#Blogtour Island of Dreams by Harry Duffin

It’s my turn on the Blogtour Island of Dreams by Harry Duffin.

About the Author

I am an award-winning British screenwriter, who was on the first writing team of the BBC’s Eastenders and won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best TV serial for Coronation Street. I was Head of Development at Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group, producing seven major television series, including ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ starring Richard ‘John Boy’ Thomas, and ‘Twist in the Tale’, featuring William Shatner. I was co-creator of the UK Channel Five teen-cult drama series ‘The Tribe’, which ran for five series. Follow @duffin26 on Twitter or @duffinharry on Instagram, Visit harryduffin.co.uk

About the book

In May 1939, when Professor Carl Mueller, his wife, Esther, and their three children flee Nazi Germany, and find refuge on the paradise island of Cuba, they are all full of hopes and dreams for a safe and happy future.

But those dreams are shattered when Carl and Esther are confronted by a ghost from their past, and old betrayals return to haunt them. The turbulent years of political corruption leading to Batista’s dictatorship, forces the older children to take very different paths to pursue their own dangerous dreams.

And – among the chaos and the conflict that finally leads to Castro’s revolution and victory in 1959, an unlikely love begins to grow – a love that threatens the whole family. Having escaped a war-torn Europe, their Island of Dreams is to tear them apart forever.

Review

Out of the fire and into the frying pan – I expect that’s what the Mueller family felt like when the path to freedom ends up landing them in a political inferno, one that threatens to swallow up dissenters whole.

The older children are already set on different paths by the time the family reaches their new destination. When it comes to ideals, politics and beliefs – even at such a young age core memories have left their mark. Those differences lead to further division as they settle into a life in a new country, which has its own powder keg waiting to implode.

Hans is what I would call a disenchanted idealist, brainwashed to believe he is superior and less inclined to believe he is what the Nazi’s would call tainted. He loses himself in the anger and disappointment he aims towards his own family. A typical teenage response to events that suspend belief and shapes the man he becomes. Anna has fire in her belly, her circumstances open her up to the rebellion of her new home.

The children live under the dysfunctional umbrella of a strained relationship – their parents having made the right choices to save them, but perhaps would have made other decisions about their relationship under less dangerous circumstances. Their problems cast long shadows on their children.

The author only touches slightly on the tenuous grasp on possible safety dangled like carrots before so many innocent victims of the Nazi regime. Imagine believing you have done everything possible to escape persecution, only to be confronted with closed doors and a lack of help from the world, and to be returned to certain death.

It’s an interesting premise, because the surrounding circumstances and trauma take a secondary position in regard to the story. In essence you get the life lived if you managed to escape by a mere fraction of time and a lot of luck, but it also means living with the guilt, whilst simultaneously having to hide the fact you are glad you escaped a destiny written for you by others. I also think it’s very much a story of how each life can leave an impact in a different way and perhaps create paths others will follow – imagine if they hadn’t.

War, trauma, fractured relationships and the way each family unit creates a tentacled system of connections and relationships. It would probably make a great mini tv series.

Buy Island Dreams at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Cumulus Publishing Limited; pub date 1 Dec. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees.

About the Author

Paula has lived in various places, including Singapore, where she was based for three years. It was while living in Singapore that the first seeds of her debut novel, Journey to Paradise, developed. The crumbling buildings and the modern high-rises popping up almost overnight seemed to be a metaphor for the social diversity and change in Singapore at that time. However, as a young mother living there, she wondered what it must have been like as a post-war colonial wife living miles away from the familiarity of home. Despite the gloss and glamour of colonial living, women were frequently stuck in unhappy marriages, often unable to follow careers or have the independence to divorce if things went wrong – which they inevitably did. 

Her writing, although set against exotic backgrounds, is set on the cusp of change – the shift from colonial dominance to independence. She likes to dig into a variety of issues and her main protagonist is, in many ways, a metaphor for the political and social events surrounding her at that time. It isn’t always an easy journey, but in the end, success comes her way. 

The Forgotten Promise tells the story of Ella, a young Eurasian woman, whose life is turned upside down by the Japanese occupation of Malaya, and it is through her lens and that of Noor, her cook, that the narrative is revealed.

