Anne Bonny #BookReview The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 5* #HistoricalFic #ww2Lit @panmacmillan ‘This is a story of sisterhood, maternal instincts and the power of women’

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My own copy – Kindle
Synopsis:

Bravery, courage, fear and love in a time of war.

Despite their differences, sisters Viann and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Viann finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength is tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

Vivid and exquisite in its illumination of a time and place that was filled with atrocities, but also humanity and strength, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale will provoke thought and discussion that will have readers talking long after they finish reading.

My Review:

The Nightingale falls in my favourite historical fiction era, ww2. I had heard great things about the novel, with many fellow readers recommending it to me. I have since, also devoured The Great Alone, by the same author.

The Nightingale centres around the story of two sisters and the novel tells the story of their journey through world war two. Their stories take place in occupied France and is extremely moving.
I had to relay the entire novel to my husband after reading! I was so taken aback at finally closing the door on both Vianne and Isabelle.

‘The father who went to war was not the one who came home’

Vianne and Isabelle may have had different childhood experiences, but ultimately what pains one, pain the other in a different way. They are both still, in some way grieving for the loss of their mother. While Vianne has thrown herself into married life. Isabelle has thrown her efforts into teenage rebellion. The each carry a sense of abandonment from their father, a man that never fully returned from the first world war.

‘What was love when put up against war?’

When the Germans invade Paris, each sister must make a choice of how they will choose to survive. It will be the choice they have to live with for the rest of their lives…

‘French women do not ask Nazi’s for help’ – Isabelle

Vianne’s husband is called up to service, which eventually will lead him to a POW camp. Leaving Vianne to decide how best she and her young daughter Sophie will cope in the now occupied Loire Valley. Whilst Isabella aspires to join the Free French Movement and fight back against the Nazi’s.
Each choice, will cost each woman dearly, in ways they can never have foreseen.

The location of occupied France is incredibly atmospheric. It also brings it home to you, the fear French women lived under, with Nazi’s at their doors. I have visited Jersey and the various monuments to the occupation. I think this maybe added to my enjoyment of the novel, but also my terror.

This is a story of sisterhood, maternal instincts and the power of women to survive. Highly recommended for book groups, also as a gift for your mother/sister or female relative. 5*

KH
Kristin Hannah
Website

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview The Street Orphans by @Authormary Mary Wood #Saga #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction @panmacmillan ‘A stark portrayal of the Victorian era in Lancashire 5*’

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The Street Orphans by Mary Wood
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Born with a club foot in a remote village in the Pennines, Ruth is feared and ridiculed by her superstitious neighbours who see her affliction as a sign of witchcraft. When her father is killed in an accident and her family evicted from their cottage, she hopes to leave her old life behind, to start afresh in the Blackburn cotton mills. But tragedy strikes once again, setting in motion a chain of events that will unravel her family’s lives.

Their fate is in the hands of the Earl of Harrogate, and his betrothed, Lady Katrina. But more sinister is the scheming Marcia, Lady Katrina’s jealous sister. Impossible dreams beset Ruth from the moment she meets the Earl. Dreams that lead her to hope that he will save her from the terrible fate that awaits those accused of witchcraft. Dreams that one day her destiny and the Earl’s will be entwined.

My Review:

I have previously read and loved Brighter Days Ahead by Mary wood. Which I thoroughly enjoyed as a ww2 fiction saga. This novel however, takes on a whole other angle. The Street Orphans is a much darker novel, which fully explores the themes of poverty in Victorian society. The plight of the children, whilst remaining factual accurate, is unbearable at times. It is just so painful and as a parent myself, I dreaded the thought of having to endure such harsh times.

The novel opens in 1850 when the lives of one young family are ripped apart. Ruth Dovecote is the oldest of five siblings, she finds herself the mother figure. After the death of their father in a recent accident, the family are served an eviction notice 24hrs after the funeral. They are cold, penniless and hungry. Their mother decides to make the trek to Lythe Fell in Blackburn, to her cousin’s residence.
Only the journey doesn’t go as planned.

On the journey the carriage of the Earl of Harrogate hits Ruth’s mother causing an instant death. Despite witnessing the death of their beloved mother, the children rally to save the passengers. The Earl is far from grateful and mocks Ruth’s club foot, with nothing but utter contempt for her. . .

