Tag Archives: Writing

The Forest Lord Collection by Steven A. McKay. (@SA_McKay)

Any follower of my blog with have heard the name Steven A. McKay, the brilliant author of the fantastic Forest Lord series. The series follows one of my favourite characters ever.. Robin Hood!

What really sucked me into the series is it felt real and fresh and that mainly came from the change in setting for the series, namely Barnsdale. I asked the author about this and this is what he had to say

When I started researching the Robin Hood legend I realised the original ballads were actually set in Yorkshire, not Nottingham. I knew I had to stick pretty closely to the well-known tales, but somehow stand out from all the other modern retellings – moving the setting away from Sherwood was the ideal way to do that while still remaining faithful to the earliest ballads.

McKay continue..

I wanted The Forest Lord series to be familiar to fans of Robin Hood, yet, at the same time, new and fresh and exciting and not just another rehash of the same old story.

I’ve previously reviewed the books separately but now the box set is out I thought it high time to update/combine my reviews 🙂

Here we go..

So we’ve all heard of Robin Hood yes? Of course we have. As a boy Robin Hood was always one of my favourite characters. This was one of my reasons for buying this series and I’m so glad I did! McKay gives us the Robin Hood we never knew we wanted.. and damn it’s good!

McKay has decided to revamp the whole Robin Hood tale, moving the location to Yorkshire when England was under the reign of Edward II. This makes the book quite refreshing as it’s moved away from the well-known tale set in Nottingham. From the authors notes you can see a lot of thought and hard work has went into this series and it shows.

The story starts with Hoods early life and the events that led him to become an outlaw. We see him climb the ranks to eventually lead this band of outlaws.

Along the way we see him deal will conflict not only with the rich people of Yorkshire but also himself and the outlaws where personalities clash.

Even though the setting has changed we still have the heroes we all know and love, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet & Much.

Chapter after chapter you see the tension grow as McKay takes you from one characters journey to another, friendships are made.. and broken… this isn’t a tale of merry men.. but desperate men who want only to live life or care for their family..it’s a struggle. There’s plenty of humour within the tale but the underlying struggle to stay alive keeps you on the edge of your seat!

We see Robin beaten, men killed, imprisonments, executions the works

The word that springs to mind about this series is “Growth” Not only does each storyline improve on the previous one but McKay has managed to grow his characters superbly throughout the series. You can really tell the author has put a lot of time and energy into his work.

What I really enjoyed about these books is that the author takes risks, the heroes don’t always live, it was gobsmackingly refreshing.

This series is dark, gritty and downright engrossing.. You never know what will happen next and when events play out your heart is in your mouth it’s pumped that fast!

The end of the series is a true highlight. Not only does it do the series justice but it also leaves fate to the reader.. read into that what you will 🙂

I strongly recommend the series..I bought 2 paperbacks of each book just so I could share with my dad who I knew would love it just as much as me.. do yourself a favour and get the 4 book set for £9.99… bargain price!

 

The Watson Letters Volume 1: Something Wicker This Way Comes by Colin Garrow – Review

Today I’m going to share my thoughts on The Watson Letters Volume 1: Something Wicker This Way Comes by Colin Garrow.

Here’s the blurb :-

Genre – Historical Mysteries

In a not quite Post-Victorian, steampunk parallel universe, Holmes and Watson continue their fight against crime.
Based on the infamous Blog of the same name, this indecorous take on the Holmes and Watson stories pitch the detecting duo into Whitechapel, the Western Isles and the Village of the Damned. Adult humour throughout.

THE WATSON LETTERS is book #1 in this Victorian comedy adventure series.

Review

I chanced upon Colin Garrow while on Twitter.. I’m nosy so had a look at the books he’s written..Sherlock Holmes? YES PLEASE!.

Sherlock has always been a favourite of mine, his humour dark as well as the subjects he explores.

This collection is written from Watson’s viewpoint as he chronicles the cases he and Sherlock examine. More often than not Holmes leaves Watson in the dark and this is where the adult humour really comes in. The relationship between the two was so much fun.. humorous..witty..