As for Paula – she has always wanted to be a writer. As a little girl she used to spend hours writing stories and turning them into books, even using flour and water as paste to stick the pages together.  She spent hours writing poetry and plays as a teenager and has always written short stories in her spare time. It is this need to write and a love of reading that led her to take a degree in English and European Thought and Literature, and later a Masters Degree in Creative Writing.

Apart from her writing, Paula hosts a regular author interview on her website. You can find out more about new and existing historical fiction authors, such as Liz Trenow, Frances Quinn and Louise Fein, by hitting the ‘author interview tab.’ 

As a writer, she feels it is important to have a wide range of interests – not only does it adds flavour and layering to prose, but allows it allows time for ideas to mull and to percolate. People watching in cafés is one, long walks is another. And food! Good food is essential to her and she loves to cook using the best ingredients she can find.  As well as a love of travel, she is a keen amateur photographer and her next trip takes her to Cambodia where she is hoping to discover an exciting hook for a new book – you can find out more about her progress there by following her on Instagram.

Paula has a grown up daughter and lives in Warwickshire with her husband and an extremely friendly Labrador. Follow @PGreenlees on Twitter, Visit paulagreenlees.com

About the book

Malaya, 1920: Two girls make a promise in the shadows of the jungle. A promise that life won’t let them easily keep.

Malaya, 1941: Ella is running her late father’s tin mine in the Kledang hills, while Noor works as her cook. When the war that felt so far away suddenly arrives on their doorstep, Ella is torn apart from her family. Her daughter Grace is left in Noor’s care as Japanese soldiers seize the mine.

Ella is forced to make an impossible choice that takes her to England, thousands of miles from home. She is desperate to be reunited with her loved ones. But will the life she returns to be anything like the life she left behind?

Review

We meet Ella as a child, when the first invisible boundaries between herself and her friend become visible to herself and others. Then later as she lives the life of a tin mine owner, her friend now the family cook. The two of them separated by social and class structures. As the story progresses we return to the two, who have had to make extremely difficult choices to ensure their survival as their home and country is invaded during WW2.

Although the title references the bond between two young girls and a promise they make in all innocence, it is also about the way we deal with curveballs in life. Adapt and survive. Making hard decisions, sometimes at the expense of others and often made in the moment.

Despite the fact Ella is Eurasian, she is very much a product of white colonisation and privilege. I think it is frequently evident in her reactions when she returns to Malaya – the lack of understanding of a place and people who have had to adjust to extreme conditions of an oppressed country.

The destruction, pain, torture and war crimes committed by the Japanese during WW2 often take a second place to the atrocities and warfare in Europe during the same period. This opens a small window to some of it, whilst maintaining the essence of the family saga and dynamics. It was a pleasure to read.

Buy The Forgotten Promise at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Penguin pub date 1 Sept. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Review Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray

Recently featured on BBC2’s Between The Covers, this is a fantastic read!

About the Author

Philip studied modern history at Cambridge University, and went on to work as a journalist in Madrid, Rome and Lisbon. He has tutored in crime writing at City University in London and serves as a director at an award-winning documentary film company, specialising in science and history.

Philip’s grandfather was a captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought through the First World War from start to finish, losing his closest friends along the way. Years after his death, Philip came across a cache of trench maps and military documents that his grandfather had kept, and in which he had recorded the events that befell his unit. Philip was inspired to write his thriller Two Storm Wood when the pull of his grandfather’s legacy felt too strong to ignore. Follow @PhilipGrayBooks on Twitter, Visit philipgraybooks.com

About the book

1919. On the desolate battlefields of northern France, the guns of the Great War are silent. Special battalions now face the dangerous task of gathering up the dead for mass burial.

Amy Vanneck’s fiancé is one soldier lost amongst many, but she is not ready to accept that his body may never be found. Defying convention, hardship and impossible odds, she heads to France, determined to discover what became of the man she loved.

Captain Mackenzie is a survivor of the war, but still its prisoner. He cannot return home until his fallen comrades are recovered and laid to rest. His task is upended when a gruesome discovery is made beneath the ruins of a of a German strongpoint.

