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Review: ‘We Go Again’ by Michael Cargill

Genre: Historical Fiction / War and Military
Length: 129 pages (approx.)

I have awarded this book 5 stars

Summary: Not long after surviving the horrors of D-Day, Corporal James Bowden finds himself as part of a small group of soldiers marching through Nazi-occupied France. Supplied with orders that are vague and unspecific and surrounded by men he doesn’t know, will James survive society’s desire for revenge and justice?

Review: I really ‘enjoyed’ reading this book (I’m not sure that is the correct word for a book with this subject matter hence the quotation marks. I did find the story extremely gripping, though!). I thought this story was really well written and gave insight into what life was really like for the soldiers. As I’ve said before, I cannot fault Cargill for his historical knowledge and the respectful way that he handles historic events; this book is no exception. I particularly liked the way that Cargill really got into the minds and thought processes of the soldiers, raising questions such as ‘Will I make it home?’ and ‘Will I still be loved in the same way if I go back broken?’. A highly thought-provoking and touching read. Very highly recommended!

★★★★★ – Well written and thought-provoking. Cargill really gets into the minds of the soldiers and deals with the subject in an accurate and respectful manner. Very highly recommended!

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon UK (Paperback)
Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon US (Paperback)

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Review: ‘A Cry from the Deep’ by Diana Stevan

Genre: Romance / Suspense / Historical
Length: 300 pages (approx.)

I have awarded this book 4 stars.

Summary: After a bad experience, Catherine Fitzgerald, an underwater photographer, is reluctant to dive again. However, when her old job comes calling, she is drawn back into the world that she used to love. After purchasing an antique ring, she becomes troubled by nightmares and she feels that she has no choice but to give in and see where the journey takes her. Will she find the answers she seeks? What do the nightmares mean?

Review: This was a pleasant read. I found Catherine to be a likeable and believable character and was interested to know how she was going to react to each situation. The story was well written and I found myself desperate to know more.  I felt that the writing flowed nicely and felt engaging; so much so that I read the book over the span of two days. I greatly enjoyed the elements of history tangled into the main storyline. My only issue with the book was how quickly Catherine forgave Daniel and how quickly she came to trust him again. Also, while she did seem to feel guilty during the book, she didn’t during the events at the end, hence the four stars.

I will be looking for further books by this author in future.

★★★★ – Well written and believable. I enjoyed the elements of history woven into the main storyline. Highly recommended.

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Paperback)

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‘The Return’ by Carter Vance

I have awarded this book 2 stars.

Summary: The Return tells the story of Peter and Sarah, a young married couple who discover that their unborn child is the next messiah. An ancient following called the Templars are desperate to ensure the survival of Peter and Sarah’s offspring, but their enemy is desperate to prevent it’s entry into the world at all costs.

Review: I thought the plot of this book was interesting and though that the mix of world history and fiction was good. However, this book got 2 stars from me for two reasons.

Firstly, it annoyed me that the characters (particularly Peter and Sarah) were so understanding and accepting of their position from the moment they found out. This made them seem largely unrealistic to me. Secondly, the story moves so fast that I found it impossible to get to know the characters. Because of the story moving so fast, the characters lacked personality and dimension.

★★ – an interesting story line, but I found the characters to be unrealistic and I didn’t get a chance to get to know them, making them very 2D.

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)

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Review: ‘The Cartographer’s Apprentice’ by Jim Webster

Genre: Fantasy.
Length: 117 pages. (4 short stories)

I have awarded this collection of short stories 4 stars. 

Summary: Belonging to the fantasy genre, The Cartographer’s Apprentice consists of 4 short stories. Acting as a prequel to the Land of the Three Seas series, these stories feature the character Benor Dorfinngil, a young cartographer, and include duels, blood feuds, and beautiful women.

Review: While these stories do act as a prequel to the Land of the Three Seas series, they work as stand alone stories as well, and are a great introduction to the writing of Jim Webster; you don’t need any prior knowledge. I must admit, I had been wanting to read work by Jim Webster for a while, having had many recommendations, but I just wasn’t sure about paying £5 for an e-book of an author that I hadn’t tried before (which I know is awful and I should be shot. In fact, give me a gun and I’ll do it myself!). This collection is available for 99p on Amazon, and so I decided to give it ago. I’m very pleased that I did as I greatly enjoyed reading these!

Jim Webster has a very authoritative style of writing, that I found to be very engaging. I liked the gentle humour, which seemed effortless but very effective. I also really liked the way that he developed his characters as the stories went on. My favourite character was Benor Dorginngil and I was very glad that he featured in all four short stories. My favourite story was ‘The Insulted Party’ and I would have liked to read more of it! Though it must be said that all stories were very well written.