I really enjoyed the short sharp style diary entries which made it easy to read. It was exciting and riveting, a thoroughly enjoyable read!

It can’t be easy writing a story based on a well-known figure..how can you live up to expectations? For me Garrow got it spot on and I immediately felt at home with the tale and I loved it from the first page to the last!

Why did I choose to read this book you might wonder? Well I read a lot and sometimes I need a change of pace or an easy quick read. At under 150 pages this filled my needs for a quick read..but what I got was so much more than I could have expected and I’m so glad I took the time to enjoy this beauty of a book.

My rating – 5/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads

10 Questions with….Ike Pius (@IkePius)

Today I bring to you a little Q&A with Ike Pius. I reviewed Ike’s book Bomber Boy back in 2016! so a Q&A is long overdue! ha.


Question 1 –   For readers who haven’t yet read your work can you give us a little bit of an insight as to what the book is about?

First let me say a big thank you for having me here on your blog, David. You have been very helpful in getting my book Bomber Boy out there in front of people.

Bomber Boy: Rise of the Underwear Bomber is more than just a story about Terrorism; this is a project for change. This is social activism… this is my lifeswork. The lead character is a terrorist or a suicide bomber who is sent to blow up a plane loaded with passengers bound for the United States.

That is exactly the point- He was sent. By whom? Why?

I try not only to make the reader laugh, but also to see that Terrorism goes a lot deeper than the folks at CNN are willing to let us see.

Question 2   Where did the idea for the story stem from?

The Underwear Bomber. The son of my country’s richest banker, is a very real person. Hence the idea for the book is inspired by real events. However, I labelled the book as fiction so as to dodge any legal issues.

Question 3  What motivated you to write the story?

Nigeria my country is always in the news for the wrong reasons. We are always looking for excuses to kill each other, but honestly religion seems to be the most effective reason we have.

I wrote a book titled Paradise That Was. This book was a story about the futility of Religious madness, particularly in the Nigerian setting.

Bomber Boy was supposed to be a radio skit to raise awareness about the book. somehow I saw more potetial in Bomber Boy and so decided to make it a book of its own.

Question 4    I enjoyed the book and quite honestly say for me it’s unique, how has it been received and how have you handled the feedback?

Well, for a guy like me with no background in literature, and no connections to the big publishing houses out there I really have no right to complain.

I just have to mention that many reviewers have refused to give me a chance just because of the colour of my skin. One American woman attempted to shoot me down in flames via a review on amazon… and then 2 years later she posted an even worse rating on goodreads. A man from Canada was moved to write about her “racism takes many forms.”

How I have handled the feedback? Difficulties have only made me stronger. I have improved the quality of the text and I am determined to keep pushing on.

Question 5  Do you plan to keep writing?

Interesting that you should ask this. Several times I have started a new draft, only to tear all up. I guess I don’t want to write anything less significant or meaningful than Bomber Boy. That would be like walking backwards. But when inspiration comes, I will be sure to write again.

Question 6  Do you have a day job? If so how do you balance this with day to day life

I run a small business which involves photography, graphics, and printing. My attitude towards life is: ‘stuff won’t get done by it’self.’

Question 7   I know you’ve worked hard to get bloggers like myself to read your work. Have you found the community as a whole supportive?

I believe that the future of publishing is not big presses or PR firms- it is bloggers. I therefore try as hard as I can to work with them. A lot of work still has to be done, like fishing out racists and scammers who don’t care about books but just want to take money from authors.

But yes, there have been a few supportive bloggers whom I have had the joy of meeting.

Question  8  What are your hopes for the next five years, personal and professional?

I would like to meet a nice girl. I would also like to see that my book Bomber Boy has gained acceptance. I don’t even know what that means, but I believe I’ll know when I get there.

Question  9  Tell me more about Ike. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy watching TV. I think my favorite show is Only Fools and Horses. I also enjoy reading. My favorite book is Gaius Julius Caesar: The Conquest of Gaul. I like to eat too..hahaha

Question 10    What would you say to convince readers to give your work a read?

