GUEST POST TOM BENSON

You will be hearing more from me about Tom Benson in the next few weeks as he’s putting a book of short stories together and he’s included one of mine.

I don’t think this is Tom’s first guest post, as we have been virtual friends for years and it’s thanks to him I have a web site. He helped me so much in the early days.

TOM BENSON AUTHOR PIC 6

Soldier, Retailer, Author

Saying that you spend your time telling tales is akin to admitting you have an illness.

Hello … my name is Tom … and I’m a … writer.”

Hello, Tom.

Yes, it isn’t easy to be open at first, but when a writer’s work earns a few great reviews, it lends legitimacy. No longer are you one of those strange creatures who spend their time living in another world. You are an author, envied by others. You’re earning money from months of toil—perhaps not a lot, but for authors like me, the real reward is knowing from the positive feedback that you have entertained.

There is a widespread notion that writing is an exclusive, even exotic activity. Still, like many things, you can join the club if you’re prepared to put in the time and effort to learn your craft, plus, of course, accept criticism of, as well as credit for your work.

Consider a cake with elaborate decorations. Anyone can gather ingredients and lay them out on a clean surface. It’s the choices of quantity, how those items are blended, and how the mixture is processed, which creates the basic cake. Only with the foundation can the decoration be added; the edible ingredients with which will make it appealing.

Whether it be a short story or novel, there is a sense of fulfillment when you start with a blank screen and with god-like power, create a world from imagination. It must be a believable world with characters, dialogue, and imagery, supported by narrative, a plot, and subplots.

An author can make a book sound exotic. Among my published titles are Ten Days in Panama and Amsterdam Calling.

Continuing with international intrigue, one of my next books will be Czech Mate. In crime thrillers, I can offer such titles as A Taste of Honey set in the USA, or the Beyond The Law trilogy set mainly in Scotland.

I left Glasgow in 1969 aged seventeen and headed to England to join the British Army. While in training, I thought it might well be a short career. During the next twenty-three years, I patrolled streets in Belfast, manned a helicopter-borne camera over Londonderry, and operated a radio in the military train travelling through East Germany from West Berlin. I worked radios all over West Germany, trained young recruits in the UK, and served throughout the first Gulf War.

At the age of forty, I tackled fresh challenges when I became a retail manager. After six months of training, once again, I was in a uniform. I wore a badge and had a team of people who, sometimes with a bit of gentle persuasion performed as I asked.

I changed jobs a few times, going from food and supermarkets to car accessories and then on to stationery which is where I finally settled. Pens, pencils, paper, binders, staplers, punches, printers, laminators and much more besides and I was happy at work for the first time in a long time. As an artist and calligrapher, I was at home. After gaining experience, I spent five years roaming around the UK. I opened new stores and closed failing stores. I had responsibility for hiring, firing, training, disciplining and developing staff, so I enjoyed my second career, which lasted twenty-five years.

I’d always enjoyed reading, and while still in retail, my thoughts turned to a personal dream—to write a book. I’d tried to produce my military memoirs back in the mid-90s, but the writing was awful. By 2010, having read a lot more, I figured I was ready to try creative writing again. I first read several textbooks on the subject.

My poetry online got lots of good reviews. I moved on to short stories and won prizes, both national and international. My first novel was a crime thriller, but the literary creativity was like a drug, I had a burning desire to write for hours every day, at every opportunity.

It was several years and a few books down the line when I revisited those military memories of mine, and I tried again. I describe the tale as fact-based-fiction, but A Life of Choice is a five-ebook series based on my military career. In effect, I researched it over many years but wrote about it only when I had earned my stripes in writing. The story is my top-selling title.

My latest experiment isn’t doing too badly, my post-apocalyptic survival story Light at The End. Thanks to some great feedback, it’s now the first book in a trilogy.

Perhaps I’m biased in believing that to write convincingly you must have experienced highs and lows in life. I always gave my best effort as a soldier and retailer. I still do.

Tom Benson–author.

