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** My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my copy of this book and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour **

 

Description:

It’s 1943 and young Leo tries to protect his disabled sister Ruby as the Nazis invade Italy.  After his mother is arrested, he turns to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty to save them.  But he is no ordinary priest.  Known as ‘The Pimpernel of the Vatican’, the Monsignor is the legendary organizer of the Rome Escape Line.  Soon Leo is helping out with this secret network dedicated to saving the lives of escaped prisoners of war, partisans and Jews.  But as the sinister Nazi leader Kappler closes in on the network, can Leo and his sister stay out of his evil clutches?

My Thoughts & Review:

I am a huge fan of stories with a setting in WWII, and so when this book popped up on my radar I instantly added it to the ever growing list of books I’d like to read. It is part of a set by the publisher of “Hands on History” books, an entertaining and enjoyable way of bringing historical tales to the hands of children. The other books in the series look just as promising and I have already added these to my mountainous list to buy.

Leo’s War is set in Italy during the Italian Campaign of WWII, where many people took measures to rise up against the Fascists and Nazis. One such person who made it a mission to subvert the ruling forces was Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, a man that would have a pivotal role in the life of young Leo and his sister Ruby.
One night Leo’s mother is arrested at their home, and being like any young adventurous hero, Leo takes the decision to head to Rome with is disabled sister to seek safety and the mysterious Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty. All he has is a name, a location and tune to whistle … what could possibly go wrong? As the youngsters make their way under the cover of darkness, they have little idea of how truly dangerous their journey could be or who they might encounter.
Eventually they do reach Rome and make contact with the Monsignor, what then follows is a tense and often anxious ride to the end of the war in Italy.

Leo is a character that I think many readers will take an instant liking to, his personality is such that it’s hard not to. He has a kind heart and loves his mother and sister dearly, his main concern throughout is the safety of those around him and not once takes a moment to think for himself, quite commendable really. He does at times struggle with the decisions that other characters make, not able to perhaps see “the bigger picture”, his youthful naivety colouring his thinking. He takes to helping those who need to escape without a second thought, and some of the scrapes he gets into are enough to have you gasping in horror or chuckling in admiration. But as much as I adored Leo, I have to admit that Ruby was the one that stole my heart, something about her just made dazzle me. Whether it was her determination to be heard or perhaps just the stories she told, she really brought out a side of characters in this book that made them more human, more real. I cannot ramble this far and not mention the wonderfully cunning yet sneaky Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, a truly remarkable man for what he did to help those in desperate need. His actions saved so many lives and the depiction of him in Leo’s War makes him such a easy character to connect with.

The writing is fantastic, the pace of the story is such that no matter how many times you say “just one more chapter”, you will end up racing through the book eager to see what happens next. The language used throughout makes this suitable for children and teenagers, as well as grown ups.
It’s an exiting and enjoyable read that educates on an aspect of WWII that many might not have much knowledge about, and more importantly it highlights the work of a truly remarkable figure from history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Absolutely cannot recommend this book highly enough, and I cannot wait to see what the other books in the Hands on History series are like!

You can buy a copy of Leo’s War via:

Amazon UK
Book Depository
Poolbeg
Easons

 

There is a giveaway running on this blog tour, the prize is a £30.00 Amazon gift voucher (this is however only open to UK entries).

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Rafflecopter Giveaway Link

 

About the Author:

 Patricia Murphy is the bestselling author of The Easter Rising 1916 – Molly’s Diary and Dan’s Diary – the War of Independence 1920-22 published by Poolbeg.

She has also written the prize-winning “The Chingles” trilogy of children’s Celtic fantasy novels.   Patricia is also an award winning Producer/Director of documentaries including Children of Helen House, the BBC series on a children’s hospice and Born to Be Different Channel 4’s flagship series following children born with disabilities. Many of her groundbreaking programmes are about children’s rights and topics such as growing up in care, crime and the criminal justice system. She has also made a number of history programmes including Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson for Channel 4 and has produced and directed films for the Open University.

Patricia grew up in Dublin and is a graduate in English and History from Trinity College Dublin and of Journalism at Dublin City University. She now lives in Oxford with her husband and young daughter.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://www.patriciamurphyonline.com

Twitter: @_PatriciaMurphy

Facebook – h https://www.facebook.com/Leos-War-Irelands-Secret-World-War-2-Hero-714055598929732

Facebook  –  https://www.facebook.com/Mollys-Diary-The-1916-Rising-277254289106782/

 

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** My thanks to Black and White Publishing & Netgalley for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Having recently read and enjoyed The Italian Chapel by the same author, I eagerly picked this book up to read.

