Posts Tagged ‘ww1’

Unravelled: Two Wars. Two Affairs. One Marriage.

M K Tod

unravelledTwo wars, two affairs, one marriage. 

In October 1935, Edward Jamieson’s memories of war and a passionate love affair resurface when an invitation to a WWI memorial ceremony arrives. Though reluctant to visit the scenes of horror he has spent years trying to forget, Edward succumbs to the unlikely possibility of discovering what happened to Helene Noisette, the woman he once pledged to marry. Travelling through the French countryside with his wife Ann, Edward sees nothing but reminders of war. After a chance encounter with Helene at the dedication ceremony, Edward’s past puts his present life in jeopardy. When WWII erupts a few years later, Edward is quickly caught up in the world of training espionage agents, while Ann counsels grieving women and copes with the daily threats facing those she loves. And once again, secrets and war threaten the bonds of marriage. With events unfolding in France, England and Canada, UNRAVELLED is a compelling novel of love, duty and sacrifice set amongst the turmoil of two world wars.

This is a novel based on turbulent times and dealing with conflicting emotions. We meet Edward and Ann, a Canadian married couple, in the year of 1936 when Edward has been invited to attend the unveiling of the war memorial at Vimy Ridge, one of the places Edward fought in during the 1st World War. For Edward this invitation sparks a flood of carefully buried memories and emotions of fighting in the trenches and his role in the Signals. Through his flashbacks we are flung into the violent, unstable and vital role of front line soldiering in this hideous environment. Tod eloquently describes the sights and smells and laces them with the strong mix of emotions that must have been experienced at the time, fear and courage walk hand in hand and the struggles of survival were movingly written.

Edward also remembers his lost French love Helene and his motivation to go back to Vimy Ridge and face all the difficulties from his part is largely motivated by his desire to see her again and to find out what happened to her. From this springboard we jump into finding out about Edward’s marriage to Ann and his conflict about his longing to find Helene despite having a wife and children.

As time moves on in the present and the 2nd War looms Edward is again assaulted by recollections of the hardship and those lost, accompanied by the fear of what might happen to those he knows now. As this time Edward is called into service behind the scenes, training people to work with The Resistance in Europe, the look at the war is very different, but again utterly fascinating. There is an abundance of detail woven into the story telling, and it is done with skill and compassion for the terrible situations.

Despite all his faults I really liked Edward. I felt for him in his difficulties and wanted him to overcome the challenges that came his way. In my imagined world of that era his reserve and stoicism fit right in. I found it took longer to like Ann, but she won me over as she copes with her husband’s reactions to war, his affair and plays her own part in helping others in WW2, counselling bereaved women. As Edward and Ann’s relationship is further tested it is easy to see how they represent the struggles of many families in wartime. This novel being set in Canada made it a little different from other war novels I have read set in Europe and I was caught up in the fresh perspective this gave.

I found that in this novel the experiences of Edward as a soldier and his struggles in his personal life are interwoven in a very realistic and compelling way. Equally Ann has much to cope with and her dilemma’s and hardships are so believable.

Verdict: It was a great blend of personal journey’s and world wide drama.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Tod Publishing
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 442/698KB
Genre: Historical fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: None
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The Sweetest Dark

Shana Abe

the sweetest dark cover art“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.”
Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heart full of secrets: she hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.
England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.
Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbours a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future and both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.
Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.

The first thing that drew my attention to The Sweetest Dark was the stunning cover. A beautiful girl in a gorgeous dress is a common occurrence in the YA book cover world. But in this incidence, it was the mysterious sweep of smoke, appearing to form the dress itself, which added an intriguing and original element to the cover, tempting me to investigate the synopsis.

While I found the earlier part of Lora’s life interesting, providing essential background to her strength of character and realism to the world building- how would society react to a sensitive child with an ambiguous past with unusual abilities and no social filter? -It wasn’t until Lora arrived at Iverson collage, with its impressive façade, secret passages, snobbish inhabitants and of course two very different, but equally compelling boys, that I truly got sucked in to the story.

