The Circumstantial Enemy: An astounding, based-on-true-events WW2 thriller by John R.Bell #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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I received this book from the author as member of Rosie Amber’s review team #RBRT in return for a fair and honest review.

I gave The Circumstantial Enemy 4* out of 5*

Book Description;

On the wrong side of war, there is more than one enemy…

When Croatia becomes a Nazi puppet state in 1941, carefree young pilot Tony Babic finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome are soon to discover that love and friendship will not circumvent this war’s ideals.

Downed by the Allies in the Adriatic Sea, Tony survives a harrowing convalescence in deplorable Italian hospitals and North African detention stockades. His next destination is Camp Graham in Illinois, one of four hundred prisoner of war camps on American soil.

But with the demise of the Third Reich, repatriation presents a new challenge. What kind of life awaits Tony under communist rule? Will he be persecuted as an enemy of the state for taking the side of Hitler? And then there is Katarina; in letters she confesses her love, but not her deceit… Does her heart still belong to him?

Based on a true story, John Richard Bell’s The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. Rich in incident with interludes of rollicking humour, it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.

My Review:

The Circumstantial Enemy drew me in from the first page; Bell has a writing style that has great depth, tells a story that has so many sub-plots, mixes facts with fiction, yet is easy to read

This book is based on real events that happened during World War II and it is obvious the author has also researched extensively. The plot reads authentically with many twists and unexpected events. Set between 1941-1952 , It’s a cross-genre story of history, politics, war  and romance: a story that exposes the devastation and horror of war, the reactions of human beings to the stress and trauma of enforced separation from family and friends, of enduring love against all the odds. The pace is swift and encompasses the difficult period when Yugoslavia was divided into Serbia and Croatia,  moving to Italy, the stockades in North African,  American prisoner of war camps and on to post war Europe.

Yet all is not doom and gloom; there are touches of humour here and there, showing the resilience of the human condition.

The characters  are well portrayed with authentic and individualistic dialogue, particularly that of the protagonist,  Tony Babic, shown in so many layers through both his actions and internal  dialogue as the story progresses. As the story moved forward I felt, as a reader, that I almost knew what his responses would be to everything he faced. This is a strong protagonist, embodied by self-respect, honour, courage; a man who faces life with stubborn perseverance even in his darkest moments. And the minor characters, being well drawn and believable, give excellent support within the plot.

The descriptions of each of the settings are extremely well written and give a great sense of place.

If I had any reservations about this debut novel it would be that sometimes, just sometimes, a point is belaboured, slowing the action down. But, as I say, it is a small irritation compared with the enjoyment I had reading The Circumstantial Enemy.

 Striking cover as well!

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with wars as the background and a touch of romance and  I look forward to reading John R Bell’s next novel.

Links to buy:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2AEWJfXhttp://amzn.to/2AEWJfX

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2CR1x7K

About the Author:

 

John Richard Bell

 

John Richard Bell was born in Chigwell, UK and now resides in Vancouver, Canada.

Before becoming an author of business books and historical fiction, John Bell was a CEO, global strategy consultant, and a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. A prolific blogger, John’s musings on strategy, leadership, and branding have appeared in various journals such as Fortune, Forbes and ceoafterlife.com.

John’s novel, The Circumstantial Enemy, chronicles the trials and capers of Tony Babic, a young pilot who finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe in 1941. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome soon discover that love and friendship can not circumvent this ideals of this war. Like many of the adventure novels of Wilbur Smith and Bryce Courtenay, The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust, and revenge. Rich in incident and rollicking humor, it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love, and forgiveness.

John’s business book, ‘Do Less Better – The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World’, was released by Palgrave Macmillan USA in 2015. This book helps leaders recognize the complexity within their businesses and suggests how they can simplify and streamline through specialization and sacrifice. For leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs who need help embracing the practices that foster agility, foresight, and resilience, ‘Do Less Better’ provides a tool-kit of road-tested strategies.