Please read my book… hahahahaha

Thank you Ike!

To find out more head to Amazon or Goodreads.

The Blood Road (Legionary #7) by Gordon Doherty (@GordonDoherty) – Review #HistFic

Today I’m reviewing The Blood Road (Legionary #7) by Gordon Doherty, here’s the blurb

Genre – Historical Fiction 
Pages – 345 pages
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

381 AD: The Gothic War draws to a brutal climax, and the victor’s name will be written in blood…

The great struggle between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Gothic Horde rumbles into its fifth year. It seems that there can be no end to the conflict, for although the Goths are masters of the land, they cannot topple the last of the imperial cities. But heralds bring news that might change it all: Emperor Gratian readies to lead his Western legions into the fray, to turn matters on their head, to crush the horde and save the East!

The men of the XI Claudia legion long for their homeland’s salvation, but Tribunus Pavo knows these hopes drip with danger. For he and his soldiers are Gratian’s quarry as much as any Goth. The road ahead will be fraught with broken oaths, enemy blades… and tides of blood.

Review

Usually when I read a book I make a few key notes to help when writing the review. I just wasn’t able to with this book.. because I couldn’t put it down long enough to write even one word. The only way to describe this book is simply tremendous!

It says something about the writer when they are able to keep a series going..and to keep it fresh and interesting.. It just never feels like the end for Pavo will ever come, even though I know one day this great series will draw to an end. That will be a sad day indeed!

But for now at least we have a new book in the series! The Blood Road, book 7 in the series. The situation with the goths is turbulent to say the least but it’s time to draw an end to the war as the western and eastern armies clash with the goths with heavy losses felt on both sides. Emperor Gratian wants to be the saviour but just how much is he willing to sacrifice to ensure glory?

I really enjoyed the warfare in the tale which was easy to immerse myself in and get lost. I’m no historian but I loved the detail of the places, weapons, clothes the author put into the tale. All of which make the story feel real as you can imagine it in your mind’s eye.

Fans of a good battle will love this tale as there’s plenty of detailed battles, and when I say detailed I mean both factual and down right engrossing man vs man to the end type of fights when your heart pumps so hard your chest will burst.

Caught in the middle of everything is Pavo who has made himself quite the enemy in Emperor Gratian and Pavo has to do his very best to stay out of harms way…in doing so he puts everyone he cares about in danger but the only way to stop things is to help end the war! but if you know the author then you’ll already know not everyone will come out of this unscathed.

There’s twists as usual from the author that really do keep you hooked and that ending had me fuming! how could you leave us like that Mr Doherty! ha.

Overall a smash hit of a book that continues to add to an already riveting series! Detailed enough to please fans who enjoy historical details but not so much as to alienate those who prefer the thrill of the plot and warfare. Gordon Doherty always has that knack of writing things exactly how I like it and long may it continue.

Hats off to the author, simply wondrous.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Gods & Emperors (Legionary 5) by Gordon Doherty – Review

Hey all, as you may remember I reviewed book 4 of the awesome Legionary series by Gordon Doherty last week! This is a series I’ve really enjoyed but sometime reviewing non stop means I miss out on books I want to read..no more! Requests make up a very small amount of my reading total now and I made it my mission to catch up on this series ready for book 7’s release tomorrow!

Here’s the blurb for  Gods & Emperors

The fate of the East rests on the edge of a sword as the legions and the Goths march to war…

378 AD: Fritigern’s Gothic horde tightens its iron grip on Thracia and only a handful of well-walled cities to the south remain in imperial hands. The few tattered legions pinned in these cities can only watch on from the battlements as smoke rises across their lost lands and the Goths roam at will, pillaging and extorting. Every Roman – legionary or citizen – speaks of only one thing: the Emperors of East and West, Valens and Gratian, who are said to be closing swiftly on this war-stricken land, each bringing with them vast armies capable of vanquishing the horde.