Now is a great time to pick up one of Tom’s books as he’s reduced them all to $/£0.99 during the Covid crisis – links below:

Website: www.tombensonauthor.com

Blog: www.tombensoncreative.com

Ten Days in Panama: mybook.to/Ten_Days_in_Panama
Amsterdam Calling: mybook.to/Amsterdam_Calling
A Taste of Honey: mybook.to/A_Taste_of_Honey
Light at The End: mybook.to/Light_at_The_End
Beyond The Law – Box Set: mybook.to/BTL_The_Trilogy
A Life of Choice – Box Set: mybook.to/ALOC_BoxSet

Thank you, Tom.

If you would like to be a guest on my blog, post in the comments below, or drop me a message on Facebook.

Lucinda

GUEST POST REBECCA BRYN

I am a massive fan of this week’s guest and I can only shout GET HER BOOKS!  I’ve read all but one, I have her latest on pre-order, and I’m thrilled I asked her to be my guest this week as I see one book I’ve not read – how did that slip through the net?  Over to Rebecca in her own words.

ruth author pic

Thank you, Lucinda, for letting me loose on your blog. According to my document recovery pane, this version was created on January 1st 1601 at 1 o’clock in the morning. I don’t remember being up at 1am, but it was New Year, and the 17th century was pretty boisterous, so maybe…

As you know, I live in West Wales with my husband and rescue dog and love walking and painting in watercolour. Living close to the sea, painting it in all its moods has become second nature. I love the wild beaches and moorlands of Pembrokeshire.

I began writing some fifteen years ago, although I didn’t published my first novel until 2014. So much has happened since then, I can’t believe it has only been six years. I write mainly historical fiction though I’ve dabbled in mystery and post-apocalyptic. I’ve always loved history and am fascinated by the way our past has shaped our present. At school, I studied British history, mainly from the Plantagenet kings to James II of England although the Anglo-Saxon era and the Tudor period were my favourites. As I’ve grown older, it’s been more recent history, especially social history that has drawn me in. It began with me deciding to try to discover if there was any truth in a family story about a poacher who murdered a gamekeeper and was transported to Van Diemen’s Land, and my addiction grew from there.

The tale about the family my mother called ‘loose-knickered, murdering thieves’ was true, the research fascinating, and it spawned an epic love story set in 1841, the trilogy For Their Country’s Good.

From there, I researched my grandfather’s army career and his own love story. He and his horse were sent to Egypt and Palestine during WW1. Again, the research blew me away, taught me much about myself, and gave his wartime mementos – his army fork and two cowrie shells that I treasure – a special significance. The Dandelion Clock was born.

RUTH 1

Not wanting to ignore my father’s family, I researched for Kindred and Affinity and a marriage that went against church law and risked damnation to eternal hell. Surely that must have been true love for people of strong faith to risk damnation?

With any research for a novel, you discover a lot you didn’t suspect and much that shocks – that’s the joy of writing for me, learning something new that increases my understanding of who I am and how my world got where it is. In the time periods about which I’ve written, social injustice, the inequality and lack of rights of women, poverty, and oppression were subjects so ingrained in the periods I couldn’t ignore them, so it’s no surprise that my stories embrace these everyday challenges of the ordinary working people who built Britain by the sweat of their labour. I don’t write about the aristocracy, or royalty, or those in power, just about the lives and loves of the life blood of the country: the farm labourers, the boot makers, the lace makers, the common soldier, the women interred in Auschwitz, the girl left at home looking after the children, the poacher, the doctor, the schoolmistress, the quarry worker, and most recently, the women chainmakers of the Black Country.

Touching the Wire was inspired by a TV news report about Nazi war criminals and my latest book, The Chainmakers’ Daughter, was similarly inspired by a TV article on Flog It!

Can I tell you a bit about the chainmakers? In the early 1900s, women, and girls from the age of about four, full-time from the age of ten, made dog chains, cow chains, and horse traces working in backyard forges. They lived in abject poverty, literally on the bread line as bread was all they could afford. They worked ten or twelve hours a day to earn about four shillings a week – that’s 20p in decimal money. It was enough to buy about twelve to sixteen loaves of bread a week depending on whether the bread was at summer or winter prices. Can you image working some fifty-four to sixty hours for a dozen loaves of bread? I found that shocking. The Chainmakers’ Daughter is Rosie’s story, a girl who joins the fight against the rich chain masters for a legal minimum wage that ended in one of the most important strikes of the 20th century and paved the way for the National Minimum Wage that we enjoy today.