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Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by [Smith, Mary]

 

I reviewed the book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review

 I gave Donkey Boy and Other Stories  4* out of 5*.

Book Description:

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse

My Review:

I do like Mary Smith’s style of writing. Previously I have read and enjoyed No More Mulberries by this author; my review here: http://bit.ly/2CTEuZl

This is a fascinating collection of short stories, set in various places with a wealth of diverse characters, all wonderfully rounded. The author has a talent for setting the scene and giving a sense of place with few well-chosen words.

 I read each of these unusual stories slowly, taking in the way each situation unfolded, savouring the reactions of the characters to each problem they faced, enjoying the touches of humour, poignancy, empathising with the great sadness in some of the tales.

 Not sure I had an overall favourite, they are all easy to read, but these are the ones that stayed with me long after I’d read them:

The story in the title, Donkey Boy. The protagonist, Ali, should be in school but instead drives a donkey cart for his father. His resentment is palpable from the very start. The dilemma he faces exposes the way different cultures live;  not only their values and ethics but the differences in the child and adult in these societies.  This is well deserving as the title story.

Trouble with Socks. Set in a care home with the character George; patronised by one of the carers who really is in the wrong job.

Accidents Happen. Set in Pakistan; the story of a young girl with a step father she detests.

Asylum Seekers. One of the monologues (I did like this way of writing/reading a short story). Though ironic, this reveals unpleasant bigotry and prejudice,

There is a whole gamut of human emotions in Donkey Boy and Other Stories and I thoroughly recommend this collection by Mary Smith to any reader. Whatever your favourite genre you’ll be sure to find one that will linger with you long afterwards.

Links to buy: 

 Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

About the author:

Mary Smith

 

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Mary loves interacting with her readers and her

Links to Mary:

Website  www.marysmith.co.uk.
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2wWIDci
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2ws6LAt

My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

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I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team ~RBRT, in return for an honest review.

I gave My Sweet Friend 4* out of 5*

Book Description

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

My Review:

I first came across  H.A. Leuschel when I read and enjoyed her collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives ( my review here, http://bit.ly/2BxfSVz.)

In this novella the author  has, once again, concentrated on the theme of manipulation; from the manoeuvrings for power in business to the exploitation that can be committed in personal relationships. This is an emotional exploration of the human psyche on various levels. It is also a brilliant story.

Told from the first person point of view of the two main characters, Rosie and Alexa, each have their own chapters, which move from present to flashbacks.  The plot takes us from absolute loyalty and hope in Rosie’s understanding of her relationship with Alexa, to the first seeds of doubt and distrust, (emphasised by the exchanges of dialogue with Jack; would be boyfriend and initially also taken in by Alexa). With Alexa the portrayal of  the ultimate confidence that she is in control of her life and is blinkered to any faults of her own, is gradually undermined by glimpses of vulnerability. Each character is so multi layered and believable that I found myself at various points throughout the narrative both empathising but being exasperated with Rosie and disliking yet understanding Alexa. Ultimately, though, I had compassion for both.

These are strongly- written characters; Leuschel has an innate sense of the way anyone can manipulate others through the facade of friendship and loyalty; even subliminally. Both the internal  and the spoken dialogue are used to give rise to unease and doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is actually the victim in this relationship.  Even the descriptions that give a good sense of place are used to show brilliant interpretation of the emotional weakness of each character.

I would have loved the intricacies of the relationships within the story to have moved more slowly, shift in the strengths and weaknesses between the characters. I felt this novella could easily have been made into a novel. But then, perhaps, it wouldn’t have worked; it is a very intensely controlled friendship so would have always burned out quickly.

There is only one tiny thing I really disliked in this story – and I will admit it sounds trivial and silly but it is a personal aversion; I did not like the word “sniggered” (Alexa sniggered a few times – it drove me mad!) the verb just did not fit in with the image I had of this character. Sorry H.A. Leuschel.

Putting such an inconsequential point to one side  I would certainly recommend My Sweet Friend to any reader; it’s a thought-provoking physiological and gripping read.