‘And us within spitting distance of Pendle Hill, where they hanged a whole bunch of your kind a couple of centuries ago’ – Earl of Harrogate

The legend that surrounds Pendle Hill and specifically the witches of Pendle Hill, is well known. At least it is to me. I grew up in Lancashire and Pendle Hill could be clearly seen from the front doorstep of my grandmother’s house on Summer Street in Nelson. I can remember my granny Winnie filling my head with tales of her past in Lancashire. My Gran worked in the mills and my grandad worked down the pits. They had both known harsh childhoods, full of poverty and yet gave nothing but love their entire lives. My Grandfather himself was an Orphan at 17yrs of age. His father committed suicide after ww1, my grandad found his body at just 10yrs old. So, I suppose the themes of orphans/poverty hit me quite hard emotionally. I remember my gran telling me that at 17yrs old my grandad couldn’t afford shoes for his feet and that he had also endured sleeping rough. This is a man that would give you the shirt of his back, his last fiver or giant hug whenever you needed it. Lancashire might have a history of poverty and endurance under difficult times. But it also has an incredible history of love, friendship and warmth amongst its people.

Anyhow, back to the story before I am crying!
Ruth saves the Earl despite his vile attitude towards her. when he then makes violent threats towards her younger sister Elsie 4yrs old.
Ruth sees red and this leaves the Earl dead!
What will become of the children now?

Across Lancashire we are introduced to Katrina, daughter to a wealthy mill owner. She is betrothed to Lord Bertram Rollinson, the Earl of Harrogate. At just 21yrs old, she finds this a rather daunting prospect.
She is unable to marry for love and this she finds disheartening. . .

‘Lord Rollinson is trading a title for me, and daddy’s acceptance into society circles, just to get his hands on our money. How could you wish this to happen to me?’ – Katrina

However, Katrina is in for a surprise because Bertram is no longer among the living. Which will lead to his brother Frederick to take his place as Earl. Which brings a whole new dimension to Katerina’s marital woes.

‘Marriage in your society is no more than a business contract’ – Arkwright

The new Earl of Harrogate, Frederick is deeply concerned for the welfare of the children involved in the crash. He knows their actions allowed his mother Lady Eleonore to survive it. He hunts them down in a desperate attempt to help them. But these are street smart kids, who’s only experience of ‘toffs’ is one of exploitation and abuse. Ruth avoids the earl at every turn, which leads her to Ma Perkins and a whole new nightmare!

The novel covers a wide-range of themes as we follow not only the working-class characters but the society elite. Whilst the poor may fall prey to violence, rape and extreme poverty. The wealthy experience their own set of struggles. They live in s society built on reputations, where their status can be crushed in the blink of an eye. The women also experience being married off, as though they are pawns in a game of chess, being moved off to advance the males in the family. The author has done an outstanding job of covering the various people within the society and maintaining historical accuracy.
A stark portrayal of the Victorian era in Lancashire 5*

Mary Wood
Mary wood
Website
Twitter
My ReviewBrighter Days Ahead

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
The Street Orphans - Blog tour 2018

 

#Review #NewRelease Brighter Days Ahead by @Authormary 5* Mary Wood @panmacmillan #Saga #ww2Fiction

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

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Brighter Days Ahead by Mary Wood
Synopsis:

War pulled them apart, but can it bring them back together?

Molly lives with her repugnant father, who has betrayed her many times. From a young age, living on the
streets of London’s East End, she has seen the harsh realities of life . . . When she’s kidnapped by a gang and forced into their underworld, her future seems bleak.

Flo spent her early years in an orphanage, and is about to turn her hand to teacher training. When a kindly teacher at her school approaches her about a job at Bletchley Park, it could be everything she never knew she wanted.

Will the girls’ friendship be enough to weather the hard times ahead?

My review:

Brighter Days Ahead, is a saga by genre, but it tackles some thoroughly complex and very modern themes. Mary Wood has shown that she is not afraid to tackle the reality of the era. The attitudes and social behaviours are thoroughly explored. From the harsh domestic violence scenes, to the pre-LGBTQ generation, this novel has layers of depth.

The novel focuses around two young women, struggling to make their way in a male dominated society. However, the outbreak of world war 2, saw more women than ever before, enter the work place. For the first time in a very long time, women were staring to see equality on the horizon.
This novel tells the personal story of two of those women and their journey towards that horizon……

Molly is from the unforgiving east end of London. She has a brute and drunkard for a father, who with his roaming hands, makes life unbearable. The novel details her backstory, the man she holds a torch for, her best friend and her god-awful father’s decline into criminality.
It is when she is kidnapped by local black market racketeers, that she learns just how cruel, violent and barbaric, life can truly be!