Awaiting the relief armies in Constantinople, Centurion Pavo and the XI Claudia prepare as best they can. The Gothic War has taken much from each of them, and none more so than Pavo. But still he and his fellow officers cling to the chance that two lost to them might yet return: their leaders, Tribunus Gallus and Primus Pilus Dexion – Pavo’s brother – have not been seen or heard from since setting off on a mission to Emperor Gratian’s court in the West. Some are sure they must have fallen, yet Pavo refuses to give up hope, instead whetting his blade and praying that fate will guide the pair back in time for the clash that is to come: a clash that promises to end the Gothic War – for the empire’s finest legions are destined to meet Fritigern’s ferocious masses… on the plains of Adrianople.

My Rating – 5/5 Stars!

Review

Just when I thought there’s no way this series could get better Doherty gives us Gods & Emperors, the most gut wrenching read I’ve ever came across.

I’m going to be honest from the start. The plot beautifully plays out but I had my heart in my mouth from the minute I opened the book…I’ve grown attached to the characters and in the latest installment the author takes an axe to many and some deaths hurt more than others.

Some major truths were revealed towards the end of book 4 that will play out during this book so I don’t want to spoil too much. THIS SERIES IS A MUST READ.

Pavo and the remains of the XI Claudia are without their leader Tribunus Gallus and Primus Pilus Dexion who set out on a mission to contact Emperor Gratian to petition him to bring his forces to bear on the Gothic horde..but why has it taken so long without any word..and if they did make it when will Gratian arrive?

There’s plenty of twists in this tale but for me character development played a heavy part in how good this book truly is. The author manages to breathe life in to the men of the XI Claudia and after 4 previous installments you’d think the author would be running on fumes.. not so.

While awaiting Gratian’s arrival Emperor Valens must ready his army. He’s quite a likable leader and seems to care about the true cost of war..He knows he’s outnumbered so eager to reach a truce with the Goths but the speculators, loyal only to Emperor Gratian, are set are making sure war comes to Valens. Gratian is only after power and has set his pieces on the table well.

Eventually the battle we know would happen comes to pass but even I could not have guessed the ending Doherty gives us, just simply WOW.

Overall another masterpiece from Gordon Doherty. He broke my heart with this one but damn it was one hell of a ride!

My review for book 6 will be out tomorrow to celebrate the release of book 7!

Check out the links below for more info.

Book 5 Gods & Emperors – Goodreads

Book 5 Gods & Emperors – Amazon

Book 7 – Amazon 

 

Virgin to Victoria by Trisha Hughes – Review

Title – Virgin to Victoria
Author – Trisha Hughes
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 308 Pages
Publication – 25th April 2018
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Virgin to Victoria is a powerful retelling of the history of the British monarchy, beginning with Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, as she comes to the throne. Charting Elizabeth’s incredible journey, Virgin to Victoria travels in time through the confusion of the Stuart dynasty, the devastation of a Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell, horrific battles for the throne and the turbulent Hanover dynasty with its intricate family squabbles. Despite her amazing legacy, Elizabeth failed England in one vital area. She never married, nor did she leave an heir to the Tudor family. In making this one fateful decision, the Virgin Queen left the path open for a take-over and life would never be the same. Victoria did not ask to be Queen. It was thrust upon her by a series of events that removed all others who stood in line for the throne. She assumed it reluctantly and, at first, incompetently. Parliament was sure that the 18-year-old could be relied upon to leave the job of running the country to the professionals. Couldn’t she?

Review

Virgin to Victoria is the follow-up to Vikings to Virgin: The Hazards of Being King by Trisha Hughes. You don’t need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one but I highly recommend it simply because it’s one hell of a read.

So Virgin to Victoria..another history book you might think.. no not just a history book. What the author gets spot on for me is the way she writes, it’s like she’s talking to you one on one..rather than just regurgitating information in a text-book style you get a fact filled educational ride that quite honestly makes history fun and interesting.

What I particularly like is the way the author keeps things clear for the reader..If I’ve learnt anything it’s that King’s and Queen’s have a habit of naming their children after themselves or relatives so the same names pop up time and time again so it would be easy to get confused.. Trisha Hughes manages to keep things on track well by reminding you of key facts as and when to jog your memory.