Don’t be mistaken to believing that this is another frustrating love triangle to survive (I have complicated love-hate feelings toward s love triangles), there is no battle between “Team Jesse” and “Team Armand” to capture the fair maidens heart. It is very clear from the start where Lora’s affections lie. However, both Jesse, the golden haired, selfless, self assured and wise, groundskeeper, and snarky Lord Armand, who’s contrasting darkness isn’t only due to his hair color, have equally important roles to play in Lora’s acceptance of her true nature and her other than normal life.

I really enjoyed the early 20th century setting. Not only did the time period became even more significant as the story unfolded, but I also found it really interesting to explore the additional challenges a non-contemporary setting provided. Lora has to hide her unusual abilities and fledgling relationship from everyone while coming to terms with the life altering discovery of her true nature and she has to do so in an environment divided by social class and gender inequality, on the cusp of medical advances in psychiatry, while the ominous cloud of WWI provides an underlying tension.

Abe’s writing is beautiful. Lyrical prose and lush descriptions combined with the characters’ unique sensory perspective combine together to create an absorbing world. The romance was sweet and intense. While I will happily read steamy, descriptive adult scenes, I also love when an author has the ability wrap me so entirely within a romance, that they are able to induce exquisite, butterfly in stomach, heart racing tension from a simple brush of fingertips .

Verdict: Once caught in it’s clutches, I found myself racing through the pages of The Sweetest Dark and as soon as I had finished I found myself online investigating the sequel. Scheduled for publication in August, The Deepest Night is high up on my wish list.

Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: April 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 352
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, WWI
Age: Young Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut (YA)
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In The Shadow Of Blackbirds

Cat Winters

shadow of backbirdsDoes proof of the spirit world exist?
It’s 1918. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, the government ships young men overseas to the front lines, and neighbor accuses neighbor of spying for the enemy. In this stew of fear and confusion, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and “spirit photographers” for comfort. She has never believed in ghosts, but during her bleakest moment she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love – a boy who died in battle – returns to her as a spirit. Why has he returned? And what does he want from Mary Shelley?
Illustrated with haunting early-twentieth century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a time eerily like our own.

The story begins with a long train journey from Portland to San Diego. Mary Shelley is moving to live with her aunt because her father was arrested and her mother had passed away some time ago. The train stinks of onions (widely believed at the time to prevent flu), and everyone is hiding behind their masks, mortally afraid of every cough and sneeze. Mary Shelley passes the time reading letters from her sweetheart Stephen, who has gone to war in Europe. As an opening chapter, it’s a well thought out way to set the scene and atmosphere of paranoia without heavy exposition.

As the book continues, we meet her Aunt Eva, who lives with her pet magpie, Oberon, works in the local shipyard and seems to spend the rest of her time making onion soup to ward off the flu. Eva likes Stephen’s older brother Julius, a spirit photographer who Mary Shelley already clearly dislikes and believes is a fraud. Mary Shelley meets Mr Darning, another local photographer who specialises in debunking spirit photography, though has so far failed to find any trickery in Julius’ studio.

After getting to meet the characters, we learn that Stephen has been killed in battle, and this is where the book really gets started. As the back cover says, Stephen starts to appear as a ghost to Mary Shelley, seemingly terrified of birds. The rest of the book depicts Mary Shelley becoming increasingly more determined and desperate to help Stephen to rest in peace, with some decent twists and turns along the way. A lot of the characters turn out to be not who they seem at first, and the final revelations are not ones I could have guessed.

When I first read the back cover, I half expected this book to be a silly romance between a young girl and the ghost of her boyfriend, but I’m happy to report that it’s far more interesting and worth reading than that. It draws interesting parallels with modern life – the irrational beliefs people have in placebo remedies for fatal illnesses; how shellshock, or post-traumatic stress disorder as it is now called, is seen as something to be ashamed of, rather than a mental illness that needs proper treatment and support.

One thing that isn’t so convincing in the book is the ages of Mary Shelley and Aunt Eva. Mary Shelley seems far too mature for her age of sixteen, whereas Eva reminds me of my Nan, not a woman in her mid-twenties as the text states. Perhaps people become more mature in desperate times of war and illness, but I’m not completely convinced by the book’s portrayal. That’s not to say they’re bad characters though.

The novel is apparently aimed at ages 12 and up, though I’d say it’s a little too gruesome for that age. It feels more like an adult novel to me than what would normally be in the YA category.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 416
Genre:Historical fiction, Mystery
Age: YA
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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