“Some make chains. Some wear them.” Rosie Wallace survives on three slices of bread a day. Scarred by flame and metal, she makes her life as her ancestors have: making chains for the rich chain master, Matthew Joshua. There is no hope for a better future. No hope even for a green vegetable on the table. Her life will be making chains, marrying Jack, the boy she loves, and babies every year. But when an assault by the chain master’s son threatens the very fabric of her tenuous existence, Rosie finds the courage and the reason to fight for her very life and the lives of her family and neighbours. Set in the first decade of the 20th century The Chainmakers’ Daughter is a haunting portrayal of abject poverty, ever-present death, and modern day slavery.

This lovely review was sent me from one of my beta readers, Rachael Wright, author of the Captain Savva Series.

Rebecca Bryn’s The Chainmakers’ Daughter is not only the most vivid and haunting portrayal of the 20th century struggle for workers and women’s rights but it is also timely and a mirror to our own modern struggles. Bryn’s novel is to be lauded for its attention to historical detail and its sharp depiction of true and crippling poverty but it is first and foremost a love story. Rosie Wallace is a woman both out of time and very much in time. Bryn has managed to produce a heroine that is recognizable as a feminist to modern readers and yet not a unicorn to the early 1900s. The Chainmakers’ Daughter is quite simply one of the most compelling and haunting works I have read in years. Characters, vices, and even steel comes alive under Bryn’s fingers and the chain of love she creates is nothing short of miraculous.

To say this made my day is an understatement.

The Chainmakers’ Daughter is available as an e-book now for pre-order at http://mybook.to/ChainmakersDaughter and will be released on June 28th 2020. It will also be available as a paperback.

ruth painting

In a moment of madness, I also wrote an illustrated step-by-step how-to book, Watercolour Seascapes as my alter-ego, Ruth Coulson. Available in paperback only.

Books by Rebecca Bryn: all as e-books and paperbacks.

Historical fiction

http://mybook.to/TouchingtheWire – the women and children of Auschwitz and a man who tied to save them. – ‘Outstanding storytelling.’ IAN Book of the Year 2019. Also available as an audiobook.

http://mybook.to/DandelionClock – war changes everything. Lovers torn apart by WW1. Can their love survive the horrors of war and five years apart? – ‘Totally compelling and unmissable.’

For Their Country’s Good series – three young poachers are convicted of killing a gamekeeper and exiled to Van Diemen’s Land. Ella is the girl who wouldn’t be left behind. – ‘Truly exceptional trilogy from one of the finest writers of our time.’

http://mybook.to/OnDifferentShores

http://mybook.to/BeneathStrangeStars

http://mybook.to/OnCommonGround

and the box set of For Their Country’s Good

http://mybook.to/FTCGboxset

http://mybook.to/KindredandAffinity – When the man you love marries the sister you hate. Annie Underwood lets faith and family bigotry get in the way of love, and lets Edwin go to prevent escalating their families’ war and to save his heart. She is distraught when she loses him to her estranged sister who has no such qualms. ‘Gritty and realistic.’

Mystery

http://mybook.to/SilenceoftheStones – Can Alana discover the secret written in the stones before her daughter is sacrificed by an eccentric old lady? Perjury, wrongful imprisonment, and a tissue of lies. – ‘Beautifully choreographed tale of murder, deceit, and redemption.’

Post-apocalyptic

http://getbook.at/WhereHopeDares – When a young healer is kidnapped to fulfil an ancient prophecy, her husband heads into peril to rescue her and discovers that prophecy can be dangerous. ‘Holy cow!! – What an amazing book.’

Non-fiction by Ruth Coulson

http://mybook.to/WatercolourSeascapes – a how-to book with six detailed step-by-step demonstrations to paint seascapes in watercolour. Tackles the difficult subject of using masking fluid. ‘A lovely book. The techniques work well.’