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2BpPp9K

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2k7Mw6a

 

About the Author:

H.A. Leuschel

 

Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle by James_D_Dixon #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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Book Description:

In a Scotland beset with depression, Willem is one victim among many. He loses his job, his mother dies and he is forced out of the flat they shared. Seeing no other option, he takes to the streets of Edinburgh, where he soon learns the cruelty felt outside the confines of his comfortable life. Stories from his past are interwoven with his current strife as he tries to figure out the nature of this new world and the indignities it brings. Determined to live freely, he leaves Edinburgh, hiking into the Scottish Highlands to seek solitude, peace and an unhampered, pure vision of life at nature’s breast.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle is at once a lyrical, haunting novel and a set piece in the rage of an oppressed, forgotten community. J. D. Dixon’s sparse, brutal language captures the energy and isolation of desperation, uniting despondency and untrammelled anger in the person of his protagonist.

My Review:

I finished The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle thinking this has to be made into a film. And I’m ashamed to say I finished the book almost a week ago and have dithered on how to review because the emotion that it has stirred in me prevented a rational and objective/subjective ‘putting down words here’. Which delay does the author, James_D_Dixon, no favours at all, I know.

All I can say is that this is a brilliantly compelling read: the author’s stark but totally gripping style, the twists and turns of the story, the layering of the protagonist’s character and the many other characters that people this book and  the multiplicity of themes, all make The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle a novel that stands out…unrivalled in my opinion, especially as  it is a debut novels. But it also hits home… hard. This is a  harsh indictment of our times, of our country, of our humanity. Over the top? I don’t think so (having worked for a short while among such disadvantaged people – I believe the author has researched well.)

A little slow to begin with, the pace of the story then moves inextricably towards the protagonist’s decline, from bewildered homelessness, which instils pity in the reader to a brutal callousness and a total lack of empathy for and with those around him; his thoughts and actions shock and sicken. And yet, for me, the sympathy still hovers for Willem.

A word on the title: at a time when many titles are of one or two words I found this one intriguing. (I’d maybe suggest cut out the word “Unrivalled”?)  

And the cover? Loved the way the protagonist blends in with the brickwork behind him; much as he disappears from the view of those that pass him by.

Would I recommend The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle? You bet!! All I can say to anyone, whatever their usual preferred genre is …  please do read it

 Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2A7LcKw

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2AYug9v

About the author:

J. D. Dixon was born in London in 1990. He studied English Literature and History at Goldsmiths College, University of London, before pursuing a career as a writer. He currently lives with his wife, the psychologist Dr Lauren Hadley, in Edinburgh.

Links to J. D. Dixon: 

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2AxBKNu

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2iYxxOC

I Could Write a Book: A Modern Variation of Jane Austen’s “Emma” by Karen M Cox #RBRT

 

I Could Write a Book: A Modern Variation of Jane Austen's "Emma" by [Cox, Karen M]

Book Description:

For readers of romantic comedy, coming of age, historical romance, Southern fiction)
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich…”
Thus began Jane Austen’s classic, a light and lively tale set in an English village two hundred years ago. Yet every era has its share of Emmas: young women trying to find themselves in their own corners of the world.
I Could Write a Book is the story of a self-proclaimed modern woman: Emma Katherine Woodhouse, a 1970s co-ed whose life is pleasant, ordered, and predictable, if a bit confining.
Her friend George Knightley is a man of the world who has come home to fulfill his destiny: run his father’s thriving law practice and oversee the sprawling Donwell Farms, his family legacy in Central Kentucky horse country.
Since childhood, George’s and Emma’s lives have meshed and separated time and again. But now they’re adults with grown-up challenges and obligations. As Emma orchestrates life in quaint Highbury, George becomes less amused with her antics and struggles with a growing attraction to the young woman she’s become.
Rich with humor, poignancy, and the camaraderie of life in a small, Southern town, I Could Write a Book is a coming of age romance with side helpings of self-discovery, friendship, and finding true love in the most unlikely places.