It soon becomes clear that what Mackenzie has uncovered is a war crime of inhuman savagery. As the dark truth leaches, both he and Amy are drawn into hunt for a psychopath, one for whom the atrocity at Two Storm Wood is not an end, but a beginning.

Review

Amy is in limbo. Like many others who receive a MIA notification there is no closure and always an element of hope, despite the fact they know that their loved one is dead. Amy doesn’t want to accept the inevitable truth and sets out on a dangerous journey to find the truth – one way or the other.

In the ruins of human misery she finds more than she bargained for and Captain Mackenzie, a man who is unable to let go of this deeply ingrained sense of duty towards his fallen comrades. The two of them uncover a layer of depravity neither of them are prepared for. 

Leaving aside the main premise of this book, I want to take a moment to give the author credit for the aspect of the war he uses to frame the essence of the story. I have read many books on the war, both the Great War and WW2, and they tend to concentrate on the combat, pre-war and post-war, but post-war as life unfolds afterwards. Not many focus on the aftermath and the actual reality of death and the dead, the fields and land strewn with the remains of the dead.

Rotting corpses, pieces of human beings, sometimes not even that. Often the only link to identity would be an item that hadn’t decomposed and become part of the fabric of the land forever. There is hardly a mention of the soldiers and civilians tasked with ensuring as many victims of the war were identified. This aspect of the story is exceptional – just saying.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to this author. I really enjoyed the style, the scene setting, and the ability to create this level of magical realism drenched in horror and built upon a layer of factual reality. You can feel the fear, the pain and the sorrow – and that’s without even venturing into the core of the plot.

Buy Two Storm Wood at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Harvill Secker pub date 13 Jan. 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Harvill Secker.

#BlogTour A Gypsy in Auschwitz by Otto Rosenberg

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour A Gypsy in Auschwitz by Otto Rosenberg, as told to Ulrich Enzensberger and translated by Maisie Musgrave.

About the Author

Otto Rosenberg was born in East Prussia in 1927 and grew up in Berlin. He was 9 when he was sent to the Roma and Sinti camp in Marzahn, ahead of the 1936 Olympic Games, and 15 when he was sent to Auschwitz. He was then detained in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before being freed in 1945. 

In later years, Rosenberg was the chairman of the Regional Association of German Sinti and Romanies Berlin-Brandenburg and fathered seven children. He passed away in 2001.

Otto’s daughter, Petra Rosenberg, is the current Director of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Berlin-Brandenburg.

About the book

Otto Rosenberg is 9 and living in Berlin, poor but happy, when his family are first detained. All around them, Sinti and Roma families are being torn from their homes by Nazis , leaving behind schools, jobs, friends, and businesses to live in forced encampments outside the city. One by one, families are broken up, adults and children disappear or are ‘sent East’.

Otto arrives in Auschwitz aged 15 and is later transferred to Buechenwald and Bergen-Belsen. He works, scrounges food whenever he can, witnesses and suffers horrific violence and is driven close to death by illness more than once. Unbelievably, he also joins an armed revolt of prisoners who, facing the SS and certain death, refuse to back down. Somehow, through luck, sheer human will to live, or both, he survives.

The stories of Sinti and Roma suffering in Nazi Germany are all too often lost or untold. In this haunting account, Otto shares his story with a remarkable simplicity. Deeply moving, A Gypsy in Auschwitz is the incredible story of how a young Sinti boy miraculously survived the unimaginable darkness of the Holocaust.

Review

Otto is a mere nine years of age when he and his family are ripped from the comfort of their community and forced to fight to survive in the Marzahn camp. A labour camp with no housing or facilities that was filled with Sinti and Roma. They were targeted with a similar frenzy as the Jews were, because of their alleged racial impurity.

This is the story of a young boy who managed to survive the most vicious and deadly of concentration camps. A child who lost his family and friends, and yet despite his age was brave enough to try and stand up for himself and others by joining a revolt against his captors.