Set in Scotland during WWII, the reader is immediately immersed in the lives of some truly special characters. The Ross family soon become figures you connect with, each of their separate personalities springing from the pages as you watch them going about life on Kirk Farm in the Highlands. The impending departure from their farm leaves each member of the family feeling bereft. The entire local community pulling together to help harvest the crops, soon realise that there is more work than they can cope with, and it is decided that the Italian POWs billeted nearby could help with the work to be done.

In amongst this story of people pulling together, there is a wonderfully intriguing tale of someone not being as truly honourable as they might seem. Someone is out to undermine the good work and war effort, a spy lurks within the community and it’s not long before events turn sinister, changing the lives of so many people.

The human element to this book is what makes it stand out for me, there were several times that I felt my emotions threatened to run away with me whilst reading this. In more than one instance I was very aware of the tears running down my face as my heart went out to the characters in this book. Paris has a great skill of creating characters that feel so real and authentic, even when there are personalities that are less than wholesome, you cannot help but feel some empathy towards their plights.

As with the author’s previous books, the attention to detail is superb. Vivid descriptions of settings and scenes bring the story alive and give the reader the feeling that they are there in the moment. You can feel the chill of the night, the cramped farmhouse and hear the rumble of the tractors.

Highly recommended!

You can buy a copy of Effie’s War via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

 

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I am bursting with excitement today as it’s time for another Celebrating Indie Publishing. Friday never seems to come round quick enough, the day I dedicate to screaming from the rooftop about the great indie publishers and authors, and today I am delighted to share a review of a book that’s firmly reserved it’s place on my top books of the year list!

The book in the spotlight today is … The Italian Chapel by Philip Paris.  It is published by Black and White Publishing in March 2018.


Book Feature:

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Description:

Orkney 1942. Forbidden lovers, divided by war, united by a secret act of creation.

Amid the turmoil of the Second World War, a group of Italian prisoners is sent to the remote Orkney island of Lamb Holm. In the freezing conditions, hunger and untold hardships of Camp 60, this ragtag band must work together to survive.

Domenico, a talented artist, is among them. He inspires his comrades to create a symbol of peace during these dark days of war, and out of driftwood and scrap they build the Italian chapel: a beacon of hope and beauty in a world ravaged by war.

The chapel soon becomes a place of love, too. When Giuseppe, another POW, falls for local woman Fiona, he decides to hide a token of his love there . . . the secret of which is unveiled for the first time in The Italian Chapel.

Based on an incredible true story, this heartbreaking and inspiring tale tells of forbidden passion, lifelong friendships and the triumph of the human spirit.

 

 

My Thoughts & Review:

This is such a beautifully written tale that calls out to the heart and soul of readers, there’s something so deeply moving in the way that Paris has taken the story of the chapel on Orkney and brought it to life with some exquisite writing.

I loved the way that the author took the time to lay a steady foundation for his characters, giving the reader an opportunity to get to know these POWs, see the volatility of the situation they were in and the struggles that faced them as they learned to adapt to their foreign surroundings.  The work undertaken by the POWs on Orkney was on an epic scale, creating foundations and building the causeways that would later link the islands of Orkney together.
The real special aspect of this is that some of these personalities are based on men who were there at the time, giving readers a wonderful personal link to the events taking place.  I appreciate that Paris took the time to include notes at the end of the book to let readers know what happened after the war to the men mentioned (where possible).

The story of how the chapel came into existence is a special one and I have to admit that I’ve always admired the chapel and it’s beauty but never actually looked into the history of it, never taken the time to appreciate the significance of it and I am forever grateful to this book for highlighting the story and the work of the team of men behind it.  Whilst part ficionalised, the story recounts the hard work and skill that was necessary to create this beautiful chapel.  The human element to the story is what really pulls the reader in, feeling a connection with characters and their lives really makes this stand out and feel so real.

Philip Paris has a wonderful way of bringing his writing to life, the descriptions of the chapel, artwork and people really conjure vivid images whilst reading this, and after reading this I did go and look up the chapel online to see more images to fully appreciate the intricate and awe inspiring details.  The inclusion of the detail of Palumbi’s iron work had me feeling a lump in my throat, his love of a local woman driving him to leave a lasting memento behind.

Such a special story, written with sympathy, sensitivity and attention to detail.  And one I would highly recommend.

You can buy a copy of The Italian Chapel via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

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Hello and welcome to the first Celebrating Indie Publishing post of 2018!  Yes, it is the first post for this as I took some time out in January to scale the mountainous reading pile before it toppled over and have only posted a few scheduled shares here and there.

Today I am delighted to share a review of a book I stumbled upon last year by chance, it’s one that was previously published by Freight Books and has been picked up by the mighty and amazing Saraband who are publishing some pretty fantastic books this year.  Anyway, enough of my wittering, lets get on to the book….