Website: www.rebeccabrynblog.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rebecca.bryn.novels

Twitter: www.twitter.com/rebeccabryn1

IAN: www.independentauthornetwork.com/rebecca-bryn

Amazon: http://author.to/RebeccaBryn

Thank you for reading, and if you pick up one of my books, I’d love to know what you think of it.

Thank you so much Rebecca for being my guest this week and for such an interesting chat.

If you are an author and would like a guest spot, then leave a comment below, or pm me via Facebook, or through my email, and you can find this on my website.

Lucinda

SO GUILTY

Yes, I’m ashamed since once I begin a project, I’m like a dog with a bone and I don’t let go.

For example, in 1984, when I wrote my first radio script, I had a broadcast time to deliver, and I made it – just. Since then, I’ve never missed one.

During this lockdown, I made my own deadline for getting the next book written and launched. I’ve made it, though it was hard. Like many of us, I just wanted to binge on Netflix and chomp chocolate.

But I set a goal of 3,000 words a day and stuck to it.

Now, in my bumbling fashion, I’m trying to get the word out.

So, why do I feel guilty?

I have not blogged for ages. I’ve promised to write about my travels to Australia and India and I have all the stuff to hand, but I’ve yet to find the energy. Any spare? Please send it over.

The new book?  It’s a sequel to A Year in the Life of Leah Brand.

A gentle, meek, housewife is driven to the edge of madness as objects in the house begin to mysteriously move around. Her best friend Andrea was there for her in the dark times, but then they lost touch.

A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe follows straight on, and although it can be read as a standalone, it makes more sense to read them in order.

“How well do you know your best friend?” What was the attraction between a quiet, insecure housewife and an outrageous, confident, outspoken woman who lived life to the full? Was she all she seemed to be?

Belinda makes an appearance, several in fact – readers told me she was a favourite character. Still sassy, still raiding the fridge and possibly into something a lot more serious.

So, does Andrea have a hidden agenda and if so, what is it?

I’ll be back soon and that’s a promise – guest posts and my travelogue. Just give me a few weeks to get my breath back while I try to tell about 7 billion people, (I’ll settle for 6 billion) that I have a new psychological thriller out.

Take care and stay safe.

 

 

 

Lucinda’s best books of 2019 (3)

Someone asked me how do I choose only a few books from so many? Since my memory went AWOL some time ago, l now list them on a spreadsheet. Those special books I highlight when I review, and I nearly always write up a few words, unless I really didn’t like the book or it was badly written.. All writers adore getting reviews (hint).  The three books in my top 12 this week are:-

PORTRAIT OF STELLA by  Susan Wuthridge

PORTRAIT OF STELLA

After discovering her birth certificate is a fake and there is no record of her existence in the UK database. Jemima Ashton is desperate to discover her real identity. With scant information and the burning question ‘who am I?’, she embarks on an incredible journey of detection. On learning of her late mother Stella’s disappearance during WWII, she retraces her footsteps across the globe and at a distant vineyard, unearths a family she had no idea existed.
While treading a path of narrow-minded bigotry, scandalous revelations emerge of two families inextricably linked by one woman and the drastic steps they took to hide the truth.

I didn’t think I was going to even like this book, but I loved it. I loved it so much I spent a whole day immersed flicking the pages as fast as I could. This is an excellent story, carefully crafted, exciting and packed with lots of information. Having lived in South Africa, I was aware of the apartheid rules and regulations – if you did not experience that, it will be a real eye-opener. The plot is quite complex but all the loose ends are tied up leading to a very satisfactory conclusion. The pace was fast, but the words flowed and I raced through the book through the eyes of both Stella and Jemima. The book grabs you from the first chapter when Jemima finds out that she is not who she thought she was and thus begins her search to discover her past. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QGDX9Y/