It’s not unusual for someone who has suffered extreme trauma to disassociate themselves from the events, which is why autobiographies and first-hand accounts can sometimes appear a little to be told or written with a lack of emotion. It’s a coping mechanism, keeping the memories and distress at bay, whilst making sure loved ones and victims are never forgotten.

What’s equally important is the intergenerational trauma – epigenetic trauma is fascinating and tragic. Imagine being so traumatised that it seeps into the very fabric of your being, your chemistry even. Post-war Holocaust generations are aware of this and the impact, despite often never being privy to the real details and finer details of said trauma.

It remains vital that the stories of Holocaust survivors are told and heard, regardless of whether they are alive or not. Documentation, eyewitness accounts and first-hand stories are pivotal, as the years pass and the younger generations are introduced to either a whitewashed version, alternative facts such as ludicrous denials or simply no information at all. 

I have read a lot of Holocaust accounts, and am simultaneously disappointed and disturbed that there are still so many facts and stories hidden in the folds of history. The Roma and Sinti persecution tends to stand in the shadow of the other persecuted groups. I think what really rattled my cage about Otto’s account was recognising the bureaucracy of the German nation, which is still a foundation of their structure today. The bureaucracy that stops the nomad community from receiving their financial dues, ergo still oppressing them with the efficiency of the Nazi party. 

The way they meticulously transcribed everything, and as we can see in this book those records and the use of that data, become relevant and remaining so for many years afterwards. Also that the way these war criminals, and they are criminals, just slid into important roles in every industry in the post-war era. No punishment or accountability, instead the victims were victimised further by having to watch the guilty live without the burden of trauma, and what’s worse they have to live with the murderers among them.

It’s an important read – one that should be taught in school and one we should be telling and retelling, so Otto and his experience never fall foul of the system that forgets and history that swallows up the voices of so many innocents. I won’t forget Otto, his family or his community.

Buy A Gypsy in Auschwitz at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour #IWM Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood, it’s another novel in the Wartime Classics series by the Imperial War Museum. Mr Bunting at War will cost £8.99. It is published by IWM and can be pre-ordered at their online shop here: Mr-Bunting-at-War-(IWM-Wartime-Classic)

Written in 1941, the novel itself is very much of its time and thus extremely patriotic in its depiction of the reaction to the Blitz, as well as showing Mr Bunting’s own fears.

Both the book and the film were propagandist, depicting an ordinary family living on the outskirts of London and ‘sticking it out’ during the Blitz. However they also importantly demonstrate the significance of the home front in the wider narrative of the Second World War; a microcosm of suffering and sacrifice, and an illustration of the resilience it takes to make it through. – Alan Jeffreys, 2022

About the Author

Robert Greenwood ((1897 – 1981) was a novelist and writer. His first novel depicted the family and working life of the eponymous Mr Bunting (1940). His next novel, Mr Bunting at War (1941), continued this story in the first two years of the Second World War.

Mr Bunting at War was subsequently made into a film the following year entitled Salute John Citizen (1942), which proved tremendously popular at the box office. Greenwood’s other novel about the war was The Squad Goes Out (1943), which depicted the work of a voluntary ambulance squad during the London Blitz. 

Greenwood wrote eleven novels in total as well as a number of short stories, including Mr Bunting in the Promised Land (1949) which tells the story of the Bunting family in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. He died in 1981.

About the book

George Bunting, businessman, husband and father, lives a quiet life at home in Labournam Villa in Essex, reading about the progress of the war in his trusty newspaper and heading to work every day at the same time to the warehouse where he has been employed for his entire adult life.

Viewed with an air of amusement by his children, Mr Bunting’s war efforts subsist mainly of ‘digging for victory’ and erecting a dugout in the garden. But as the Second World War continues into the summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain rages in the skies and the bombs begin to rain down on London, this bumbling ‘everyman’ is forced to confront the true realities if the conflict. He does so with remarkable stoicism, imbuing him with a quiet dignity.

Review

I kinda think this is an interesting one, especially when you read the introduction. Given the timeline of Britain first being in the so-called Phoney War, ergo becoming perhaps a little complacent and thinking that everything would be an easy ride, then entering the Second World War in earnest with the subsequent losses and difficulties – it puts this story into perspective.