“Please, god, don’t let what happened to Phyllis’s mate happen to me….. please!” – Molly

In Leeds we meet orphan Flo (Florence), who has not had the easiest starts to life. Flo is determined to make something of her life. She is intelligent, caring and hard working. When her night school tutor Mr Dinkworth (Roland), offers her a glimmer of hope with a potential job at Bletchley Park.
Roland is a fascinating character all my himself! Roland has a secret love, a love so powerful, the generation simply wasn’t ready for its acceptance.
Roland has a lover at Bletchley and his name is Simon……..

The novel revolves around the main two protagonists Molly and Flo. But the background characters are simply too strong to be held in the backstory and the novel, then details all of their journeys throughout the war. This unusual mix of friends and their individual stories, makes for extremely interesting reading.
Molly has a crush on her employer’s son David. But with David being of the Jewish faith, there is little hope for romance. Hettie, Molly’s closest friend and confidant, pushes the two together which leads to a surprising twist.
Roland and Simon must live a life of the upper most secrecy. Which means involving Flo and Simon’s half-sister Lucinda into their secret. With Lucinda as a cover story, the two men manage to arrange secret liaisons. That is until Kitty Hamlin decides to out them! When you think of the social and criminal repercussions for gay men in the 1940s, you wince with every comment that leaves Kitty’s mouth.
It is an outing that will lead to violence and heartbreak.

The novel details the hardships faced by women and gay men in an honest, realistic portrayal. All the characters will come to face great hardships, emotional pain and suffering. But it is their resilience and triumph over adversity that drives the narrative. The power of strong bonds of friendship and hope for a brighter future after the war.
This saga really is a blend of contemporary themes such as gay rights, but set within the ww2 era. It shows the power of two women, whom refuse to give up or ‘know their place’. It really is an incredibly read and definitely one to curl up with on the sofa over the Christmas period.

Perfect for fans of sagas, historical fiction and the world war two era.
Not to be missed! 5*

MW
Mary Wood
Authors links:
Twitter: @Authormary
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HistoricalNovels
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4336970.Mary_Wood
Website: https://www.authormarywood.com/

Author bio:
Born the thirteenth child of fifteen to a middle-class mother and an East End barrow boy, My childhood was a mixture of love and poverty. This encouraged me to develop a natural empathy with the less fortunate and a fascination with social history.

I was educated at St Peter’s RC School, where, at the time, the emphasis was on instilling the 3 R’s plus 1 – Reading, Writing, Arithmatic and Religion. When I left school, I was ill-equipt for a future career, as most girls of my background were. Life had to become a learning curve.

Mine took the path of factory work, then office work as I learnt to type and write words in little squiggles. After marriage, cleaning, catering and pub jobs fitted in best with family life, as did party planning – Tupperware and Pippa Dee. There was later a stint in the caring industry, and then pub and hotel management. Until finally, I went back to my office skills and through an agency, worked in the office of the Probation Service. When a post for admin became vacant I was offered it, and from there rose to be a Community Service Officer and finally a Probation Service Officer. This took me to retirement, from 9-5. However, there ws no stopping me. Through most of this time I had been writing and trying to get publsihed, now I could spend much more time pursuing that dream.

I met my husband, Roy when I was just fourteen and he was nineteen. In 1963 we married and have four children, eight grandchildren, and five step grandchildren. Great granchildren, and step great grandchildren, is an ever changing number as we welcome more each year. Each one is a blessing and enhances our lives.

An avid reader, I first put pen to paper in 1989 whilst nursing my mother through her last months, but only became successful in receiving rejection letters, until the dawning of kindle and the innovation it offered to authors to self-publish their work.

At last, I could call myself an author! And a very successful one at that, as my books soared to the top of their genre.

This changed my life. I was living as an ordinary pensioner, eeking out our pensions, and the little I could earn by freelancing as a Creative Writing Editor, and wasn’t even able to afford to run a car – I loved my bus-pass…. Then another author encouraged me to put my work on kindle, and suddenly, I was doing what I loved – telling stories, and earning money for doing so! My life changed as now I could fulfil another dream – to live in Spain for half of the year.

I love to travel. I go to many places in the world on holiday and more importantly, to carry out my research. All of this was now open to me. But more was to come:

In 2013, I was spotted by Pan Macmillan Publishers and offered a seven book deal!!!

