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Prisoner Of Night And Fog by Anne Blankman

November 20, 2014 in Books, Fiction

prisonerofnightandfog

Munich in 1931 is a dangerous place, no matter who you are.

For Gretchen Muller, Hitler is ‘Uncle Dolf’ and he’s always been there for her throughout the turmoil of her family’s past. But no, as his hold over Germany strengthens, he will be forever changed in her  eyes. She will do anything to uncover the truth, even at the risk of everything she’s ever known…

The blurb on the back of the book instantly had me intrigued, and I have to tell you once I started reading I found it hard to stop!  So what’s it all about? Well Gretchen lives with her mother and her brother in a boarding house in Munich. Her mother runs the boarding house, their livelihood since the death of Gretchen’s father 8 years ago.

Her father was a member of the National Socialist Party and was a close friend of Adolf Hitler. He died a martyr, killed by bullets that should have struck Hitler. Her father’s death has ensured that the Mullers have the protection of Hitler and his party.

Gretchen has always called him Uncle Dolf. He’s always been there for her, bringing her gifts, teaching her about the arts, taking her for days out. He has educated her on the ways of the world; warned her about the dangers that the Jews pose to Germany.  She has been brainwashed, although of course she doesn’t realise that.

Then one day she meets a Jew. A Jew who tells her that her father didn’t die so that Hitler may live; he was murdered. Gretchen’s world is turned upside down. Can she believe what this Jew is telling her? After all she has been well warned by Uncle Dolf as to how poisonous the Jews are. But if there’s even the slightest chance that it’s true, shouldn’t she find out? Shouldn’t she know the truth of her father’s death?

She knows that she absolutely cannot be seen talking to the Jew, who by the way has a name, Daniel, and seems really nice. So she proceeds to investigate her father’s death, in secrecy, with the help of Daniel. She uncovers far more than she ever expected and the whole foundation that she has built her life upon is broken. She’s been lied to. She’s been brainwashed, and Uncle Dolf certainly isn’t that kindly uncle that she always thought of him as.

Anne Blankman has certainly done her research for this novel. Although the Muller family, and various other characters, are purely fictitious, the story is built around real historical events. Personally, I think Blankman has done this beautifully. She has seemlessly combined fact and fiction, and for me, really captured how a young German girl raised under the Nationalist Socialist Party might feel.

The character of Gretchen is a fascinating one. Blankman develops this character beautifully from Hitler’s pet, a girl who has never spoken to a Jew, to a girl who realises that Jews are people too and that perhaps Hitler isn’t exactly who she thought he was.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I enjoyed the fast pace, the historical background, the mystery and psychological aspects of this book.  In fact I am desperate to read the next one but we’ll have to wait until Spring 2015 for that.

Thank you to Headline Books and Bookbridgr for sending over a copy for review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and, as always, completely honest.

A Day For Remembering

November 11, 2014 in Personal

Today is a day for remembering. Remembering those who have fought for our country, those who still fight for our country. A day to remember those who have died and a day to remember those whose lives changed forever.

Since words fail me on this day I’ve chosen to share three of my favourite poems with you.
 
My first is so famous it requires no introduction.
 
In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
 

My second is An Iolaire / The Iolaire by Iain Crichton Smith. On the 1st January 1919 300 men were heading home to the Isle of Lewis after 4 years at war on board the HMY Iolaire. Less than a mile from home the ship  got into trouble and sank. 205 young men who had survived WWI lost their lives within sight of their home island.