ONLY THE GOOD by Rosemary Reeve

ONLY THE GOOD

The third book in the Jack Hart series follows on nicely from books one and two but it can be read as a stand-alone. We meet up again with Jack, the kind-hearted litigator, his girlfriend and long-time friend Mark, not forgetting Betsy the dog with attitude. Mark is still hating his job in the Seattle law firm, but he finds himself in deep water when he is suspected of murder. He might be able to prove his innocence on one killing but then the bodies begin to pile up. Adding to this Jack’s family, a family he didn’t know he had, is involved and he finds himself in conflict on both sides of the law. Extra suspicion falls on Jack when it is revealed that he has inherited the family business, the mansion, a holiday home, and several yachts.
Rosemary Reeve has written another action-packed, fast-moving novel. The reader cannot help but love Jack and his friends, even the golden-haired almost out of control Betsy. The plot is tight, the words follow effortlessly and the scenes are described with just the right amount of detail, not too much but enough to take you into each location. The storyline had me guessing as the murders add up and suspicion falls on Jack time and time again. It does not help when the police in Bellingham are determined to pin all the crimes on Jack. At the same time, Jack is struggling with his own demons, about his past childhood in a selection of foster homes and his desperate desire to know who his parents were – all is not what it seems.      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DDFS2QJ/ref

WILD CHILD   by Ian Mathie

Ian Mathie was an entertaining raconteur and writer who told his true-life stories with great vigour and enthusiasm. He had an amazing memory and was able to recall the smallest details, even from his early childhood. His life was packed with unusual experiences and adventures in distant places with strange people, wild animals, danger and fun.

When Ian Mathie sadly passed away some months ago, the world lost one of the last adventurers who grew up and loved the African continent and its people in the mid 19th Century. I have avidly read all of this author’s books and this last one, completed by his family in collaboration with his publishers, tells the story of Ian’s early days growing up in the bush. It recounts the freedoms, the adventures, and the creatures, running wild without a care in the world. His voice shines through on every page painting vivid pictures of a rural missionary school and the exacting punishments he received. He tells us of his African friends, getting to grips with a new language and the culture shock of boarding school back in Britain. Reading Wild Child takes you to Africa, surrounding you with the dust, the smells, the atmosphere of those vast areas densely populated with wildlife and vegetation. The book is a must-read for all those who have visited, lived there or who simply want to experience a world very different from any other continent on earth.

I should mention my books, shouldn’t I? I have penned 3 memoirs, one fairy tale for adults, a five-book adventure series set in Africa and my latest one is a psychological thriller set in England. Click here for my Amazon author page.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

 

LUCINDA’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019 (2)

Last year, 2018, I set my Goodreads reading challenge to 100 books. I only managed to achieve that by cramming in a couple of children’s books in December – well I wasn’t really cheating, was I? This year and last I read more than the totals as I could not include beta reading or other books that were not yet published.

In 2019 to take a little pressure off I lowered it to 80 books and that is a much easier target to reach, I’m already there.

I have traveled back in time, returned to Africa several times, lurked behind pillars in the Vatican, and again and racked my brains wondering ‘who done it’?

Here are the next three books I loved.

CONCLAVE  by Robert Harris 

conclave

I’m very curious about the Vatican with all its secrets, mysteries and the men who live there – those who are genuine in their beliefs and those who worship power more than God. I loved this book and read it in one day. The pope is dead, and behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours, one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth. I also learned much about the rituals involved when voting for a new pope and it was not as I had imagined. Why did I think they were all locked in one chapel for days on end? Why did I believe they might not be able to talk to outsiders in those days? This book explains a lot and the ending? While I was still debating – it had me fooled – as to who were the good guys – the ending was explosive and made me laugh out loud.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1784751839

THE DUNG BEETLES OF LIBERIA  by  Daniel V Meier JR

dung beetles

I loved this book for its sheer honesty especially in an age where so many people are just willing and waiting to criticize and contradict and pc speech is strangling our literature. This book set in Liberia in the 1970s cannot be questioned, it tells of a time period well before we could all immediately find out the ‘facts’ as they now appear on the world wide web.

