Tuesday, 20 February 2018

#BookReview ~ Red Winter by Julia Underwood #HistoricalFiction #Russia #mustread @BeingJules

Red Winter

By Julie Underwood


Wealthy, privileged Sophie Cooke, the eldest daughter of a successful English businessman in St Petersburg, has her life torn apart by historic changes in Russia. 

In the early 1900s, enjoying a luxurious existence and a social life of parties and balls, Sophie becomes engaged to the love of her life; a young doctor, Anatoly Andropov. The outbreak of the Great War means that their marriage is earlier than planned and Tolya goes to serve in a field hospital on the eastern front.

Sophie, bored and lonely at home, leaves to join him as a nurse. Later she gives birth to a baby boy and, when expecting her second child, conditions compel her to return to her home city, now named Petrograd.

Petrograd becomes the epicentre of the greatest upheaval in Russian history where the Tsar is overthrown and socialist revolutionaries take over the government. During the months and years that follow, the socialist revolution and a bitter Civil War play out amidst uncertainty, lethal danger and brutal violence. Sophie’s family flee to England, to safety, but even that escape is marked with tragedy.

Sophie remains in Petrograd with her children to wait Tolya’s return. Conditions in the city deteriorate, threatening her little family with starvation and disease. Sophie endures endless struggles at home and at work in a state hospital with the fate of her husband always on her mind. Where is he? Is he even alive? Serious illness and the fragile health of her children drive her to join her family in England where she hears the worst news possible which forces her to return alone to Russia to embark on a dangerous quest.

This sweeping novel of love and loss will transport the reader from tsarist Russia in 1913, through the Great War, the Russian Revolution and Civil War to 1922, finally portraying the life of Russian émigrés in England.


My thoughts...

When Sophie married the dashing young doctor, Anatoly Andropov, she had no idea where her life would lead her. In the years that follow, Sophie would witness the horrors of World War I and the terror of the 1917 revolution. Being half-English, Sophie has the chance to leave Russia with her family, but how can she when she knows not what has happened to her husband?

From the splendour of Tsarist Russia to the abject poverty of life under the Bolsheviks, Red Winter by Julia Underwood is a sweeping saga of one young woman as she fights for her country, her family, and the man she loves. The brutality of this time is beautifully portrayed in one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read depicting this era. This book is right up there with Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, and Danielle Steel's, Zoya. Red Winter is a breathtaking story that had me gripped from the opening chapter — so gripped in fact that I simply could not put the book down and read it in one sitting.

Sophie was a beautifully portrayed protagonist, and while the world is falling down around her, she faces this changing world with courage and integrity. She is the glue that holds her family together, and her bravery is inspiring, as is her self-sacrifice. Sophie meets each disaster head on, and although at times she is discouraged she somehow finds the strength to carry on.

The depth of research, Julie Underwood has dedicated to portraying the period as accurately as she can has to be commended. I found no historical inaccuracies, and the story came across as very real in the telling.

An enjoyable story, filled with tragedy and hardship but with a satisfying ending.

I Highly Recommend.


Links for Purchase


Julia Underwood
I have been writing for many years. At boarding school I took liberties with published work, adapting it into plays for my classmates to perform. Frequently in trouble for ignoring the 'no talking after lights' rule, I related an ongoing saga of terror and mayhem to my friends.

My father was an Intelligence Officer in the British Army and, after World War 2 we lived in Germany and Austria. I have also lived and worked in Jamaica and France.

Before starting a family I worked as a Medical Research Scientist (I have a BSc in Physiology) for the NHS and the Athritis and Rheumatism Council. Running a pub and a restaurant were more stressful and difficult. Later, for many years I was an interior designer, also making soft furnishings.

I write fiction: short stories, children's stories, plays and now, a novel (published for Kindle by Endeavour Press). I have had short stories and articles published in magazines and have won and been short-listed in competitions with my short stories.

My obsessions are wrting, films, cats, cooking and doll's house furnishings (when I'm not writing I obsessively embroider 1"/12" scale replica carpets and knit dolls' house clothes on needles as thin as a wire).
I am now writng a series of murder mystery novellas for Kindle. The first 'A Murder of no Account' reached no:38 in the Amazon Free Kindle books chart and was 1,300th on the paid list for a nanosecond! I am now working on the second Eve Duncam mystery.



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Sunday, 26 November 2017

#bookreview ~ Conquest: Daughter of the Last King #HistFic #Norman #Wales @TraceyWarr1

Conquest:
 Daughter of the Last King
By Tracey Warr

 

1093

The three sons of William the Conqueror – Robert Duke of Normandy, William II King of England and Count Henry – fight with each other for control of the Anglo-Norman kingdom created by their father’s conquest.