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** My thanks to Sara at Saraband Books for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

Ian McEwan’s Atonement meets Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth in this extraordinary debut.

A novel set between the past and present with magical realist elements. Goblin is an outcast girl growing up in London during World War 2. After witnessing a shocking event she increasingly takes refuge in a self-constructed but magical imaginary world. Having been rejected by her mother, she leads a feral life amidst the craters of London’s Blitz, and takes comfort in her family of animals, abandoned pets she’s rescued from London’s streets.

In 2011, a chance meeting and an unwanted phone call compels an elderly Goblin to return to London amidst the riots and face the ghosts of her past. Will she discover the truth buried deep in her fractured memory or retreat to the safety of near madness? In Goblin, debut novelist Dundas has constructed an utterly beguiling historical tale with an unforgettable female protagonist at its centre.

My Thoughts & Review:

From the moment that I heard about Goblin I was intrigued, it sounded like a very different read and one very unlike anything I’ve read before and I wasn’t wrong!  The storyline moves between different times and locations, but always follows our protagonist Goblin who grew began her days in London.

At the beginning of the book there is a scene that will make many readers chuckle, some will screech in horror, but mostly I think they will appreciate the wit of Ben eating his way through Ulysses, and will not give in until he has finished the book.  ‘Old Lady’ affectionately named by Ben, is Mrs G Bradfield, the Reader in Residence in the Edinburgh library who tries to dissuade Ben from his quest to rid the library of the James Joyce book before realising that this is simply something that he must do.  Her acceptance of this is the first instance readers will get of there being more to this character than first meets the eye.
As the time line flicks between 2011 Edinburgh and 1941 London a link between Mrs G Bradfield and Goblin becomes apparent, and I will admit, in the beginning I wasn’t quite sure how these two were connected but soon it becomes apparent that they are the same person.

Goblin, as we get to know the character doesn’t have a name as such, or at least we don’t ever see her being addressed as anything other than Goblin by her family and friends.  Having been rejected by her mother at a young age, she has formed a bond with her dear dog Devil, who she sees as her best friend and confidant.  There is a respectful silence between Goblin and her father, him allowing her to watch as he repaired various electrical items such as radios when she was younger so that as she grew she was able to help him.  But the human who holds the dearest space in her heart is her brother, he is the one that offers her the relationship that she misses out on with their mother.  His care and compassion towards his younger sister is touching and endearing to see, whilst it is true that younger siblings can be testing at times, and the pair do squabble or fall out, they also have a wonderful bond.

As the plot moves on we see that Goblin has invented a world of make believe around herself, trying to find adventure in her surroundings and living in a world of Martians, Nazis and the Lizard People.  Her imagination is powerful, and part of me wonders if this inventiveness was merely a coping mechanism, seeking a bond with something to fill the parental void.  Whilst most children would have outgrown this imaginary world, Goblin instead fully immerses herself in it, regaling those around her of magical tales of the Underworld and the Lizard People, this make believe world forming a shell, a protective bubble around herself to shield her of the horrifying realities of the world around her.

Ever Dundas has recently won the Saltire First Book Award 2017 for Goblin and it is very clear why, this is an incredibly well written novel that is beautifully poignant, and the juxtaposition of abandonment and neglect with humour makes this such a compelling read and the believable characters bring it all to life.
The only negative thing that I have about this book was that it was initially a little confusing when reading, the way that the plot jumps back and forth between the different times did take a little getting used to, and once I’d grasped the style of writing I found it worked so well with the story, it almost felt like the jumps back were perhaps tangents of Goblin’s aged mind lost in thought and reminiscing.  A stunning debut that I would heartily recommend!

‘Mon Team Corporal Pig!!

 You can buy a copy of Goblin via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

 

 

 

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** My thanks to Jennifer Kerslake at W&N for my copy of this magnificent book **

 

Description:

In 1944, in a sleepy English village, Daniel and his emotionally-distant mother, Annabel, remain at home while his father is off fighting a war that seems both omnipresent and very, very far away.

When mother and son befriend Hans, a German PoW working on a nearby farm, their lives are suddenly filled with excitement – though the prisoner comes to mean very different things to each of them. To Annabel, he is an awakening from the darkness that has engulfed her since Daniel’s birth. To her son, a solitary boy caught up in the mythical world of fairy-tales, he is perhaps a prince in disguise or a magical woodchopper. But Daniel often struggles to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and Hans has plans to spin a special sort of web to entrap mother and son for his own needs.

My Thoughts & Review:

Between the beautiful cover and that hauntingly superb description it was only a matter of time before this book came to my attention, and I was honoured to receive an early copy for review.