The Dung Beetles of Liberia is the story of a young college undergraduate at Cornell who drops out of school to take a job flying planes in Liberia. He leaves behind his astonished family and his almost-fiancé in a bid to escape the demons that plague him over the death of his brother. He’s learned that Liberia is one of the richest countries in Africa and has high expectations of what he will find there. America had repatriated many slaves in the 1800s and established a democracy and infrastructure. What young Kenneth found was the true state of Africa with its own interpretation of life, morals, and ethics. It shocks him to the core. Life is cheap, the hierarchy is absolute, the poor are driven to the point of extinction and he finds himself rubbing shoulders with other hard-drinking, wild and unprincipled expatriates.
The book is based on a true account of life there at the time – which I suspect has changed very little. This is possibly the most honest tale of Africa I have ever read. It is not as politically correct as other books set in similar places, but the author brilliantly highlights the cheapness of life, the lack of compassion, the willingness of the poor and downtrodden to accept their lot in life. Many readers may simply not believe the tales told with such pathos and humour but I can assure them that life is as wild and undisciplined as they are recounted. Kenneth Verrier is a typical young American from a good family who is shocked to the core with what he encounters. Flying small planes delivering equipment to the mines – and a little diamond smuggling on the side – paying no attention to overloading, air traffic rules, non-existent runways and centre of gravity safety regulations. Little by little Kenneth learns to adapt but never loses his humanity. He is a likable hero, and tells his story simply, honestly and clearly. This book is one of the best I have read in a long, long time and find it difficult to believe the author did not spend most of his life in Africa as he has grasped the problems, the customs, and the mindset so truthfully. Highly recommend reading – in fact this should be on the prescribed reading list of every high school as a window on a continent with a different way of life and a different mindset. Welcome to the world of Africa.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1945448377

THE OPIUM LORD’S DAUGHTER  by  Robert Wang

THE OPIUM LORDS DAUGHTER

Moving continent to Asia, the author, now living in the United States, writes of a historical period in the land of his ancestors. In an east meets west scenario we meet the family of Lord Lee Shao Lin, his daughter Su-Mei and his number one son Lee da Ping during the time of the opium Wars between Britain and China. Many people may not know of the travesty of this unevenly fought war when the British navy attacked China to ensure uninterrupted trade in tea, porcelain, silks, and spices. Since China had no need to import anything from the west, the currency used to buy Chinese goods was Chinese silver which the British obtained by illegally importing opium into China. Everyone was involved, the Chinese merchants, the corrupt customs officials, the addicts who would do what it took to obtain more of the drug. But then the Emperor issued a decree to halt the trade and the troubles begin. At this time, Sue-Mei meets Travers Higgins from Yorkshire and falls in love – a cross-cultural affair unheard of and disapproved of in 1840. The stage is set for an explosive story in more ways than one.

The Opium Lord’s Daughter is one of the best books I have read this year. I read it in a day and a half and loved every bit of it. The characters leaped off the pages, I connected with Sue-Mei the heroine and the words flowed effortlessly. For the hours I was engrossed in this book I was living in the 1800s in China, surrounded by the sights and smells, the customs and the laughter and sorrow of the young couple and her family. The historical information was woven seamlessly into the story and I suspect the author researched the facts thoroughly, backed up by the pictures in the back of the book featuring many of the real characters mentioned at the time. A fairly balanced argument from both sides highlights the greed and avarice and arrogance of man which has not changed one iota in the last two thousand years. I highly recommend this book, and I shall file it away to read again in the future.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T2N4GK9/

Have you checked out my books? Memoirs, humour, action-adventure and my new psychological thriller. This link will take you to my Amazon author page.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

 

 

 

BOOK AWARDS 2019

I have been very quiet on my blog this year. Keeping up with social media on Facebook and Twitter, writing more books and (attempting to) market them plus the twice a week blogging wore me out. Life also gets in the way too, and I’ve even ventured out of the house a few times in between.

However, as I do every year, I could not ignore sharing my favourite books from 2019 with you.

In no particular order, over the next 4 weeks these are the reads that have blown me away over the last 12 months. The books I didn’t want to end, where I was in awe of the author’s skill, or, the story was simply amazing.

