Tag Archives: WWII

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Keep Calm and Carry On, Children by Sharon K. Mayhew #Brainfluffbookreview #KeepCalmandCarryOnChildrenbookreview

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It won’t be a surprise if I mention that it was the title that first attracted me to this offering – we see this WWII catchphrase all over the place, these days. But when I realised this was an adventure about two young evacuees, I immediately requested it.

BLURB: Eleven-year-old Joyce and her little sister hide in their bomb shelter during the German Blitz on London, during World War II. After nights of bombing, it’s decided that they’ll join the over 800,000 children who’ve already been evacuated during Operation Pied Piper. They board a train not knowing where they’re going or who will take them in.

I loved this one. It starts with Joyce and Gina in 1940 enduring a succession of terrifying air raids that severely damage their home and kill neighbours. Their parents reluctantly decide they have no choice but to send the sisters off to the country, taking part in the huge operation to rehouse vulnerable youngsters for the duration of the war. Told in Joyce’s viewpoint, the train journey is told in vivid detail as friendships are formed and one small boy gets left on the train when his sister gets off.

By the time I’d read to this stage, I couldn’t put the book down until I discovered where the girls ended up – would they be separated? This was Joyce’s personal nightmare – both girls were filthy, having had nights spent in underground shelters and no water for washing. As they wait anxiously to discover who will claim them, to look after the girls for the rest of the war, I felt my stomach tighten. I know only too well that it was a complete lottery – while many children were cherished and cared for, some ended up in households who regarded them as unpaid labour, or worse. So where Joyce and Gina end up?

This is a gripping read that covers all aspects of being an evacuee, with an extra adventurous brush with black marketeers after the style of an Enid Blyton escapade to add extra spice to this historically accurate story. I would like to think that this book is used in primary school classrooms during a WWII topic – there are all sorts of aspects of this story that merit discussion. Highly recommended for any child interested in WWII. The ebook arc copy of Keep Calm and Carry On, Children was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE Ebook Whom Shall I Fear? by Anne Clare #Brainfluffbookreview #WhomShallIFearbookreview

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I know Anne Clare as a book blogger and when – belatedly – I realised her debut novel had been released, I nicked across to Amazon to pick up a copy, especially after reading Jean Lee’s excellent interview when I discovered Clare had written about the WWII Italian campaign. My grandfather had also endured the fighting at Monte Casino…

All that Sergeant James Milburn wants is to heal. Sent to finish his convalescence in a lonely village in the north of England, the friends he’s lost haunt his dreams. If he can only be declared fit for active service again, perhaps he can rejoin his surviving mates in the fight across Sicily and either protect them or die alongside them.

All that Evie Worther wants is purpose. War has reduced her family to an elderly matriarch and Charles, her controlling cousin, both determined to keep her safely tucked away in their family home. If she can somehow balance her sense of obligation to family with her desperate need to be of use, perhaps she can discover how she fits into her tumultuous world.

All that Charles Heatherington wants is his due. Since his brother’s death, he is positioned to be the family’s heir with only one step left to make his future secure. If only he can keep the family matriarch happy, he can finally start living the easy life he is certain he deserves. However, when James’s, Evie’s and Charles’s paths collide, a dark secret of the past is forced into the light, and everything that they have hoped and striven for is thrown into doubt.

Yes… it’s a rather long blurb – but for once I haven’t been forced to tweak or cut it – kudos to Clare for keeping it spoiler-free. What it does do is give you a feel for the three main characters and their priorities. This is an interesting book – set during WWII, the unfolding romance powers some of the narrative, but I hesitate to call it a wartime romance. While I think the love story is well handled and I was convinced by the growing feelings between the two characters, it is the depiction of the desperate fighting that lodges in my memory. Clare gets right under the skin of her main character and gives us a ringside seat into his reaction as he is pushed right to the edge of his emotional and physical limits during the brutal campaign.

There is also an unfolding situation back at home with Evie, so we aren’t given any opportunity to relax when we are in her viewpoint, either. I felt that Clare caught the earnestness and strong faith many women of the time used to get through such a tough time. Evie could have easily become a two-dimensional little mouse, given her sheltered upbringing and her domineering aunt’s insistence that she stay close – and it is a testament to Clare’s writing skill that she doesn’t.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, which had me staying up later than I should have to see what happens during that dramatic climax. Highly recommended for fans of books with WWII setting and a strong domestic drama.
9/10

Review of NOVELLA NETGALLEY arc Time Was by Ian McDonald #Brainfluffbookreview #TimeWasbookreview

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I was delighted when I saw this offering on NetGalley – and even more delighted when I was approved to read it. I enjoy McDonald’s writing and was particularly impressed with his lunar duology – read my review of Luna: New Moon here.