Meanwhile, Nest ferch Rhys, the daughter of the last independent Welsh king, is captured during the Norman assault of her lands. Raised with her captors, the powerful Montgommery family, Nest is educated to be the wife of Arnulf of Montgommery, in spite of her pre-existing betrothal to a Welsh prince.

Who will Nest marry and can the Welsh rebels oust the Normans?

Daughter of the Last King is the first in the Conquest Trilogy.


What did I think of the book?


The Norman invasion did not stop at Hastings.
It was where it began...

Nest Ferch Rhys, daughter of the King of Deheubart, has a future to look forward to. She is betrothed to Prince Owain ap Cadwgan, and one day, when she is all grown up, her husband will be the King of Powys.

But then the soldiers came.

They slaughter her kin and take her to Cardiff Castle as their special guest. Now she has to pretend gratitude towards people that she hates and she has to find the courage to live and prosper under the watchful eyes of the enemy.

Conquest: Daughter of the Last King by Tracey Warr is a compelling tale and a realistic account of what life was like for a Welsh King's daughter, in a Norman court, in the 11th Century.  This book is rich with historical detail, it is very obvious that Ms. Warr has spent a great many hours in researching this fascinating era. The story itself was refreshing, and the writing was very elegant. This is certainly a sit-down-and-finish book.

I adored the characterisation of Nest. She is a brave and courageous heroine who I came to adore. My heart broke for her when she was so cruelly snatched away from her family, but despite it all, she manages to keep hold of her dignity and grace. She is treated very much as a pawn by the Normans — I am not going to give away any spoilers, but I will say that how some of these powerful men treated her was nothing short of appalling. But she kept her head held high and her dignity intact.

Conquest: Daughter of the Last King is a very well written book and one I certainly enjoyed.

I Highly Recommend.

* I received a copy of this book, from the publishers, for review consideration.*

Links for Purchase

About the author
Tracey Warr's historical novels, Almodis the Peaceweaver, The Viking Hostage, Conquest: Daughter of the Last King, and Conquest: The Drowned Court are published by Impress Books, and based on incidents in the lives of real medieval people. Her writing awards include Author’s Foundation Award, Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary, Rome Film Festival Book Initiative, Santander Research Award, and the Impress Prize for Fiction shortlist.

Her future fiction novella, Meanda, is published as an ebook in English and French.

She also writes on contemporary art and is the editor of The Artist’s Body (Phaidon) and co-editor of Setting the Fell on Fire (Editions North) and Remote Performances in Nature and Architecture (Routledge). Her essays on contemporary artists have been published by Black Dog, Palgrave Macmillan, Merrell/Barbican, Tate, Manchester University Press and Intellect.

She writes articles and reviews for Times Higher Education, Historical Novels Review and The Displaced Nation.

Before becoming a full-time writer she was Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art at Oxford Brookes University and Dartington College of Arts, and Guest Professor at Bauhaus University, Weimar and Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam. She is currently teaching art history for St Francis University’s Study Abroad programme in Ambialet, France.

She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Historical Novel Society. 

Connect with Tracey…



Monday, 20 November 2017

#BookReview ~ A Family At War #WW2 #History #memoirs @berylkingston

A Family At War
By Beryl Kingston


This is a story for people who want to know what it was really like to be a child during the war and in the London Blitz. But it will also interest people who can't understand how anyone would want to deliberately hurt a child or an animal, since at its centre is a closely observed character study of an abuser, cruelty, selfishness, bravery under fire, fantasy world and all.


What did I think of the book?

It was hard growing up while bombs dropped from the sky. It was even harder to do so without a mother's love.

A Family at War by Beryl Kingston is one of those books, that after reading, I found myself pausing and giving myself time to digest what I had just read. A Family at War is a heartbreakingly true story about a child who is absolutely desperate for her mother's love. But instead of love and security and everything a mother should give, Beryl is subjected to terrible emotional and physical abuse from her very mentally unstable mother. But despite that, she tries so hard to please this unpleasable woman. No matter what Beryl does, it is never good enough, and many times she is physically reprimanded for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

This book is a very honest account of her very complicated family dynamics growing up. Everyone was scared of her mother, including her father and her gran. Beryl had no one to stand up for her, and that is what really broke my heart. All I can say is thank goodness for Roy. He was a beacon of light, and I can understand why Beryl fell in love with him.

I have to talk about the writing of this book. It was sublime. I have read a fair few autobiographies, but this one is something very special. It is certainly on par with Frank McCourt's, Angela's Ashes.  What I thought was amazing about the writing was how it reflected the age of the child. This is incredibly difficult to do well, but Ms Kingston nailed it. Kudos, Ms. Kingston.

Ms. Kingston grew up during the blitz, and anyone who is looking for a book that demonstrated the horror of the blitz, through the eyes of a child, will certainly take a lot away from this book.

I could go on and on about this book. It was truly wonderful.

I Highly Recommend.