Essentially a propaganda piece to keep moral high and present the kind of enduring, strong and fearless family, who live duty to country before all other things – what could be more convincing to the readers. In the first year of engagement the in country fatalities were higher than out of country. The importance of people left at home keeping everything running and support systems in place was paramount to the defense strategy.

Even taking all of the above into consideration, the story of the Bunting family and very much Mr Bunting, is also one about coping mechanisms. Often Mr Bunting reacts with denial to the events happening around him. Living in a bubble of self-deception is a way of keeping the trauma, the fear and the reality of their situation at bay. 

Keeping a stiff upper-lip and a ‘everything for my country’ stance is perhaps also the only way to keep the pain of personal tragedy from breaking an individual.

Buy Mr Bunting at War at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏:  Imperial War Museum pub date 21 April 2022. Buy at Imperial War Museum.

#BlogTour The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

‘From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable story inspired by the true events of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition.’ It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan.

About the Author

Jennifer Ryan is the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a non-fiction book editor. Follow @JenniferiRyan on Twitter

About the book

Two years into the Second World War, and German U-boats are frequently disrupting Britain’s supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio programme called The Kitchen Front launches a new cooking contest – and the grand prize is a job as the programme’s first-ever female co-host.

For young widow Audrey, winning the competition could be a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. However, her estranged sister, Gwendoline, is equally set on success even if her own kitchen maid, Nell, is competing against her. And then there is Zelda, a London-trained chef desperate to succeed in a male-dominated profession – and harbouring a secret that will change everything . . .

Review

This story is fiction woven with facts, based loosely on programmes the BBC actually had during wartime and times of rationing. In an attempt to teach people how to create meals from less a cooking competition is started and includes four very different women who are determined to win. One of those women is the young mother and recently widowed Audrey.

Winning would mean being able to take care of her already vulnerable children, and you would think that her family would line up to be her biggest supporter, well everyone except for her sister who also has her mind set on winning. What follows is a healthy, funny and often emotional race to the finishing line.

The book is filled with the connection to food, the love of the one thing that brings all people together. My parents are ration babies and my father in particular has many stories to tell, and he is also capable of whipping up a meal out of anything at all. The most basic of ingredients with a tenfold ways of creating nourishing food.

The story is filled with the spirit of sisterhood and friendship, even though it takes a while to get there for some. The trauma of the times they live in call for extraordinary measures, and I think a lot of those have never really left certain countries. Stories are passed on, as are memories, and more importantly those ways and attempts to unify, comfort and support have been passed on also.

It’s contemporary read, despite the fact it is historical fiction. The important elements of humanity, friendship and even the more nuanced aspects of rivalry and competitions, all of these things resonate now as they did then. 

Ryan writes a jolly good yarn, one readers can connect with, whilst drawing parallels and feasting on memories and nostalgia. A Home Fires vibe, mixing the staunch upper lip and iron will to survive and persevere with the devastation of loss, change and new beginnings. It’s a read I think many will enjoy.

Buy The Kitchen Front at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Pan; 3 Mar. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies.

About the Author

Dinah Jefferies began her career with The Separation, followed by the number 1 Sunday Times and Richard and Judy bestseller, The Tea-Planter’s Wife. Born in Malaysia, she moved to England at the age of nine. As a teenager she missed the heat of Malaysia, which left her with a kind of restlessness that led to quite an unusual life. She studied fashion design, went to live in Tuscany where she worked as an au-pair for an Italian countess, and there was even a time when Dinah lived with a rock band in a ‘hippie’ commune in Suffolk.

In 1985, the death of her fourteen-year-old son changed everything and she now draws on the experience of loss in her writing. She started writing novels in her sixties and sets her books abroad, aiming to infuse love, loss and danger with the extremely seductive beauty of her locations. Follow @DinahJefferies on Twitter, Visit dinahjefferies.com

About the book

France, 1945. Deep in the river valley of the Dordogne, in an old stone cottage on the edge of a beautiful village, three sisters long for the end of the war. Hélène, the eldest, is trying her hardest to steer her family her family to safety, even as the Nazi occupation becomes more threatening. Elise, the rebel, is determined to help the Resistance, whatever the cost. And Florence, the dreamer, just yearns for a world where France is free. 