I gave this collection 4 stars rather than 5 stars as I found parts of ‘Dirt and Good Ale’ to be a bit heavy and difficult to read. I was a bit indecisive about docking a star for this, as I’m not sure if I just wasn’t in the mood for that particular story at that time, or if it just didn’t grab me in the same way as the others, but I decided that it did impact my feelings on this particular story and should therefore be reflected in the star rating. There was nothing technically wrong with this story, I just didn’t find myself enjoying it as much as the other stories. I am still greatly looking forward to reading some of the longer works by the author, and reading more about Benor!

★★★★ – 4 short, stand alone stories, acting as a prequel to the Land of the Three Seas series. A nice introduction to the author’s style of writing. Greatly recommended. 

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)

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Review: ‘Saying Goodbye to Warsaw’ by Michael Cargill

Genre: Historical.
Length: 162 pages.

I have awarded this book 4 stars.

[Warning: this review contains spoilers. To view these spoilers, please see the bottom of the review, and highlight the white area]

Summary: Saying Goodbye to Warsaw tells the story of 10 year old Abigail Nussbaum, a little girl who loves children and being creative. Having lost her father, she now lives with her brother, Leo, aged 17, and their mother, Chana. Life is not easy for Abigail and her family; they are living in the year 1940, in Poland, and they are Jewish.

Review: Having studied this period, I knew that the outcome of this story would be bleak. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was for something as simple as words on a page to transport me into the life of Abigail Nussbaum and her family and make the story come alive. The author really captured the desperation of the people living in the ghetto, and the fear, along with the feeling of helplessness that caused a lot of people to stand by why this tragedy was taking place.

Written in an engaging way, this book was impossible to put down. I felt myself smiling along with Abigail one minute, and my eyes filling with tears the next. These characters are not special, they are just doing everything they can to survive. While nothing really happens for a lot of the book, I feel that this just further emphasised the helplessness that they were experiencing; they had no control over being in the ghetto, so they had to make do the best that they can.

Beautifully written, with loveable characters and believable events, I am sad that it is over. Seeing the lovely and naive way that Abigail views the world be completely shattered was heartbreaking. Not just because of the storyline, but because of how beautifully crafted the character of Abigail was. I had an issue with one of the events towards the end (see below), but I feel that the author included this purely to show the desperation of the characters.

Unfortunately, I felt that the ending let the book down (see below), which is why I have given 4 stars rather than 5. I believe that I understand why the author finished the book in this way, but it just didn’t work for me. I would still highly recommend this book though.

★★★★ – beautiful written, loveable characters and believable events. The author really brings the events to life. Very highly recommend!

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon UK (Paperback)
Amazon US (Paperback)

Spoilers (Please highlight) –
1) ‘issue with one of the events’ – Abigail is taught to use a gun, and has mastered shooting after 3 shots. She is then able to shoot and kill. I can see that the author did this to emphasise the desperation of the characters and that everyone must fight to survive, but I had a hard time believing it, as Abigail is only 10 years old. Having said that, I did feel that it worked within the story.
2) ‘ending let the book down’ – The book ends with Leo and Abigail dead and finally with their dead parents too, in Heaven. While I think it was nice that they were all reunited and out of the ghetto, I also felt that it detracted from the pain and suffering in the rest of the story. Obviously, the story is based on real events, and I felt that the ending sort of forced a happy ending in a terrible situation.

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Review: ‘Shelter from Thunder’ by Michael Cargill

Genre: Historical fiction
Length: 16 pages

I have awarded this short story 5 stars.

[Warning: This short story is set during the Second World War, and is written from a child’s perspective.]

Summary: Sam is a quiet and lonely boy who had the misfortune to be born a few years before World War II. Finding shelter from German bomber planes is almost a daily part of his life now but he wonders when his luck will run out…

Review: I won’t lie, I was VERY sceptical to start this story. Being a history student, and having done history at GCSE and A Level standard, I am very familiar with every element of the Second World War, and was dreading the thought of reading another historically inaccurate story. However, I was pleasantly surprised and loved every minute of it! Being well written, historically accurate and well researched, I even recommended it to a girl on my course!

Reading this story, I felt so incredibly sad for Sam. The author really brings to life the feelings of fear and dread surrounding the Blitz, and makes his characters really relatable. Understandably, he isn’t close to his parents any more and doesn’t know how to talk to them. What is there to say to someone when hiding in a bomb shelter and praying you all survive?

Sam is beautifully constructed and completely believable. He is prone to digressions and sees the world in the way a child would (for example, noting that Hitler’s moustache looks like part of his upper lip is missing). As well as the digressions, we see Sam’s hatred for having to carry around a gas mask at all times. Yes, life saving, but also embarrassing for children! I felt that this feeling really came through, adding to the depth of the character.

[CAUTION: SPOILER IN NEXT PARAGRAPH]

The ending, however, completely devastated me. Having read this on the train, I had quite a few people ask me what I was reading that made me look so sad! While Sam’s death was described quite vaguely, it was extremely hard hitting. Having heard of Sam losing his friend and being bullied, and his strained relationship with his parents, it is extremely difficult not to feel sorry for his loss.

★★★★★ – Sad, but beautiful. Well written, historically accurate and hard hitting.

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)