My Review:

Retelling  a classic in modern times is an interesting concept and one that has worked really well here.  Karen Cox clearly has a talent for this genre and I enjoyed reading this re-working of Jane Austen’s Emma.

I must admit, though, I found I Could Write a Book impossible to review as I normally would review a book. This is a  canonical classic; it is difficult for me to criticise the story of a novel I have long admired.

But here goes…

Told through alternating perspectives of Emma and George Knightley the different depiction of the personalities of each character is well rounded and follows closely to that of Austen’s, though naturally adapted to the setting of Kentucky, during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The juxtaposition of  humour and poignant tenderness is threaded throughout. Nevertheless the actions of the modern strong-willed Emma still brought out the same feelings of exasperation in me as it had in the original Emma. Yet, as before,  I felt empathy and compassion for the character; there is still the underlying naivety there. Though cosseted by her family I also felt protective of her when George Knightley, battling his own feelings towards her, attempts to ‘open her eyes’ to herself.

Good characterisation of both and I also found the supporting characters to be multi-layered, adding to the background and action within the plot. And brought right up to date by the emphasis as much on religion and race as on the class divisions in the original story.

Both the spoken and internal dialogue adds to an understanding of these two friends as the friendship grows into a burgeoning romance- (I liked the way Emma is shown almost as the omniscient narrator through her free indirect language – much in the way Jane Austen shows)

I liked the author’s style of writing and the steady easy pace of the story was reassuringly similar Austen’s.

I Could Write a Book works well and I would urge both readers who are admirers of Jane Austen and those curious to see how a classic can reappear as a contemporary read to discover this book for themselves.

About the Author:

Karen M Cox

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of four full-length novels accented with romance and history: “1932”, “Find Wonder in All Things”, “Undeceived”, and “I Could Write a Book”. “The Journey Home”, an e-book companion novella to “1932” is now available. She also contributed a short story, “Northanger Revisited 2015”, to the anthology, “Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer”, and wrote “I, Darcy”, a short story in “The Darcy Monologues” anthology.
Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.
Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker – like Elizabeth Bennet.
Connect with Karen:
Website: www.karenmcox.com

Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/karenmcox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Night: A Christmas Story Collection by Wendy Clarke #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Silent Night: A Christmas Story Collection by [Clarke, Wendy]

Book Description: ‘Silent Night’ is a collection of thirteen Christmas stories by Wendy Clarke, a regular writer of fiction for national magazines.

I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s review team in exchange for an honest review.

 I gave Silent Night 4* out of 5*

 My Review:

I enjoyed reading these short, sometimes very short, stories around the theme of Christmas. These are tales very much ‘in the moment’, of love lost and found, unrequited love returned, families torn apart and reunited (or about to be), of friendships. All set around Christmas time. They fit neatly into the genre they were written for; as it says in the book description, they are, ” fiction for national magazines”.

Reading to review a collection of such short stories is completely different from reading to review a novel. There are no multi layered characters, no complex plot, no wrestling with an unreliable narrator, no in-depth internal dialogue, no  time for peaks and troughs in the story. Just a good honest telling of a tale with (if not always completely a happy ending), always with a satisfying denouement.

 As such, I settled down to read each one and enjoyed most of them. Wendy Clarke is a good storyteller, I like her style of writing. I loved the depth of emotion she gave to the characters through the dialogue; they were mostly all truly believable.  I especially enjoyed her portrayal of the children; for me she got the dialogue of these perfectly.

And her descriptions and narratives give a good sense of place and era.

What I most admired was the author’s ability to weave the tone of the story into the narrative. Perhaps i should explain by giving a couple of examples:

Silent Night: (the story that gives the collection its title) and  Do You believe in Angels – poignant tales of familial love in wartime. These were my favourites.

Together for Christmas: A lovely humorous story of friendship and empathy.

This collection has obviously been published in time for the Christmas market, although I would certainly recommend Silent Night to any reader who enjoys short stories anytime.

 Love the cover, by the way.