 
The Iolaire
Iain Crichton Smith
 
The green washed over them. I saw them when 
the New Year brought them home. It was a day
that orbed the horizon with an enigma.
It seemed that there were masts. It seemed that men
buzzed in the water round them. It seemed that fire
shone in the water which was thin and white
unravelling towards the shore. It seemed that I
touched my fixed hat which seemed to float and then
the sun illuminated fish and naval caps,
names of the vanished ships. In sloppy waves,
in the fat of water, they came floating home
bruising against their island. It is true
a minor error can inflict this death
that star is not responsible. It shone
over the puffy blouse, the flapping blue
trousers, the black boots. The seagulls swam
bonded to the water. Why not man?
The lights were lit last night, the tables creaked
with hoarded food. They willed the ship to port
in the New Year which would erase the old,
its errant voices, its unpractised tones.
Have we done ill, I ask? My sober hat
floated in the water, my fixed body
a simulacrum of the transient waste,
for everything was mobile, planks that swayed,
the keeling ship exploding and the splayed
cold insect bodies. I have seen your church
solid. This is not. The water pours
into the parting timbers where ache
above the globular eyes. The lsack heads turn
ringing the horizon without a sound
with mortal bells, a strange exuberant flower
unknown to our dry churchyards. I look up.
The sky begins to brighten as before,
remorseless amber, and the bruised blue grows
at the erupting edges. I have known you, God,
not as the playful one but as the black
thunderer from the hills. I kneel
and touch this dumb blonde head. My hand is scorched.
Its human quality confuses me.
I have not felt such hair so dear before
not seen such real eyes. I kneel from you.
This water soaks me. I am running with
its tart sharp joy. I am floating here
In my black uniform, I am embraced
by these green ignorant waters. I am calm 
 
My final poem is also a well known Gaelic song. It was written in memory of Gordon MacPherson, a 21 year old from Argyll who lost his life in the Falklands War, in June 1982.
 
It’s one of my favourite Gaelic songs, you can listen to is here under “Eist”.
Nam Aonar Le Mo Smaointean 
(Alone With My Thoughts)
 
 
Nam aonar le mo smaointean
‘S a’ ghaoth tighinn bho thuath,
Grian òr-bhuidh’ mar ghrìosaich
Cur teine air chuan;
Na caoraich sholt cho sàmhach
Len àl sa chnoc mhòr,
Ciaradh feasgair cur a glòir
Air faileas dubh le òr.

 
Na sabhalan fàs gun mullach
Na taighean bha làn,
An-diugh cho fuar ‘s cho falamh
Am fearann dol bàn;
Gun chrann ann, gun speal ann
Gun lìon ann, gun bhàt’,
Èigheach cogaidh a thug bhuainn
Na balaich thuit sa bhlàr.


Ma chlaoidh sinne nàmhaid
An-dràst’ faic prìs buaidh,
Cridhe màthar cràidhte
‘S na gillean san uaigh;
Cha dèan cliù no onair
Treabhadh dhuinn no buain,
Cianail, falamh, sìth a’ bhàis
Cha till na fir chaidh uainn.

 
Aig uaigh fhuar Mhic a’ Phearsain
‘S an sneachda air Peighinn Phùir,
Chluich a’ phìob port thuiridh
Am peilear bhrag cruaidh;
An cogadh faoin nam Falklands
Thuit Gòrdan ro òg,
‘N-uiridh, balach san sgoil àrd;
An-diugh, a bhàs ar leòn.

 
A’ ghrian tha dol sìos oirnne
Air prèiridh cur blàiths,
Oidhche tha gar dùnadh
Dùsgadh do chàch;
Aig feasgar dorch ar cùrsa
Feith’ dùsgadh là mhòir,
Ciaradh maidne cur a glòir
Air faileas dubh le òr.


Iain MacLeod
 

 
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.”
For The Fallen, Laurence Binyon

 

The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah

November 7, 2014 in Books, Fiction

The Telling Error

All she wanted to do was take her son’s forgotten sports kit to school.

So why does Nicki Clements drive past the home of controversial newspaper columnist Damon Blundy eight times in one day? Blundy has been murdered, and the words ‘HE IS NO LESS DEAD’ daubed on his wall – in red paint, not blood. And though Blundy was killed with a knife, he was not stabbed. Why?

Nicki, called in for questioning, doesn’t have any of the answers. Nor can she tell the police the truth, because although she is not guilty of murder, she is far from innocent. And the words on the wall are disturbingly familiar to her, if only she could remember where she has heard them before…

This is the first Sophie Hannah novel I’ve read, and I have to say that I did really enjoy it. Nicki Clements is a wife and mother. When her son forgets his PE kit Nicki sets off to deliver it to him at school. However on the journey she finds that traffic is being stopped by the police, and one of those policemen is him. She doesn’t want to see him, can’t face him after what happened and so she does a u-turn and takes a long way to the school.

It turns out that the police were questioning people about the murder of newspaper columist Damon Blundy, and by performing that u-turn she has caught the attention of the police. Desperate to avoid getting into trouble with the police, and to keep her secrets hidden from her husband, Nicki lies to the police. It’s this lie, this error, that further focuses the police’s attention onto her.