Chloe Mayer is a new author for me, and I have to admit that based on The Boy Made of Snow, she will be sitting firmly on my list of authors to watch out for.  Her style of writing is a joy to read, sublimely detailed and absolutely captivating.  And I particularly liked the references to classic fairy tales interwoven throughout the book.  Each chapter headed up with a quotation from a traditional tale such as The Snow Queen or Rapunzel .  The link within the story to the tales is through the stories that Annabel reads to her son Daniel at bedtime.
Annabel and Daniel live in a small village in rural Kent, and it quickly becomes clear that Daniel’s father is away fighting in the war.  As narration changes between Annabel and Daniel, readers soon learn that Annabel has struggled to adapt to motherhood since the birth of her only child.  Perhaps in today’s time she would be diagnosed with Post Partum Depression, but alas, in the 1940s poor mental health was something to be frowned upon for the shame it would bring on the family.  Through reading from her perspective we can see that she feels no affection for her son, and indeed never calls him by name.   She and Daniel live together in the same house but there is no closeness there, they are worlds apart.

Daniel is what I might expect a nine year old boy to be like in many senses, on the look out for adventure, an imagination that conjures monsters and villains.  But underneath it all, he desperately loves his mother and rather sadly I think, realises that she is different from other mothers.  Reading some of the narrative I find it almost heartbreaking to see that Daniel holds his mother so dear in his heart, he misses his father and he casts so much importance on the fairy tales that his mother shares with him.
Hans, the woodcutter, now there’s a mysterious character.  We only ever see him through the eyes of Annabel or Daniel so cannot really get a true picture of his character.  His presence in the village causes some discord amongst the locals, some not happy about the prisoners of war being there, even if they are doing labour to help out.  For Daniel, he is the embodiment of the woodchopper from Hansel and Gretel, a friendly but strong figure that brings excitement.  For Annabel, he’s a different kind of exciting.  Someone who doesn’t know her, know her struggles and who ultimately makes her feel alive again.

There have been some exceptional novels published this year, and although the year’s not out yet, I think it’s safe to say that readers have been well and truly spoiled this year with what the world of publishing have brought to us.  Chloe Mayer written such a emotion filled debut that I struggled to put down.  There are so many wonderful moments in this book that I felt I could see scenes playing out through the beautifully clear descriptive writing, I could feel the anguish and heart break of Daniel as events unfolded, all too often he seemed older than his nine years, taking on responsibility of caring for his mother but then I would quickly remember that he was a nine year old boy,  not yet equipped with the knowledge to comprehend the trials and tribulations of adults and their emotions.

I could not fault this book at all, it is flawless and wonderful, and I highly recommend it!

You can buy a copy of The Boy Made of Snow via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

 

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Description:

As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients.

Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz, as readers may recognise it. Every dress she makes could mean the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival.

Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive. Is her love of clothes and creativity nothing more than collaboration with her captors, or is it a means of staying alive? Will she fight for herself alone, or will she trust the importance of an ever-deepening friendship with Rose?

One thing weaves through the colours of couture gowns and camp mud – a red ribbon, given to Ella as a symbol of hope.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

The moment I read the description of this book I knew I had to find out more and was delighted to be offered a review copy to read.  I have a great interest in book set during WWII, the courage and strength shown by the characters is something that I find moving and their stories are incredibly moving.

In this we meet Ella, taken from her family as she went about her day and thrown into Auschwitz work camp.  From here she stops being Ella, the Nazis strip her of her worldly goods including her treasured green sweater.  She is given a number, black and white striped clothing and has to find a bunk in an over crowded hut.  But despite this, she is determined.  Determined to do what it takes to survive, determined not let the Nazis win and crush her spirit.  At just fourteen years old she wins her first job as a seamstress in the camp’s sewing hut.  I say win because she has to prove her worth against another hopeful contender, and in places like the work camps it was a case of survival of the fittest. 

Through some incredibly detailed narrative, readers are almost able to feel the silks that Ella sews, can see the delicate embroidery done on the garments, but most powerful of all is the descriptions of the fear felt by Ella and her fellow inmates.
Whilst Ella is a strong character, she contrasts well with her new friend Rose.  Rose is gentle, and kind and has an imagination that makes your heart swell.  The stories that Rose makes up during their time in the camp are their means of distraction and a way to help them survive the atrocities they endure.  Watching Ella trying to push Rose to be less kind and more selfish was hard, but for the sake of her safety, Rose had to toughen up.

There were many instances whilst reading this that I paused, my heart breaking at what I was reading, like most takes set during this time period, they are not for the feint hearted.  There is a harsh reality that has to be faced, and whilst this is a fictional tale there are elements of truth to it and from reading other books it’s quite easy to imagine events playing out as they did in this book.  The rawness of the emotions I felt reading this are a credit to Lucy Adlington, her writing is superb and truly left me feeling so caught up in the story of Ella.

You can buy a copy of The Red Ribbon via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

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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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