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2zRJvMU

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2yhbqcR 

About the Author:

Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women’s fiction. She started writing when the primary school she taught in closed down and after completing two creative writing courses, began writing short fiction for magazines. Since then, she has sold over two hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food! 

 

A Kiss Before Killing: Nothing can keep the doctor away #TuesdayBookBlog by Keith McCarthy #RBRT

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I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s review team in exchange for an honest review.

I gave A Kiss Before Killing 3* out of 5*

Book description

Each man kills the thing he loves…

Edward Marsham is admitted to the Royal Infirmary having hung himself in his prison cell.

As predicted, he dies.

In the wake of several unexpected deaths at the hospital, however, Dr. Claire Woodforde suspects there is a killer amongst the staff. As Detective Chief Inspector Beverley Wharton and her new sergeant Tom Bayes begin to investigate Marsham’s death, they too start to wonder if it was natural or whether someone…

helped him along.

But as they start to make headway on the case, something much more sinister comes to light.

A body is found in an empty house.

A body without its limbs. And head.

Dr. John Eisenmenger is tasked with examining the torso to uncover clues which will lead to its identity and cause of death; a grisly job even for the most hardened of pathologists.

But as the investigation unfolds, the team discovers that there is much, much worse to come, and in addition, there is growing suspicion that there is a link between the two cases.

This not-for-the-faint-hearted crime thriller shines a light into the darkest recesses of the human soul.

Fans of Patricia Cornwell, Tami Hoag and Tess Gerritsen will be hooked on A Kiss Before Killing.

Praise for A Kiss Before Killing

‘Pacey, well-written medical thriller … the suspense built so that I had to finish it in a sitting’ – Andrew Puckett, bestselling author of Sisters of Mercy

‘Dark and disturbing. Sharp and deliciously violent. A must read’ – Robert White, bestselling author of Breaking Bones

Praise for Keith McCarthy

‘McCarthy lays on the grisly detail with a practising doctor’s detached eye.’ – Publishers Weekly

‘McCarthy handles his material with real brio.’ – Crime Time

‘McCarthy excels at capturing his readers and not letting go until the shocking conclusion … Will appeal to fans of John Harvey’s crime novels’ Library Journal

Keith McCarthy was born in Croydon, Surrey. Educated at Dulwich College and then at St George’s Hospital Medical School, he began practising pathology in 1985 and has done so ever since. Keith is a Consultant Histopathologist in Gloucestershire where he lives with his wife and three daughters. in 1985 and has done so ever since. Keith is a Consultant Histopathologist in Gloucestershire where he lives with his wife and three daughters.

My Review:

From the start it is obvious that the author knows a great deal about cadavers and forensics; there is a lot of detail about the dissection of bodies and the necessary criminal investigation. I didn’t mind reading about those sections; in fact I can deal with grisly as much as the next reader of this genre but it felt rather clinically shown so, as a reader, the dreadfulness of the murders, the horrendous dismemberment, was, for me, portrayed too clinically; there was something emotionally missing.

I liked some of the characters; most were multi – layered. Beverley Wharton is well rounded and the relationship between her and John Eisenmenger is interesting. And we get some insight into her sergeant, Tom Bayes and his background. We also get a good understanding of their  professional environment.  All of which shows that these characters and their relationships to one another could lead to further stories. But I couldn’t quite get a handle on the character of Dr. Claire Woodforde. (I did think this was perhaps what the author intended as, although portrayed as a professional person her interaction with other characters was hesitant and not what I would have expected)

On the whole the dialogue is realistic and shows who was speaking, though it is a little stilted, less realistic, at times.

It’s a good plot. And, generally, well told. The author has a good writing style that carries the story along. But there are too many cliches in the narrative and far too many  metaphors and similes. (and these also slip over into the dialogue occasionally. Which would be fine if it were an idiosyncrasy of only one or two of the characters).

My whole problem with this book was with the editing and the proof reading. I think the book needs another good edit and, certainly, a more exact proofreading.

Once this is done I would certainly recommend A Kiss Before Killing.

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2vZg2ip

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2fbwRDV