The Constant Soldier by William Ryan #WWII #HistoricalFiction @WilliamRyan_ #TuesdayBookBlog

  • Author: William Ryan
  • Published: This edition, June 2017 by Pan
  • Category: WWII, Historical Fiction, Books, Reading

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

It’s 1944 and Paul Brandt, a German soldier, horrifically wounded and returning from the front, is on a hospital train bound for recuperation, convalescence and finally, home and his father. The village he had left years before, and the people, were not the same.  By the same token, neither was Paul. His experiences have left him demoralised and guilt ridden. Continue reading

The Running Boy

  • IMG_2382Author: Joel Toombs
  • Published: December 2014 by Joel Toombs Publishing
  • Category: Young Adult, Historical
  • three-half-stars

 

Against the cruel backdrop of scenes no man should have to face, The Running Boy picks out glimmers of what every young man must face, weaving masterful threads of hope and redemption between the carnage and brokenness of the First World War.

Many thanks to Joel for sending me a copy for review purposes.

Howie Lambert and his friends, Freddy and Polly, live in the coastal town of Whitby, Yorkshire, with the moors, cliffs and the ruins of St Hilda’s Abbey as their playground. Howie is a quiet boy who likes reading and writing poetry. He’s vulnerable and introspective, which is not helped by his father’s stern and disciplinarian attitude.  

‘If granddad used the belt and father turned out this way then maybe belts should be kept for trousers’.

The first real change to Howie’s relatively carefree younger years comes with the threat of war and his brother joining the army. Howie is sixteen in 1914 when Whitby is attacked by German warships and Freddy’s house, along with others in the street, are destroyed. Freddy’s mother is caught in the blast. Freddy fuels his grief with anger against the Germans and determines to enlist in the army, talking Howie into joining with him. Polly, eager to escape her abusive uncle, grabs her chance to leave with the boys. The friends are separated on their way to France and Howie is alone on his journey into the unknown.

The story follows Howie’s journey to France and the unimaginable horrors he finds there. Terrified and longing for home he faces the ordeals of war along with the end of his boyhood. Witnessing the fighting and being ordered to do things no-one should ever have to face, much less a boy, Howie has to grow up quickly. His feelings and thoughts are dealt with sympathetically. The scenes on the battlefields and in the trenches are described in convincing detail, made all the worse because of their truth. 

Pops had sat there in the smelly slurry of the trench floor for half an hour rocking gently with Chipper still in his arms before they could persuade him to let go. Then Howie had suddenly looked over and seemed to recognise where he was.

They were amazed as he crawled over on his hands and knees through the slime and lay next to them; where he rested his head on Chipper’s chest, as if checking for a heartbeat. He cried. For a long time he quietly wept – with Pops crying too.

Just when it’s all getting much too overwhelming and Howie is almost at breaking point, his life takes an unexpected turn as he is given an order regarding the cavalry horses which are treated as just more casualties of the war. As he struggles to obey his orders Howie is allowed a glimpse into another world which gives him hope for his future.

Very well written and researched and I like very much how Howie is portrayed. My only niggle was the tone of some of the  dialogue which left me unconvinced. I felt it could have had more authenticity and this did pull me out of the story a little. That aside, it’s a really good book for the Young Adult genre, showcasing as it does, a boy’s struggles from adolescence into premature manhood under the direst of circumstances.

About the author

JoelToombsJoel Toombs, born in Kenya of missionary parents has degree in Architecture from Sheffield University. In 2014 he also graduated from Cliff College (University of Manchester) with an MA in Mission (Emerging Church & Christian Mentoring). In between these studies he spent 10 years in full time Christian youth work and helped set up and run several charities. He is now an Artist Development Manager for Resound Media in Sheffield, a record label for whom he mentors and promotes upcoming musicians and bands.

Joel has been a regular freelance contributor to ‘Youthwork’ Magazine since 2008 writing articles, resources, reviews and a Mentoring column. Other articles have been published in Outdoor Fitness, Christianity, Plexus and a number of blogs including 24- 7prayer.com. He has also had a booklet published by Grove Books Ltd. (to be released January 2015) ‘Mentoring and Young People.’

Find out more about Joel on Facebook and Twitter

The Spring Of Kasper Meier ~ Review and Competition

  • TheSpringofKasperMeierAuthor: Ben Fergusson
  • Published: January 2015 by Abacus
  • Category: Historical, Fiction
  • four-stars

The war is over, but Berlin is a desolate sea of rubble. There is a shortage of everything: food, clothing, tobacco. The local population is scrabbling to get by. Kasper Meier is one of these Germans, and his solution is to trade on the black market to feed himself and his elderly father. He can find anything that people need, for the right price. Even other people.

Many thanks to Emily Burns at LittleBrown and Co for sending me a copy for review.

Set in Berlin in post war 1946, with everything in extremely short supply, Kasper Meier trades information and deals in goods for the black market in order to keep himself and his elderly, sick father alive. He lives in one room in a half bombed out building where he secretes anything and everything that might be even remotely saleable. Kasper is despised for being homosexual, still illegal at the time, and tries to be as inconspicuous as possible. But when he is visited by one of the rubble women, Eva, a young girl who wants help finding information about a British pilot, he is drawn into a deadly web of intrigue.

‘I need someone’s help and no one will help me. I’ve got ways of paying for it, but still no one wants to take it on and you’re my last hope. What I’m saying is that I’ll make you a deal. You help me and I’ll pay you – simple as that. It’s no big issue for you. And if the payment isn’t enough of an incentive I promise not to….Well, you know – report you and Herr Neustadt.’

