a subject that I was overly familiar with, most of the books that I have read of this nature seem to focus largely on the events in Germany or France so this was both interesting and informative.

Compelling characters and a rich plot make this an enthralling read and one I would have no hesitation to recommend.

You can buy a copy of An Address in Amsterdam here.

 

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