First things first, this is a clever book. I like the way the story builds. The unanswered questions accumulate, and as a reader I found myself trying to piece it all together. I failed by the way. However, I found Nicki Clements to be an incredibly irritating character. Obviously she is meant to be on edge, nervous of being found out and this comes across well. It’s just I felt like there were almost too many unanswered questions about her, and reference was being made, repeatedly, to these ‘things’ she had done. Of course there are two sides to this, building up the curiosity, the reader’s mind going into overdrive trying to figure out Nicki’s secrets, but I think there’s a point when it becomes too much and I felt that with the character of Nicki.

That said, I really enjoyed the mystery of the book. I loved the way it was structured, with some of Blundy’s articles included, as well as the email correspondence of other characters. We don’t ever meet Blundy but by reading his articles we start to see some glimpes of his personality and I think that’s a really clever addition.

Despite feeling irritated by Nicki I couldn’t put this book down; I had to know the answers! Once I finished the book and had the answers I then reflected upon the story and realised just how well crafted this novel is. It’s a good read, and when I got passed the phase of wanting to punch Nicki in the face, I enjoyed it.

Thank you to Bookbridgr for sending over a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely our own and completely honest.

Bagabook Tote Bag Review & Giveaway (INTL)

October 30, 2014 in Accessories, Current Giveaways, Discount Code, Promotion

Back in March (yes, it really was that long ago!) we shared the magnificent Bagabook with you. Bagabook have added some brand new products to their range and we have been lucky enough to receive one of them to review. What’s more Bagabook are giving YOU the chance to win one for yourself so keep reading for all the details.

New BB and name Logo 3

If you aren’t yet familiar with Bagabook then let me quickly tell you a bit about them. They started out creating bags that hold your book. Perfect for a commute, you can flick open your bag and read the book while it sits inside. I have one and it is awesome! Fair enough I don’t commute, or really leave the house, but for me I find it perfect for transporting my book about the house with me. Carrying a book while in pain and trying to walk with my stick is a challenge, but the Bagabook is perfect for me as I can just pop it over my shoulder! Honestly, it’s brilliant.

Bagabook Classic C0015 Side

one of the classic Bagabooks

Today’s post though is about their new products so I’ll try to restrain myself from gushing over my love of their classics. Bagabook have recently released three new design ranges: Candy Stripe, Liquorice and Bouquet. Each range is available as a book cover, tote bag, iPad pouch and scarf, so there’s something for everyone, or you could collect the lot!

new products

new range from Bagabook

Bagabook kindly sent a sample of their Candy Stripe Tote Bag and I have to say that I really like it!

Bagabook Tote

Candy Stripe Tote Bag – £39.95

The bag is really bright and cheerful. To me, it’s more of a spring/summery bag but that hasn’t stopped me from using it over the past month. It’s roomy and good quality. The handles and the base of the bag are made of a leather-type material which is really nice and durable. The handles are comfortable on the shoulder, and the buckles mean that you can adjust the handle if you so wish (there are two holes to choose from).

The bag is fastened with a magnetic clasp and the interior lining is that same gorgeous pink colour. Inside there are two pockets for easy access to your phone or keys or whatever it is you like to have on hand. There’s also a zipped interior pocket which is a good size and offers added security.

All-in-all it’s a really nice tote bag – perfect for popping to the shops or perhaps to take on holiday with you. To celebrate the launch of the new range the lovely folk at Bagabook are giving you the chance to win an item of your choice from the new range and it’s OPEN INTERNATIONALLY! You’ll get to choose whether you’d like the book cover, tote bag, iPad pouch or scarf in one of the new designs (Candy Stripe, Liquorice or Bouquet). To enter the giveaway simply use the Rafflecopter entry form below.

There is is one mandatory entry, all the rest are optional. Obviously the more you do, the more entries you have into the giveaway. Please do be honest with your entries though, we do verify all entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

If you can’t wait to get your hands on one of these gorgeous bags, or indeed anything from the new range, Bagabook have offered Strupag readers an exclusive discount code to receive 20% off your order (minimum order of 18.95). To take advantage of this offer just use the code STRUPAG20 at the checkout!

For more information about Bagabook, check out their website.