Then, one dark night, The Allies come knocking for help. And Hélène knows she cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. But bravery comes at a cost, and soon the sisters’ lives become more perilous as they fight for what is right. And secrets from their own mysterious past threaten to unravel everything they hold most dear.

The first in an epic new series from the No.1 Sunday Times bestseller, Daughters of War is a stunning tale of sisters, secrets and bravery in the darkness of war-torn France…

Review

Hélène has long been the surrogate mother for her sisters in lieu of her absentee mother, who is conveniently tucked safely away in another country, whilst the young women have to navigate fear, pain and death. It has made each of them develop differently. Elise is deeply involved in helping the Resistance to fight the enemy, Hélène is the protector and Florence is living in her own version of denial.

All of their lives are on the precipice of heartbreak, blindsides and betrayal. The question is whether they will be able to survive the inevitability of a war-torn and occupied country.

This is the first part of a trilogy, a family saga, but more accurately a story about sisterhood and women. It’s about endurance, support, forgiveness and being able to see beyond the tragedy and trauma life often deals us. As the trilogy unfolds it will e interesting to see whether or how said trauma influences further generations or indeed the sisters as they become older and navigate new challenges in their lives.

The author threads the connections of blood and genetics, and yet ensures the individuality of each sibling grows consistently within the story and their own stories. The story itself reminds us of the fact that blood isn’t the core element or bond between women, especially not those who happen to be sisters – it is a deeper connection of experience and solidarity. Indeed, it’s what makes the story.

Buy Daughters of Wars at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Harper Collins; pub date 16th September 2021 – Paperback Original £8.99 – Ebook £5.99 – Audio 12.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan

It’s my turn on the BlogTour The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan.

About the Author

Mark Sullivan is the acclaimed author of eighteen novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Private series, which he writes with James Patterson. Mark has received numerous awards for his writing, including the WHSmith Fresh Talent Award, and his works have been named a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. 

He grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts, and graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in English before working as a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. Upon his return to the United States, he earned a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and began a career in investigative journalism. An avid skier and adventurer, he lives with his wife in Bozeman, Montana, where he remains grateful for the miracle of every moment.

Follow @MarkSullivanBks on Twitter, Visit marksullivanbooks.com

About the book

From the author of the #1 bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky comes a new historical novel inspired by one family’s incredible story of daring, survival, and triumph.

In late March 1944, as Stalin’s forces push into Ukraine, young Emil and Adeline Martel must make a terrible decision: Do they wait for the Soviet bear’s intrusion and risk being sent to Siberia? Or do they reluctantly follow the wolves—murderous Nazi officers who have pledged to protect “pure-blood” Germans?

The Martels are one of many families of German heritage whose ancestors have farmed in Ukraine for more than a century. But after already living under Stalin’s horrifying regime, Emil and Adeline decide they must run in retreat from their land with the wolves they despise to escape the Soviets and go in search of freedom.

Caught between two warring forces and overcoming horrific trials to pursue their hope of immigrating to the West, the Martels’ story is a brutal, complex, and ultimately triumphant tale that illuminates the extraordinary power of love, faith, and one family’s incredible will to survive and see their dreams realized.

Review

Stuck between two bad situations it’s only common sense that a family pick the lesser evil to try and save themselves, even if that lesser one was destined to become the face of the worst crimes of the 20th century, and that support was offered to the Martel family because they counted as pure-blood Germans.

The family flees the approaching Russian army, and the inevitable fates that await them. Emil and Adeline become separated, their paths define them individually and in Emil’s case completely transforms him. They have to find the strength on their own knowing they will probably never see each other again.

I found it both fascinating and heartwarming the way the sons looked with such an intensity for the reason for the transformation of Emil. Seeing the historical evidence of the horrors he went through wasn’t enough to explain why he would be one man going in and another coming out. Knowing that his endurance and the emotional change in him was driven by proof of goodness in humanity in the form of a person, is perhaps easier to accept because then they know he wasn’t alone.