This entailed, two new books and all of my five backlist. To date, two backlist have been published in paperback and two new novels.

I have since been given a further two book deal.

Two of my books a year are being published. Below are the ones that are in the shops now – WH Smiths and some supermarkets as well as all good book stores.

My most successful kindle book, An Unbreakable Bond, is coming out May 19th 2016. This book is a sequel to To Catch A Dream. And then, In November/December 2016, In Their Mother’s Footsteps, will be published. This book is a sequel to All I Have To Give.

I began my career writing northern sagas along the lines of Catherine Cookson, whom I loved and admired. Now I have branched out and write thrilling novels with a wartime setting. I usually set these novels in London, the north, and with a fair bit of the action happening in France, and Poland.

I would say that I am a gritty writer, who takes her readers to live the situations my characters find themselves in. Parts of my books are not for the feint-hearted. I bring my stories alive, and take my reader into the depth of them. I would feel as though I am letting my characters and my readers down if I didn’t do this, so be prepared to feel many emotions as you read my novels. Be prepared too, to tackle issues head on, to fight in world war one and world war two as if you are that nurse, that munition worker, that special agent. And in my northern sagas, be ready to experience what it was like to be a woman, in an era when it is was thought that there was no such thing as rape, and domestic violence was a man’s right to keep his missus in check. But you will also see the downtrodden triumph, and the just win through. I hope you enjoy my books. I hope too, that you will become a friend. Much love, Mary x

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Available now in kindle and paperback!  

#Review – The Constant Soldier by William Ryan @WilliamRyan_ #WW2 #HistFic

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The Constant Soldier by William Ryan

Synopsis:

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 review:

WW2 is one of my favourite genres in historical fiction. I have been a huge fan since I was in my teens. It is unusual for me to find something I would class as different/unique in the genre, as I have read such a variety of series/stand alones etc. I think this novel had something unique in that it focuses on the redemption of one man and his internal struggles with his conscience. which makes for, incredible reading!

Paul Brandt returns home to his sleepy village, having been wounded in an attack by the Russians. We later learn there are substantial injuries to his face. Brandt’s father was a surgeon during WW1 and when Brandt returns to Germany, he is aware it is a broken Germany indeed! The village is covered in swastikas and he notices a POW hut within the village. We meet Weber the baker, but under Nazi law, he has fast been promoted to Mayor of the town and this gives him absolute power and authority. This is something I have read time and time again in my ww2 non-fiction reading. How much power the Nazi party offered to small, vicious men, who followed their belief system!

We learn of Brandt’s past and the actions that led him to be on the front line. We also discover that he knows one of the female POW’s in the hut. But who is she? and where does he know her from? He sets about acquiring himself a job at the Hut. I found the theme of German resistance and redemption, very interesting and found this gave Brandt so much depth as a civilian, soldier and man.

The tables are turning of the Nazi’s at the POW hut, the soviets are closing in. The Nazi’s fear their violent revenge will be delivered soon! The violence and death, rolled out daily in the POW camp makes for tough reading. But these things did happen, so nonchalantly in the Nazi’s routine. Neumann is one character that is specifically savage in his approaches to prisoners. But everything I have ever read proves the Nazi party was riddled with men this evil………………..

This is a story of the tension and realisation that was brought to many Germans at the end of the war. It is thought-provoking and very well written.
Highly recommend 4*

The novel is available in hardback and Ebook format.
Paperback release is 1st June 2017.

WR
William Ryan
Authors links:
Web: https://www.william-ryan.com/
Twitter: @WilliamRyan_

*The authors website has a wealth of information and galleries, in relation to his novels and is well worth checking out!

Q&A with author of: A New Map Of Love, Abi Oliver

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A New Map Of Love by Abi Oliver

Synopsis:

How can you pack for the journey of a lifetime?

George Baxter has settled for a comfortable life, content as the years unfold predictably – until Win, his wife of twenty-six years, dies.

With his loyal dog Monty by his side, George throws himself into his work as an antiques dealer. His business is at the heart of the village and all sorts pass through the doors, each person in search of their own little piece of history.

When George meets local widow Sylvia Newsome, he imagines a different kind of future. But life has more revelations to offer him. Over the course of an English summer George uncovers some unexpected mysteries from his past, which could shape his tomorrows . . .

Q&A:

Q) Your novel A New Map of Love is set in 1964. What was the inspiration behind the era and setting?