Links to Purchase




About the author

I was born in 1931 in Tooting, and when I was four was enrolled at a local dancing school run by a lady called Madam Hadley, which I attended until I was eight when the war began. Because of the war my school career was – shall we say – varied. I was evacuated twice, the first time to Felpham which is near Bognor Regis and the second to Harpenden in Hertfordshire, and consequently went to ten different schools. I ended up at Streatham Secondary School, an LCC grammar run on the Dalton system, which offered a few lessons as sparking points and then required pupils to be responsible for their own learning, either in study rooms with their teachers on hand to help and advise, or on their own in the library or the school hall. It suited me to a T. Then to King’s College London, where I read English and enjoyed myself a lot, but wasn’t particularly distinguished, having other things on my mind by then...

Sunday, 12 November 2017

#BookReivew ~ The Death Of The Miller's Son: Marcus I #historicalfantasy @AnnaGabbyMGD

The Death Of The Miller’s Son: Marcus I

By M.G.D.

Marcus, a young slave, saves a king and embarks on a new life.

*

What did I think of the book?

"I want you to kill the King..."

Taken as a slave at the tender age of five, Marcus — the Miller's son — knows more than most eight-year-olds about cruelty and death. As a slave, he has no choice but to do as he is told. But Marcus is no murderer, and although he has heard terrible things about King Halcome, he will not kill him.


With an astonishing act of bravery, Marcus defies his master, and in doing so, he changes his destiny forever...


Oh, Boy!! What a journey author M.G.D has just taken me on! The Death Of The Miller's Son: Marcus I by M.G.D is an action-packed adventure about warring factions in a fictional historical kingdom. On one side there is the evil and power obsessed Prescott, and on the other, there is King Halcome. Our young hero, Marcus, finds himself stuck in the middle.


This book has a very slow and somewhat confusing start, but you really need to stick with it because once Marcus saves the King, the storytelling is sublime. I had a job to put this book down. It was a very compelling read. I grew to care very much about the characters, especially for Jonathan and Eron, I thought M.G.D did an amazing job of portraying these two in particular. I grew very fond of Marcus, as he struggled to understand what was happening to him. He knows how to be a slave, but he doesn't know how to be a child, or a son for that matter. This pulled at my heartstrings. Beautiful, beautiful, storytelling.


M.G.D. certainly knows how to build up tension in her story — who is friend and who is foe?  There is betrayal and courageous acts of loyalty. It is also a story of discovery  —what makes Marcus, the Miller's son, so special?


I really enjoyed this book and it is a story that I will come back to.


I Highly Recommend.

Links for Purchase

Amazon US  Amazon UK

 

About the author

M.G.D the author of Recipe For A Ghost, Hallowed Springs, and others, now brings readers to the world of Marcus. Born in Southern Indiana. A coffee drinker by day and an author by night. M.G.D lives for family, little pug dogs, and a desire to enwrap the reader in worlds of epic wonder. Launching a career in writing in 2014, M.G.D strives for literary excellence in the school of outstanding authors, such as C. S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien.

 

 



Friday, 10 November 2017

#BookReview ~ The Soldier’s Return (Heaven's Pond Trilogy) #German #HistFic @LauraLibricz

The Soldier’s Return

(Book #2 Heaven’s Pond Trilogy)

By Laura Libricz


The year is 1626. A senseless war rips through parts of Germany. Ongoing animosity between the Catholics and the Protestants has turned into an excuse to destroy much of the landscape situated between France, Italy and Denmark. But religion only plays a minor role in this lucrative business of war.

The young dutchman, Pieter van Diemen, returns to Amsterdam in chains after a period of imprisonment in the Spice Islands. He manages to escape but must leave Amsterdam in a hurry. Soldiers are in demand in Germany and he decides to travel with a regiment until he can desert. His hope of survival is to reach Sichardtshof, the farm in Franconia, Germany; the farm he left ten years ago. His desire to seek refuge with them lies in his fond memories of the maid Katarina and her master, the humanist patrician Herr Tucher. But ten years is a long time and the farm has changed. Franconia is not only torn by war but falling victim to a church-driven witch hunt. The Jesuit priest, Ralf, has his sights set on Sichardtshof as well. Ralf believes that ridding the area of evil will be his saving grace. Can Pieter, Katarina and Herr Tucher unite to fight against a senseless war out of control?

 

What did I think of the book?

When Laura Libricz approached me and asked if I would like to read an ARC of The Soldier’s Return ~ Book #2 of Heaven's Pond Trilogy, I jumped at the chance. I so enjoyed book #1 that I could not wait to head back to this fascinating time in German history.

The period that Ms. Libricz writes about is one not often seen in historical fiction but it was a very compelling and bloodthirsty era, and The Soldier's Return reflects this. This book is not for the faint-hearted, there are multiple rapes and savage torture, which some readers may find upsetting, but it added to the realism of the time.