Much like the story of Pino Lella the story of the Martel family is one that has been sucked up and swallowed by the passing of time. Stories like this aren’t even footnotes in history, often because the greater events tend to be narrated and written, as opposed to the fates of individuals and their families. In this specific scenario a lot of the historical events surrounding WW2 and the Holocaust fade into the background, which doesn’t mean they are of less historical importance, it’s because the severity of the atrocities tend to overshadow everything else. It’s directly linked to the efficiency, the mass planning and execution with which the Nazi regime perpetrated the crimes.

The history and tales of what is referred to as Schwarzmeerdeutsche, a regional group of ethnic Germans who fall under the description of Russlanddeutsche – ethnic Germans who migrated and settled in Russia, are more likely to remain in obscurity because of their ethnicity. In fact it’s a common denominator regardless of where Germans end up and have migrated to and from. The Nazi regime has relegated all Germans to this – a status of less important than, due to their ethnicity.

Sullivan writes beautifully and absolutely does due diligence when researching and trying to give closure to the Martel family, and bringing all the woven threads to a close. It’s a story, historical fiction inspired by facts and truth.

Buy The Last Green Valley at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : Lake Union Publishing pub date 4 May 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Secretary by Catherine Hokin

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Secretary by Catherine Hoskin.

About the Author

Catherine Hokin is the author of two World War Two inspired novels set in Berlin, her favourite city. Following a History degree at Manchester University she worked in teaching, marketing and politics, while waiting for a chance to do what she really wanted which was to write full time. Her short stories have been published by iScot, Writers Forum and Myslexia magazines and she was the winner of the 2019 Fiction 500 Short Story Competition. She is a lover of strong female leads and a quest.

Catherine now lives in Glasgow with her American husband. She has two grown-up children – one of whom lives, very conveniently, in Berlin – and a life long addiction to very loud music. Follow @cathokinon Facebook, Visit catherinehokin.com

About the book

The Tower House. Down a secluded path, hidden by overgrown vines, the crumbling villa echoes with memories. Of the family who laughed and sang there, until the Nazis tore them from their home. And of the next woman to walk its empty rooms, whose courage in the face of evil could alter the course of history…

Germany 1940. As secretary to the leader of the SS, Magda spends her days sending party invitations to high-ranking Nazis, and her evenings distributing pamphlets for the resistance. But Magda is leading a dangerous double life, smuggling secrets out of the office. It’s a deadly game, and eventual exposure is a certainty, but Magda is driven by a need to keep the man she secretly loves safe as he fights against the Nazis…

Forty years later. Nina’s heart pounds as she steps into an uncertain future carrying a forged passport, a few bank notes, and a scribbled address for The Tower House taken from an intricate drawing she found hidden in her grandmother’s wardrobe. Separated from her family and betrayed by her country, Nina’s last hope is to trace her family’s history in the ruins of the past her grandmother ran from. But, when she finally finds the abandoned house, she opens the door to a forgotten story, and to secrets which will change everything: past, present, and future…

A poignant and gripping novel about bravery, loss and redemption during the Second World War. An unputdownable read for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.

Review

Although it’s fiction based on factual historical events on a larger scale, it’s a story that is relevant now and serves as a reminder. The author gives readers a great read, but also gives them food for thought.

Set over a dual timeline the story of Magda in 1940 and her granddaughter forty years later we get an impression of a country under the thumb of two oppressive rules. First the Nazi’s then navigating the dangers and difficulties of East Germany. Magda has to make a choice between comfortable safety and her soul, whereas Nina tries to escape the open prison East Germany has been turned into. Her pursuit of the truth in an attempt to connect with Magda’s past reveals far more than she ever expected.

‘They carry no guilt or responsibility for any of it.’ For many men, women and children the Nazi regime is a way of life that was imprinted on certain generations, and even in the face of irrefutable evidence there is still this stoic usually silent affirmation of the aforementioned lack of responsibility in regards to the atrocities committed in the name of creating a superior race and country . Indeed if you still believe the indoctrination of the Jew at the core of all things wrong in the world, and that the Nazi regime acted in the best interest of country and people, then of course there will always be a lack of remorse. It’s probably one of the longest running conspiracy theories, it is certainly one that has caused a plethora of victims.