Something that really stuck me is the high death rate of not only commoners at the time due to disease but that fact the royals did not escape it. Disease wasn’t the only thing that royals had to worry about..the act of child-birth posed its own dangers to not only the mother but the child also and mortality rates were shockingly high. This really shows you how much of a business being a King or Queen is..as soon as they come to the throne they need to produce an heir and the pressure must have been immense to say the least and even after a miscarriage you’d be expected to continue and try again..I can’t even imagine what this must have felt like but it did help me connect with the characters from history and made them more real for me… you really feel for them at times.

Being a relative of a King or Queen wasn’t good either..everyone is a pawn in the big game and marriages were made to build connections rather than love and because of this overwhelming need to strengthen their hold on the throne it’s very apparent becuase there was a limtied nubmer of royal families inbreeding occurred leading to many life limiting medical conditions..it’s quite scary when you read it.

The book flows well and I loved that key events are repeated so you can easily put the book down and come back to it later to read about the next ruler and have your memory refreshed.

Some of the most interesting bits about this book have to be the theories around Queen Elizabeth I (I’ll not spoil that if you’ve never read about it) .. The fact 3rd September seemed to be a very important date in history and how a man named Buckingham seemed to have the worst luck ever!

Overall the book is well written and sets out the facts in a fun and easy to read way. I can’t recommend the book enough.

My thanks go to the author and The Book Guild for the chance to read and review the book! This is most certainly one book I’ll be buying my dad (if you follow my blog you’ll know that’s only something I do when the book is simply amazing) because he’s not getting my copy 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Caligula (The Damned Emperors) by Simon Turney – Review

Title – Caligula (The Damned Emperors)
Author – Simon Turney
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 480 Pages
Publication – 8th March 2018
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Everyone knows his name. Everyone thinks they know his story.

Rome 37AD. The emperor is dying. No-one knows how long he has left. The power struggle has begun.

When the ailing Tiberius thrusts Caligula’s family into the imperial succession in a bid to restore order, he will change the fate of the empire and create one of history’s most infamous tyrants, Caligula.
But was he really a monster?

Forget everything you think you know. Let Livilla, Caligula’s youngest sister and confidante, tell you what really happened. How her quiet, caring brother became the most powerful man on earth. And how, with lies, murder and betrayal, Rome was changed for ever . . .

Review

Caligula is a very different book than I expected from Turney, it shows his true skill at storytelling to continually grow as an author and to keep churning out hit after hit even when moving away from his normal style of writing.

This story is told from the eyes of Livilla, Caligula’s sister. This gave the tale a real emotional feel and I easily formed a connection with her. This is the history I like.. not a text book..I need it to feel real.

The tale of Caligula is a dark one..he’s been watching is back for years..he’s learnt in that time how to play the great game but as we learn of the constant death and betrayal in his life we see him slowly loose his humanity and he becomes the tyrant we know.

What the author does well is building that connection with the characters, especially Caligula. You feel sorry for him..he just doesn’t know who he can trust so in the end he loses control and simply removes anyone who may be a threat..be it real or perceived.

It’s a real tale of how power can corrupt and warp even those with the best intentions and that when pushed to the limit what would you do to survive?

Truly a magnificent read, insightful¸ powerful, emotional and gripping from the start. This is unlike any book on Caligula you’ve read before..it challenges our preconceived views and the tale will certainly stick with you.