Struggling second-hand book dealer, Emmet, is trying to survive in the increasingly difficult financial climate – and then comes across a small poetry collection called Time Was which includes a love letter from Tom to Ben, set in WWII. It sets him out on an astonishing search to discover who Tom and Ben are – a search that takes him to a tucked-away corner of England where odd stories abound about the seas catching fire…

And no… You won’t find that blurb anywhere else, as I wrote it myself. I feel the official version is highly misleading and yet somehow also manages to reveal some of the major plot points. I’m very glad I didn’t read it before I picked up the book, because I would have approached it expecting something completely different.

The main protagonist is gripped by the need to track down the fate of the two young men caught up in WWII and more or less abandons his everyday life to do it. In contrast to the lyrical, slightly highflown prose produced by Tom when in his viewpoint, Emmet is far more down-to-earth with a dry, sarky humour that I thoroughly enjoyed and stopped this turning into a treacly read. In fact, Emmett isn’t a particularly likeable character – and that was okay, too.

Tom and Ben were the people in the story that snagged my sympathy and attention – and I think that is exactly how I was meant to feel, in effect, shadowing the main protagonist in his attempts to find out more about these two people. But history and historical research is inherently messy – it never delivers exactly what you want, in the way that you want it. And there are two major surprises at the end of this bittersweet story that summed up that premise.

Overall, I think this is a haunting, really well written novella with a misleading blurb that isn’t doing it any favours whatsoever. Take my advice – skip the blurb and instead pick up this short story without any prior expectation and let the plot unfold around you.
9/10

Review of The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver

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thepuppetboyThis book has been buried near the bottom of my teetering TBR pile for longer than I care to think – but I’m trying to clear the books I know I still want to read and review from… way back when.

When his grandfather dies, Mika inherits his great coat – and its treasure trove of secrets. In one hidden pocket, he discovers the puppet prince. Soon, Mika is performing puppet shows in even the darkest, most cramped corners of the ghetto, bringing cheer to those who have lost their families, those who are ill and those who are afraid for their future – until he is stopped by a German soldier and forced into a double life of danger and secrecy.

Yes… this is a story of endurance and bravery during the darkest time for Europe during World War II, when Jews were systematically targeted for no other reason than they were a distinct ethnic group that made them an easy scapegoat. Young Mika discovers the small puppets and uses them to create an escape from the increasingly grim reality around them – and then is prompted to share them with those around him, until a German soldier forces him to entertain the troops with his little shows.

There are times when I was concerned the story would tip into sentimentality – but fortunately Weaver managed to avoid going there. Her graphic descriptions of the full horror of the Jewish ghetto is unflinching, along with the fate of the inhabitants once they are rounded up and the neighbourhood is emptied… However, I have read books where that aspect has been fully covered with perhaps more technical dexterity – Weaver’s dialogue at times is clunky which does detract from some of the emotional intensity in some of those crucial scenes. However, what made this offering stand out for me, is that her narrative doesn’t end with the war. I really liked the fact that unlike so many survivor tales I’ve previously read, this one doesn’t end on some triumphant note once hostilities come to an end. Because those caught up in such a bloody, dehumanising business are never free of it – the issue then becomes how they can best deal with those experiences once life returns to normal.

While I had found Mika’s story reasonably engrossing, it is Max’s tale that made me want to read far into the night. It was wrenching to read of his terrible trek from the Russian gulag and then struggle so profoundly to fit back into the family that had been the impetus for his fight for survival during the darkest times in the prison camp. It was this story strand that, for me, sang off the pages.

I would add that this isn’t a read for the faint-hearted – Weaver hasn’t held back from vividly recreating the misery and horror that occurs when far too many people are crammed into a space not equipped for the numbers, without sufficient food. But it left me musing on the nature of survival, guilt and responsibility and I’m glad I’ve read it. If you are interested in reading something that takes the events of WWII and spools them forward to follow the protagonists long after the last shot is fired, then track it down – it’s worth it.
8/10