Even now when we see history repeating itself, even after decades of ‘Never Again, We Remember’, it is blatantly clear that nobody has learnt any lessons. Well, I say nobody, but this time there are many voices and people willing to stand up and fight against this new tidal wave of anti-Semitism. New would also perhaps be the wrong word, because the hatred and paranoia towards the Jewish community runs deep and is systemic – it’s not new it’s just getting louder, more volatile and becoming the norm again.

It’s captivating historical fiction, a story of secrets buried deep in the past, and a family connection that has the kind of bond that grows stronger the more the past comes calling.

Buy The Secretary at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : Bookouture pub date 24 May 2021. Buy at Amazon comAt AppleKoboGoogle.

#BlogTour Beyond This Broken Sky by Siobhan Curham

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Beyond This Broken Sky by Siobhan Curham.

About the Author

Siobhan Curham is an award-winning author, ghost writer, editor and writing coach. She has also written for many newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Guardian, Breathe magazine, Cosmopolitan, Writers’ Forum, DatingAdvice.com, and Spirit & Destiny. 

Siobhan has been a guest on various radio and TV shows, including Woman’s Hour, BBC News, GMTV and BBC Breakfast. And she has spoken at businesses, schools, universities and literary festivals around the world, including the BBC, Hay Festival, Cheltenham Festival, Bath Festival, Ilkley Festival, London Book Fair and Sharjah Reading Festival.

Follow @siobhancurham on Twitter, on Instagramon Facebook, Visit siobhancurham.com

About the book

1940, London: An unforgettable novel about the strength of the human spirit in the face of war and the remarkable women who put themselves in danger on the front lines during the Battle of Britain.

As a volunteer for the ambulance service, Ruby has the dangerous task of driving along pitch-dark roads during the blackout. With each survivor she pulls from the rubble, she is helping to fight back against the enemy bombers, who leave nothing but destruction in their wake.

Assigned to her crew is Joseph, who is unable to fight but will stop at nothing to save innocent lives. Because he is not in uniform, people treat him with suspicion and Ruby becomes determined to protect this brave, compassionate man who has rescued so many, and captured her heart. Even if it means making an unthinkable choice between saving her own life and risking everything for his…

2019: Recently divorced Edi feels lost and alone when she moves to London to start a new life. Until she makes a discovery, hidden beneath a loose floorboard in her attic, that reveals a secret about the people who lived there in the 1940s. As she gradually uncovers a wartime love story full of danger and betrayal, Edi becomes inspired by the heroism of one incredible woman and the legacy that can be left behind by a single act of courage…

A sweeping tale of bravery and self-sacrifice that shows that even in the midst of war, hope and love can bloom. Perfect for fans of The Alice Network, The Secret Messenger and The Lost Girls of Paris.

Review 

Although Edi is supposed to be the other main character in this dual timeline story, she actually becomes more of a narrator to the story of Ruby and her experiences during the war. Her own life has become a bit like a ship floating without an anchor, so it’s no surprise that she slips quite easily into the mysteries of the past.

Her new flat opens the door to the story of privileged Ruby during World War 2, as she navigates the destruction and fear of London being the main bombing target of the Germans. At first she acts as if the war is more of an inconvenience to her lifestyle, but eventually it dawns on her that she is at a crossroads in her life and needs to do her part.

No matter what kind of national or international crisis is afoot it doesn’t make the problems you had before disappear and it probably just enhances them. In wartime you have to make a choice between your morals, ethics and quite frankly survival. Which of those things is more important?

It’s a compelling venture into historical war fiction. I actually liked the way this author drew the threads between past and present. It was done in a way that made it a story any person could have experienced, and I am sure quite a few of our descendants have stories they have kept locked away tightly for decades. It gave the entire story more of a realistic feel, which is something very specific to historical fiction anchored in traumatic historical facts.

Buy Beyond This Broken Sky at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : Bookouture pub date 20 April 2021. Buy at Amazon com. At HiveAppleKoboGoogle.