How much do I enjoy Turney’s work? Well I own a hardback copy and a kindle version of Caligula plus I bought a copy for my dads birthday..If me buying 3 copies can’t even convince you to buy one then I don’t know what will! 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Blog Tour – Doomed Destroyer by Ron Cope

Today is my stop of the blog tour for Doomed Destroyer by author Ron Cope. Here’s the blurb ;-

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Genre – Military / Maritime Archaeology
Length – 560
Publication – 10 April 2018

Synopsis

On March 1st 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered Operation Weserubung: the invasion of Norway. Having swept across Europe, the Nazi assault on Scandinavia was designed to secure the valuable iron ore being delivered by rail from Sweden to the Norwegian port of Narvik. To complete the task, Hitler sent ten large destroyers, with 220 Alpine Troops on each. Five smaller British H Class destroyers were sent up the fjord in retaliation, with little knowledge of what to expect. On April 10th , the first British battle of Narvik began in earnest. Royal Naval Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee led his flotilla at midnight into the fjord; undetected, under darkness and in driving snow storms. The harbour erupted into a torpedo attack; back into the fjord, the destroyers Hardy, Hunter, Hotspur, Havock and Hostilewere confronted by five German destroyers. A ferocious sea battle ensued and Hardy and Hunter were lost.

In his first account of The Battle of Narvick, Attack at Dawn, Ron Cope focussed on the experience and the survival of the crew of HMS Hardy. After nine long years of research, he now reveals for the first time the untold story of HMS Hunter and her crew. Just forty-eight of the 159 servicemen on board survived in the cold waters of the fjord; picked up by German destroyers, they were eventually forced to march in freezing conditions over the mountains into internment in Sweden. Before the handover to the Swedish authorities, a German Army officer made the British servicemen sign a form: “On my being sent into Sweden I will not take up arms against Germany… Should I do so, and in the event of again being taken prisoner I shall be subject to such conditions as are provided under the Death Penalty Act”.

Doomed Destroyer follows the astounding stories of the Hunter sailors, who would spend the next five years plotting and attempting to escape their captivity. Cope provides an extensive account of the viciously fought events at sea and in the fjords, examining the Norwegian price paid at Narvik and the early impact of war on the local community’s simple way of life. A remarkable account delivered with care and respect for those lost and left behind, Doomed Destroyer shines a light on this important but previously little known event in British history.

“Without dedicated men like Ron Cope, the testimony and the stories of the men who were there – whether they were lost, wounded, or survived – what became of them, their families, might otherwise be lost to future generations.” Percy C. Danby, Lieutenant (E), C.D. RCN Retired. Ottawa. March 2017, survivor on HMS Hotspur.

Review

Doomed destroyer is a meaty read to say the least at 560 pages but it’s packed full first-person accounts that recount events that give a fascinating insight into the lives of the servicemen who signed up to protect their country.

For any fan of maritime history I’m sure they would love the detail in which the author goes..shining a light the not only events that impact a whole crew but also smaller events that might have otherwise been overlooked.

At times I felt a bit overwhelmed with the detail as it’s fired at you at such a pace it can be hard to take it all in but overall the book does exactly what you’d expected and gives the reader real insights into a life many of us could never imagine.

The author clearly researched the book well and that’s evident with the numerous first-hand accounts he draws on which helps the book as you feel it has a real connection with those who stories are being told rather than just a plain old history text-book.

Personally I would have liked the book broke down a bit more to give a layman more manageable chunks of info with  time to stop and reflect but overall at 560 pages it’s a fact filled book that really does help bring these brave individuals to life. History books often take away the human edge of a tale for me and its books like this that ensure that connection isn’t lost in time.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

About the author: Born in Salford, Ron Cope followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy in 1964, working in electronics. After leaving the forces in 1986, he spent over twenty years working in the probation service, specifically with young offenders. Now a proud father and  grandfather, Cope is retired and living with his wife Alison in Telford, Shropshire. His first naval history book Attack at Dawn: Reliving the First Battle of Narvik in World War Two was published to acclaim back in 2015.

My thanks go to Authoright and the author for a chance to read/review the book in exchange for my honest review. 

Cover Reveal – Past Imperfect: A Collection of Short Stories by Pam Lecky – (@pamlecky )

Today I bring to you a cover reveal for Past Imperfect a series of short stories by author Pam Lecky.

You should know the name if you follow my blog as she Is the author of  The Bowes Inheritance and In Three-Quarter Time both of which earned 5* ratings from me.

Whats the new book about I hear you ask..here’s the blurb –

You can never escape the past …

Included in this anthology, by Irish historical fiction author, Pam Lecky, are short stories, a childhood memoir and a Victorian novelette.