OF KNIGHTS AND DOGFIGHTS  Ellie Midwood

DOG FIGHTS

In 1938 four young men join the flying school at Schwechat near Vienna. From different backgrounds, they all share a love of flying for the freedom and the danger. We meet Johann and Willi, complete opposites, Rudi and Walt who is half Jewish. When war breaks out, they are sent out to fight for Germany in Europe, North Africa, and later on the Eastern Front. Not all of them survive the war, but long before it is over, they begin to question the reasons and rationale and whether they are fighting for the right side. They have doubts about the Nazi regime, the sanity of Hitler and the lies and propaganda they are expected to believe.
When I chose this book to review, I was not sure I would enjoy it as much as this author’s other novels. I am a great fan of Ellie’s work and this is one of her best. She did not disappoint. This is not a ‘man’s’ book despite its detailed description of the dog fights, the handling of the planes and the aerial tactics. Topics of friendship, beliefs, morals, and comradeship are all explored as these teenagers fly one mission after another. The slow dawning of what part these brave young men were being forced to play on the chessboard of an insane man’s dreams was masterful. In places I smiled, in others, my eyes filled with tears. Ms Midwood knows how to spin her words as she takes you to the desert in North Africa then to the frozen wastelands of Russia. She pulls no punches in describing the brutality, the gut-wrenching scenes against the backdrop of a shameful period in history. What made this book really special for me was the realization that while the Nazis / Germans have been vilified for the part they played in World War II there were many fine, upstanding people who did not share those beliefs and stuck to their values until the very end and even beyond. I was amazed to read that the two main characters were based on the lives of real people who flew for the Luftwaffe. I can’t praise this book highly enough. It stands head and shoulders above any other World War II novel I’ve ever read.    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KX56ZJK

AMONG THE MASAI  Juliet Cutler

among masai

Among the Masai by Juliet Cutler is a memoir recounting the two years the author spent living and teaching in Tanzania at the end of the 1990s. Arriving with preconceived ideas and expectations, nothing was as she had imagined. She describes her feelings of being ‘on show’ her white skin making her very conspicuous, the shock at the levels of poverty, the comparison with the society in which she had grown up. While there were mental challenges to adjust to there were also the practical problems too – shortage of water, no internet, lack of familiar foods and necessities, the dangers of the local wildlife. Traveling with her fiancé, Juliet was seconded to the first Secondary School for Girls catering to the Masai, a partly nomadic tribe spread across Kenya and Tanzania and viewed by other tribes in those countries as primitive. It had taken months of negotiations to set up and run a school.

Like many young people traveling overseas to third world countries to work among the disadvantaged, Juliet’s wish was to help educate and uplift the lives of the young girls she was employed to teach English. Fresh out of college, with little experience she had no idea what to expect. This book is beautifully written and should be on the prescribed reading list for all schools to create an understanding of a culture that is so often misunderstood. I could relate to her experiences, applaud her soul searching and her questioning of whether foreign aid is a blessing or a curse. She understands the fine balance between imposing an alien culture and gently easing young people into the modern world. Encountering practices such as FGM, child marriage and girls sold for a few cows were a culture shock and she shares her sorrow and triumphs with the young girls she grew to love. As she says, you will always have Africa inside you. A wonderful book, it made me laugh and cry as I feverishly turned the pages. A book written with love which showed great empathy.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L973RQM

THE LAST CALIPH  by T L Williams

last caliph

The Last Caliph is the fourth book in the Logan Alexander series and it takes the reader from the United States to Turkey and Syria as Logan goes undercover to track down the current Caliph who is continuing to run ISIS operations. While the President of the US has announced that ISIS has been defeated and is preparing to withdraw the American troops, Logan and his old allies at the CIA are not convinced. At great risk to himself, and despite strained relations between himself and his wife, Logan arrives in Turkey with the idea of crossing the border into Syria, with the help of a young Muslim woman who supports the extremist regime. The subplot involves Logan’s brother in law and adds an extra twist to the book. This is an excellent, on the edge of your seat story, the pace and action never let up. I was compelled to read this at almost one sitting. The book is crammed with technical details which only someone who was totally familiar with weaponry, aircraft and espionage techniques first hand could produce. This lends the book authenticity and takes it out of the realm of the usual run of the mill spy story. The author has created a believable character in Logan Alexander. While accomplishing his mission, he remains down to earth and human. There is no extraneous detail, just enough to inform the reader without slowing the story which gallops from beginning to end. I loved the realism, the possibility that the events could take place and all the loose ends were tied up and followed through.       https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P222SRH

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Three more books next week.