A) I have written a large number of stories set in times before I was born and I wanted to write about a time that I could – at least dimly – remember. I was three in 1964! But here are a number of things about that year which made it a good setting for the kind of book I wanted to create. The summer of 1964 was a long, hot one and I wanted to write one of those novels which captures the loveliness of the English summertime – something which is of course real, but which is also a kind of fantasy archetype that most of us hold in our minds in relation to our landscape.

1964 was also the year when the Beatles were really beginning to emerge, after sex had been discovered (according to Philip Larkin) – and later in the year the government changed. Big changes were looming which only reached rural places like distant echoes to begin with – but reach them they did, gradually.

Q) Your character George Baxter is a country antique dealer. Is George based on anyone from real life?

A) My father was a country antique dealer. Now I look back on it, it was a great life at that time. All jobs have their stresses of course, but it involved him knowing a huge amount about all sorts of things. My father had huge knowledge and experience. It also involved driving about the countryside going to visit other dealers – extended lunches in the pub, that sort of thing! And we had a workshop out at the back where the men restored furniture and sometimes made up extra things that people needed like bookshelves. There was always a sense of business and the smell of sawdust coming across to the house. Not to mention all the characters – there was a staff of about seven – and that was before you get on to the customers.

I have actually spent many years writing about Birmingham (as Annie Murray) and this part of my life was put very much on a back burner. But the idea of writing about it has been waiting in my mind for some time.

The reason I finally began was that I studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University. The book that is now A New Map of Love was my main project for the degree.

Q) Your novel begins with your protagonist running off “from his wife’s funeral do like a bolter fleeing a wedding.” Despite his actions, you have crafted a very sympathetic character. Tell us about how you developed the character of George Oswald Baxter?

A) George was one of those characters who seemed to arrive almost fully formed. I think because he is the sort of Englishman of a certain type and generation with whom I am pretty familiar, I could work out his reaction to things quite easily. I quickly grew very fond of him and realized that despite being an intelligent and sensitive man, in his loneliness he might not always see straight or have the best judgement. His character developed gradually as the story also developed and then further in the editing process.

Q) Can you talk us through the route from idea to publication? could you also tell us a little bit about your writing process?

A) I wrote A New Map of Love over about two years in first draft, though I had to do quite a bit of re-writing. Process wise, I think ideally having a good while to think about a story before you get too far into the writing is very helpful. For example, the novel I am working on now is one which I have been thinking about for several years. I wrote A New Map of Love in longhand, which I prefer. Every, let’s say 5000 words I would type it on to the computer, which is the first stage of re-writing, but I find a great sense of freedom in writing by hand. As I had planned to set the book over one hot summer, the simplest thing seemed to be to structure it month by month. I like to have an over-all structure in my head though, and the classic three part arrangement – even if the novel is not in three parts – is very useful as a benchmark of the rhythm and shape of it.

Characters also present themselves and have to be gradually built upon – such a Eleanora Byngh (with an h). I find I gradually see into them and what is driving them by writing about them.

It’s always vital to remember, as another writer once said to me, ‘the first draft is not the last.’

Q) You say you have written under another name. Can you tell us about your writing background?

A) I’ve always written, – maybe something to do with growing up as an only child. We also travelled quite a lot, so I had hours of time to fill on journeys. I suppose I’ve always been writing something. In the end I did do a degree in literature. For much of the time since then, I have belonged to writers groups. I was a member of Birmingham’s Tindal Street Fiction Group and lately, have set up two more workshops with another writer, Oxford Narrative Group and Leather Lane Writers in London. The collective sharing, insights and support of writer’s workshops has been very important.

In 1991 I won a short story competition run by SHE Magazine and also This Morning with Richard and Judy. Through this I joined the wonderful Darley Anderson Agency which has represented me ever since. Darley sold my first novel – what in the trade would be called a ‘regional saga’ set in Birmingham, and it was published in 1995. Since then I have published 21 novels – as I write, the 21st, The Doorstep Child is at number 6 in the paperback chart!

During those years though, we moved as a family, away from Birmingham, which still has a lot of my affection and fascination as a place, back to the Thames Valley, where I come from originally. The place has worked its magic on me and I’ve found I wanted to write about that too. So I have a sort of town mouse identity – Annie Murray. Abi Oliver is more of a country mouse. And I love all of it.

abi oliver pic

Author’s Links:
Web Site:http://www.abioliver.co.uk/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16500831.Abi_Oliver
Twitter: @AbiWriterOliver

*Huge thanks to the author for being part of a Q&A on my blog. Review to follow soon!