Thank you to Bagabook for providing us with a sample tote bag and for providing the prize for this giveaway. All opinions expressed are, as always, completely honest and entirely our own.

Project Brabham – Be A Part Of It

October 29, 2014 in Gifts, Promotion, Sport, Technology

Many readers will know that prior to becoming ill I was an engineer. I studied Electrical & Mechanical engineering at University and worked as an engineer until my health made it far too hard for me to continue. I’m sure I will get back into the field some day though, whenever I beat this thing! Anyway, coupled with my interest in engineering I was, and am, a huge fan of motorsport. I did my first rally (as a navigator) when I was 16, and continued until it no longer became possible. I loved it! These days my participation goes as far as watching it on the TV or a live stage via webcam, but my interest is still very much there…if you follow me on Twitter you’ll know just how much I love my sport.

So when I heard about Project Brabham, my interest was immediately piqued. Could this be a way for me to still feel part of motorsport and engineering, but from the comfort of my bed? Well, let me tell you a bit about the Project.

 

Even if you aren’t a petrolhead I’m sure you will be familiar with the name Sir Jack Brabham. He was an Australian racing driver, a triple F1 World Champion and one of the founders of the Brabham racing & constructor teams. The Brabham team was extremely successful, not only in F1 but across motor racing. In its latter days the team boasted F1 drivers such as Martin Brundle, Damon Hill and Mark Blundell, some truly talented Brits!

Sir Jack’s son David Brabham is one of the most successful and experienced specialists in sports car racing. He is one of only 4 Australians to have won the 24 Heures Du Mans!

credit - Peugeot Sport

credit – Peugeot Sport

 

He, together with others, has launched Project Brabham, an innovative new crowdfunding project which will see the implementation of a “model of open source racing to build and fund a sustainable team”. 

Brabham aims to return to the track in the FIA World Endurance Championship next season with a three-year LMP2 programme. In year four, the marque will finally return as a constructor by way of LMP1, with firm intentions of winning the only world title for sportscars and the greatest endurance race on earth, the Le Mans 24 Hours. Series such as the FIA Formula E Championship could also be a consideration while Brabham hopes to one-day return to Formula 1.

What’s this got to do with you? Well you can be part of this fantastic project! You can help to bring the Brabham team back to the race track by backing the Project’s crowdfunding. From as little as £1 you can be a part of this journey! The Crowdfunding ends on 1st November 2014 (EDIT the deadline is now 15th November 2014) and they are edging ever closer to their £250k target.

There’s more though. In these early days Brabham will be creating an online portal Brabham-Digital. It will be a place where the team will share knowledge and behind-the-scenes information. It will also be a platform where you can help to influence team decisions in these early days.

Project_Brabham_Launched_To_Bring_Iconic_Team_Back_To_Racing

 

There are four packages available; Brabham-Fan (£25), Brabham-Driver (£75), Braham-Engineer (£100) and Full Access (£125). Each package will give a different insight into the team and you have until 1st November to sign up here!

I really love this concept! For me, it means I can feel part of this special project from the comfort of my bed. I can be a part of this pioneering project and help, in some way, to influence motorsport history. Pretty amazing huh?

There are various other ways you can support the team, from having your name on the car (£40) to being part of the team for a whole weekend with a Le Mans Hospitality Pit Pass (£5500).

With Christmas coming up there are also gift boxes available. For £50 (UK delivery) you could give the racing fan in your life an exclusive gift box including a one-off certificate and a limited edition, iconic Brabham Print (there’s more in there too, have a look over on the website for more information). It would make an amazing gift for the motorsport fan in your life.

Can you tell I’m rather excited by this project? I could go on and on, but I’ll stop! You can find all of the details, along with a list of all the perks available here. From £1 you could be part of motorsport history, I find that a very exciting prospect, don’t you?

For more information and to join in Project Brabham visit the website, but make sure you do it by the 1st November 2014!! EDIT: The deadline has been extended by a fortnight. The campaign will now endon 25th November 2014 at 23:59 (PT)

You can also keep up with Project Brabham on Twitter (@BrabhamOfficial) and Facebook.

Although I would have posted about this fantastic opportunity anyway, Brabham are very kindly sending an exclusive cap & potentially full access to Brabham-Digital. This has in no way influenced this post. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and completely honest.