As before, I loved the portrayal of Katarina. She suffers the most horrendous abuse, not only by the hands of soldiers but also by the man who professes to love her. When she needs him the most, he isn't there.

Once again we meet the vile priest, Ralf. He is just as disgustingly evil as he was in the first book. He looks for evil and is determined to find it, even if that means forcing confessions from the innocent. His actions are deplorable. I do not think I have ever hated an antagonist, quite so much.

The writing, as expected, was elegant and engaging. The story itself had a good pace to it, and it kept me turning those pages. I am eagerly waiting for the conclusion of this trilogy.


Links for Purchase

Amazon US  Amazon UK


About the author

Laura Libricz was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to 'do the right thing' and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature.

She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn't writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market.

Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven's Pond Trilogy. The Soldier's Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.
Connect with Laura…


 

 

 


 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

#bookreview ~ Forgotten Places #Australia #HistFic @JohannaCraven

Forgotten Places
 by Johanna Craven


Van Diemen's Land, Australia. 1833

English settler Grace Ashwell flees an abusive lover in Hobart Town, with six-year-old Violet in tow. In her head, escape is easy: find work in the northern settlements and earn enough for passage home to London. But the terrain beyond the settled districts is wilder than Grace could ever have imagined. She and Violet find themselves lost in a beautiful but deadly land where rain thunders down the sides of mountains, the earth drops away without warning and night brings impenetrable darkness.

Deep in the wilderness, they find a crude hut inhabited by Alexander Dalton, an escaped convict long presumed dead. Hiding from civilisation in an attempt to forget his horrifying past, Alexander struggles to let Grace into his world.

When Violet disappears, Grace's fragile trust in Alexander is put to the test. And while she searches for answers, he will do anything to keep his secrets inside.

Inspired by the true story of the Macquarie Harbour bolters; one of the most horrifying events from Colonial Australia's bloody history.


What did I think of the book?

Is it possible to come back from Hell and start again?

Travelling to Australia was meant to be a grand adventure, but Australia is nothing what Grace Ashwell imagined it to be. Instead of an adventure, it becomes her worst nightmare.

Alexander Dalton had no choice about coming to Australia, but when the opportunity arose he escaped his bondage, and for the last eleven years he has hidden in the forest. The last thing he wants is a woman, who is running from an abusive lover, to intrude upon his solitude.

I opened this book, read the first paragraph, and I found myself smiling because from that short excerpt I knew this book was going to be great. Oh my days, was I in for a surprise because this book wasn't great it was fantastic! Forgotten by Johanna Craven was simply unputadownable. From that first paragraph, I was drawn into this desperate story of Grace and Alexander as they struggle to survive and find a purpose to their lives in the wild and unforgiving Australian outback. The pages flew by while I lost myself in this unforgettable story. In fact, I stayed up half the night so I could finish it, there was no way I was going to put this story down, I wanted to find out how it ended!

The story is incredibly well crafted, and it kept me guessing until the end. When I thought I understood where the story was going Ms. Craven threw a massive curve ball into the plot, which left me with my mouth open in surprise! I really wasn't expecting that!

Forgotten is inspired by a true story about the Macquarie Harbour bolters and it raises some interesting questions about that time and how prisoners were treated. It really brought this era to life.

If you are a lover of historical fiction then Forgotten by Johanna Craven really should be on your To Read list!

I Highly Recommend.


Links for Purchase

About the author

Johanna Craven is an Australian-born writer of historical and new adult fiction. She is also a film composer, music teacher and pianist. She has lived in Melbourne and Los Angeles and is currently based in London.

Her more questionable hobbies include ghost hunting, meditative dance and pretending to be a competitor on The Amazing Race when travelling abroad. 


Useful Links

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

#NEWRELEASE ~ The Du Lac Princess #Arthurian #HistFic #ASMSG

The Du Lac Princess
(Book 3 of The Du Lac Chronicles)
By Mary Anne Yarde


The multi award-winning series, The Du Lac Chronicles, continues…

War is coming…

The ink has dried on Amandine’s death warrant. Her crime? She is a du Lac.

All that stands in the way of a grisly death on a pyre is the King of Brittany. However, King Philippe is a fickle friend, and if her death is profitable to him, then she has no doubt that he would light the pyre himself.

Alan, the only man Amandine trusts, has a secret and must make an impossible choice, which could have far-reaching consequences — not only for Amandine, but for the whole of Briton.



Links for Purchase
Available on Kindle and in Paperback!


Catch up with The Du Lac Chronicles series.
Free with



About the author

Mary Anne Yarde is an award winning author of the International Best Selling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles. Set a generation after the fall of King Arthur, The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Briton and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, the Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed.

Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury--the fabled Isle of Avalon--was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.
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