With settings as diverse as WW1 era Dublin, the sinking of the Luisitania, and a lonely haunted lighthouse, romance, tragedy and the supernatural await you.

Now to the cover…

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My thoughts.. I like it. I feel it fits Pam’s style of writing and gives the reader an easy indication of the type of story you will be reading.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The books is available now for pre-order for release 6th April here 

I’ve pre-ordered my copy and look forward to reviewing the book on my blog shortly!

Blog Tour – The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas – Review

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas.

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Here’s the blurb –

Synopsis

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

The author has kindly wrote a piece on how her work has progressed since the release of Fifteen Words so keep reading after my review for something I hope you’ll find as interesting as I do! It will also give you a little more insight to her latest work.

Review

If you haven’t already I highly recommend you read the authors previous novel Fifteen Words. The Watcher follows directly on and it would give you some background to the characters.

Fifteen Words was the story about Max being held prisoner, The Watcher is a story about how life and Max himself have changed since his release.

Max is a torn man, he’s struggling to come to terms with what happened to him when he was a prisoner and this really made me feel for the man, I don’t imagine being a POW is something you would ever come to terms with.

His relationship with his wife is stretched to breaking, the love they had for each other just isn’t what it once was, so much has changed.

For me this tale was really about Max’s daughter Netta, I loved her. She’s a young girl who’s grown up in an adult world and she hears and sees more than people know.

While the family are trying to come to terms with their own demons a murder occurs that has the police snooping around and the author keeps you on edge until the last moment to reveal all.

I really enjoyed how the ending was written when you see the events play out from different perspectives, this really kept the suspense going.

There’s some good twists in the tale, nicely written and followed on well from the previous novel. The characters  might be the same but this tale had that little bit extra with a whodunit thrown in. It was a change in direction from what I expected but it worked well and I was hooked.

Going back to Max, there is a lot of development for him during the story and emotions are very raw for him and I liked how this was explored. Not easy to read at times as he’s a beaten man with what looks like no way to build himself back up.. just when he needs someone the most he and Netta finally bond and it was a pleasure to read.

Overall I loved it, the unexpected events in the book really kept me on my toes and had me sucked in from page 1. We are left with a little cliff-hanger so I do hope we see more of Max and his family to see how things play out.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon


Monkika Jephcott Thomas

How my work has progressed since the release of Fifteen Words. –  Monika Jephcott Thomas.

Writing my debut novel, Fifteen Words, was a daunting task. No doubt it is for most writers. So when it came to writing the follow up, The Watcher, I was definitely less apprehensive. I was more confident with the whole mechanics of writing and publishing, but I was also on more solid ground with regards to my characters, because some of the protagonists I had got to know so well during the writing of Fifteen Words and the newest character was based on myself – so what could possibly go wrong!

Although the character of Netta is based on me, she is based on my five-year-old self, so the challenge here was to try and recall the feelings, preoccupations, and perspective of a child’s world when I had been resident in the adult one for over half a century. Fifteen Words is quite an adult book – in its events and style of prose. But during the initial drafts of The Watcher I realised that writing in a more ‘childish’ way could be just as powerful, if not more so.

The advantage of writing from a child’s perspective, if you succeed, is that it can illuminate the absurdities of the adult world and adult relationships in a way that no adult character can. The central motivation of a child, wherever they come from, is to play. Children play games. But of course, so do adults in relationships, whether they realise it not. Psychological games, power games, cynical games. Hence, the best person to illuminate how daft these games appear to be, is the unjaded player of innocent games: a child. As Netta thinks to herself after observing her family one morning:

Adults were like the British soldiers who still hung around on the streets: they spoke a different language and had no intention of learning hers.