Kasper clucked his tongue  and scratched the side of his nose. ‘Blackmail is a very ugly business, Fräulein Hirsch.’

Berlin is a devastated, rubble strewn and dangerous city where the inhabitants struggle to survive, living by their wits. Some work clearing the rubble, others trade their bodies. Corruption is rife, lawlessness prevalent and soldiers thought guilt of rape are being found murdered. 

Frau Beckmann, a shadowy and elusive figure, who seems to control many of the girls, including Eva Hirsch, knows Kasper’s secret and is blackmailing him into finding the information she seeks. Despite fearing for his own life, Kasper feels afraid and sorry for Eva, and determines to find out what he can about Frau Beckmann and what her hold over the girls is. The more Kasper digs, the more sinister things appear. Nothing is as it seems and Kasper is drawn ever deeper into Beckmann’s machinations and the ensuing menace.

Initially, Kasper Meier seems to be a cold, unlikable and austere character, the description of a tall, lanky and bony man with an unsettling thickness of his straight, white hair, that despite brushing and trimming, stuck up in heavy tufts, yellowing slightly at the fringe, where the smoke from his cigarette curled up after staining the parts of his fingers that weren’t already blackened.’  Not to mention ‘his right eye, which was milky white and immobile. What had once been a shining black pupil, surrounded by a bright green iris, was now a faded blue stain beneath a smooth misty blue layer, like cooked egg white.’

As the story progresses however, the complexity and compassion of Kasper’s character begins to emerge, along with insights into the suffering and horror of his past life. There are ever deeper glimpses of the sad, hurting and kind-hearted man underneath the veneer. This is an intensely graphic and atmospheric account of life in a very bleak and war-torn Berlin, the desolation, the desperation and hopelessness of half-starved people who will do whatever it takes to survive, extremely apparent in Ben Fergusson’s very descriptive writing. 

Being slightly critical, I did feel the story was perhaps a little too drawn out and quite hard to follow in the first part of the book, and overall could maybe have done with slightly fewer than it’s almost 400 pages. After that, though, the pace and storyline pick up and with it the tension and emotion. There’s no compromise in the harrowing depiction of life and atrocities of a city destroyed and its people broken by war. It’s a very moving story, quite compelling, encompassing what must have been a huge amount of extensive historical research.

BenFergussonAbout the author

Ben Fergusson is a writer, editor and translator. Born in Southampton in 1980, he studied English Literature at Warwick University and Modern Languages at Bristol University, and has worked for ten years as an editor and publisher in the art world.

His short fiction has appeared in publications in both the UK and the US and has won and been shortlisted for a range of prizes, including the 2010 Bridport Prize. From 2009-2010 he edited the literary journal Chroma and since 2013 has been the editor of the short story magazine Oval Short Fiction. Currently based in London, his first novel, The Spring of Kasper Meier, was written during a four-year period living and working in Berlin.

Ben can also be found on Twitter

Please click on the book cover to be taken to Amazon UK, the book may also be purchased from Amazon US

Competition

The Spring of Kasper Meier is a gripping thriller set in a surreal and terrifying post-war Berlin, where nothing is quite what it seems. To celebrate publication of Ben Fergusson’s unforgettable debut, Little, Brown are running a ‘treasure hunt’ on twitter – with a prize of a weekend in Berlin up for grabs, as well as copies of the book.

The hunt starts on Monday 12th January, and runs all of this week. To take part in the hunt, you need to find four items that are featured in the book. Every day this week, a new item will be hidden on one these brilliant blogs:

Monday – www.workshyfop.blogspot.co.uk

Wednesday – www.betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

Thursday – www.booksmonthly.co.uk

Friday – www.wondrousreads.com

Just find the picture of the item, save it, then tweet it with the #KasperMeier. We’ll pick five winners every day to get a free copy, and then one winner will be chosen at the end of the week for the weekend in Berlin!

PB KM visual 2 for Cathy

Escape From Harrizel (The Arizal Wars)

  • EscapefromHarrizelAuthor: C G Coppola
  • Sold by Amazon Digital Services
  • Category: Sci-Fi
  • four-stars

Fallon is just like every other Arrival brought to Harrizel—an alien planet restoring the human race after a fatal war left Earth in ruins. But once viewing the all-day work camps and the nightly, orgy-like atmosphere, Fallon suspects her hosts, the Dofinikes, might have a secret agenda of their own.

Fallon is brought to Harrizel by Clarence, supposedly because Earth has been destroyed by war. The rulers of this new world, Dofinikes, claim they want to save as many humans as possible in order to restore the human population. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems and sinister forces are at work.

With no memories of who she is or of the destruction of the earth Fallon discovers she’s not alone. None of the humans brought to Harrizel can remember a time before. Yet she feels drawn to ruins of Ellae in the jungle outside the confines of the camp where the humans are kept, even though she can’t think why she should feel such a sense of belonging.

Fallon is a strong and courageous protagonist who won’t give in and is determined to find out what the Dofinikes’ agenda really is. She teams up with Reid and his clan, the Rogues, to plan their escape and stop the disappearances before they themselves are taken. They also need to find their memories which are stored somewhere in the Dofinikes’ castle.

An intriguing sci-fi story, well written and visual with good pacing, plenty of action and a fizzing romance between Fallon and Reid. The thing with fizz though, is it tends to explode if it’s churned up enough. And after an intense inner struggle Fallon allows her heart to rule her head. Has she made the right decision?

I received a digital copy of this book in return for my review

tt10407952flttAmazon US Amazon UK