As well as unwittingly observing the chess of adult interaction for us, Netta soon becomes a direct recipient of adult game-playing, ironically enough, when she stays at children’s home. There the abusive Herr Kahler fulfils his own perverse desires by callously manipulating Netta. You can perhaps see from this extract how it is written with almost fairy-tale repetition, which is intended to elevate Kahler’s callousness to ‘wicked witch’ proportions whilst keeping it in the realms of possibility, as we are reminded more than ever by this fairy-tale style how we are seeing these events through a child eyes. This reminder, I hope, makes the end of the extract even more sickening.

‘What did I tell you to do this morning?’ he growled.

‘Sweep the sand from the driveway,’ she answered.

‘And did you do that?’

‘Yes I did,’ she said.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes I did, Herr Kahler,’ she added to make sure she wasn’t sounding rude. She didn’t want to sound rude. She was just telling the truth.

‘I beg your pardon?’ he repeated.

‘Yes I did!’ She raised her voice ever so slightly in case he was having difficulty hearing her.

‘I beg your pardon, but if you had done what I’d asked you to do, why was there sand all over the driveway when I went out at lunchtime?’

Silence, except for the sound of children enjoying themselves in the garden. Netta couldn’t think of anything to say.

‘I’ll tell you why.’ The red face was getting redder again. ‘Because you’re a lazy, spoilt little girl, that’s why.’

Netta had to tell him this wasn’t true. She had to explain that she had done the job. ‘No, I—’

‘I beg your pardon?’ he shouted, slamming his hands on the table and pushing himself up.

‘I—I—I… yes, I—I’m lazy, Herr Kahler.’

‘And?’ He sang the word like a motorcar speeding up.

‘And spoilt,’ she said, but the words tasted foul in her mouth because she was sure they weren’t true.

‘Yes you are.’ He came out from behind the desk and Netta flinched, but he passed by her and grabbed the broom from behind the door. ‘Now, you’ll go and do it again and you’ll make sure you do it properly otherwise you’ll get the slipper, do you hear?’

She took the broom. It felt like it was made of lead. She went outside. The driveway was covered in sand. Her whole body drooped. But she swept it all away again, more thoroughly than she did the first time with the thought of the slipper hanging over her.

Milla found her at dinner time slumped in her chair at the round table.

‘What happened?’ she whispered.

‘I’m too tired to even tell you,’ Netta sighed.

The two girls ate their fish and cabbage that evening in the kind of silence Frau Auttenberg expected every evening. When the cod liver oil came round Netta opened her mouth obediently, as she had done ever since that long night when she had first done battle with the battle-axe. And when she was allowed to leave the dining room she spat out the oil she’d been hiding into the potted plant on the windowsill in the stairwell, which was growing much faster and looking much healthier than Netta was for its daily dose of fish oil.

But before she could begin to get undressed, Paul came up to her and said, ‘Herr Kahler wants to see you.’

Netta almost cried right there in front of Paul, but somehow she held it in and got herself back downstairs to the office. And it all sounded very familiar.

‘What did I tell you to do this afternoon?’ he growled.

‘Sweep the sand from the driveway,’ she answered.

‘And did you do that?’

‘Yes I did.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes I did, Herr Kahler.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes I—!’

‘I. Beg. Your. Pardon?’

She knew what the answer was supposed to be, but she couldn’t believe she hadn’t done it properly this time.

She opened her mouth to speak.

‘Think very carefully before you answer, young lady,’ he snarled.

She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. If she told the truth she would get the slipper. If she lied and said she had been lazy again, she would get the slipper. This was so unfair!

Herr Kahler got up. He was wearing his pyjamas already with an open red dressing gown on top and red leather slippers to match.

He closed the door quietly and took Netta by the wrist.

Without giving too much away about how this strand of the story ends, it takes another child to see a possible way for Netta out of Kahler’s twisted game. And it has to be a child, I think. The Watcher partly explores the effect of trauma on children in an age when children were supposed to be ‘seen and not heard’ by illuminating that fatal mistake all adults make, as if they have never been children themselves:

how children, seen and not heard, still saw things and heard things, especially the things expressed inches above their heads, which adults somehow believed were inaudible and forgettable to something as absorbent as a child.  


My thanks go to Monika and Authoright for the chance to read and review the book in exchange for my honest review.