Review: A Treachery of Spies

August 2, 2018 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Thriller

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Treachery of Spies A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott
Published by Bantam Press on 9th August 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Crime, thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France. Her identity has been cleverly erased but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two.

Tracking down her murderer leads police inspector Inès Picaut back to 1940s France where the men and women of the Resistance were engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders.

To find answers in the present Picaut must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim's youth: a time when unholy alliances were forged between occupiers and occupied, deals were done and promises broken. The past has been buried for decades, but, as Picaut discovers, there are those in the present whose futures depend on it staying that way – and who will kill to keep their secrets safe...

When 92-year-old Sophie Destivelle is found murdered in an Orleans car park, it soon becomes apparent that this is no random killing. Her manner of death echoes that of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two.

This is Captain Picaut’s first case since returning from injury. It’s a case that will uncover secrets of her country’s past and provide some startling revelations – such as, who exactly was Sophie Destivelle?

A Treachery of Spies is a thoroughly absorbing read. I didn’t want to put it down, and when I did manage to extract myself from its pages, the story continued to play on my mind.

Firstly, I didn’t realise when I picked this up that it’s actually the second book featuring Captain Picaut. Don’t let that put you off though, I read it as a stand-alone and really enjoyed it. There are references to events in the previous book but I didn’t feel that I was missing out.

As for the story itself, it is clever, intricate, and evidently very well researched. The best way I can describe this novel is that it is historical fiction mixed with a thriller, mystery and police procedural – pretty much the ultimate combination in my opinion.

The investigation of Sophie’s death takes the reader across time and space – from present-day Orleans to wartime Britain and Germany-occupied France, with a focus on Resistance fighters and British Special Operatives of the Jura mountains.

Scott has meticulously researched this historical aspect, blending fact with fiction. I can’t tell you how much I learned from this novel, things which I intend to read up on further (no spoilers though so you’ll need to read A Treachery of Spies to find out what I’m talking about!).

This is a novel that taxed my fog-addled brain but in the best possible way. I had to focus to keep up with all of the characters and their timelines, to keep up with the intricacies of the story and to follow the clues and ciphers. I love a book that makes you think though – and this is a powerful novel that not only challenges in terms of the story, but it makes one thing of history and to consider the lives of those who lived during the war.

All in all, it is a fascinating, well-crafted novel that will keep you hooked until the very last page. I almost wish I could read it again!

four-half-stars

Blog Tour: The Goose Road Review & Giveaway

April 5, 2018 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Closed Giveaways, Historical Fiction, YA

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for The Goose Road. The book is out today, so you can now get your hands on a copy! Or, be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of this post.

The Goose Road is the debut novel by Rowena House and is being published by Walker to coincide with the centenary of the end of the First World War.

I’m delighted to bring to you an extract from The Goose Road. But before that, I thought I’d share a bit of the synopsis and my own thoughts on the book.

Blog Tour: The Goose Road Review & Giveaway The Goose Road by Rowena House
Published by Walker on 5th April 2018
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

France 1916. Angélique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. "I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won’t change either." But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears... In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angélique embarks on a journey across France with her brother's flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.

 

 

My Thoughts

Living in the French countryside, Angélique and her mother are working hard to keep their family farm running while Angélique’s father and brother, Pascal, are away, fighting for France.

Upon hearing of her father’s death in combat, Angélique finds that she must raise funds in order to keep their beloved farm afloat for her brother’s much-anticipated return home.

Having lost most of their livestock to the Requisition, all that remains are her brother’s prized Toulouse Geese. With her mother grief-stricken, it falls to Angélique to find the funds to save what is now her brother’s farm.  Fuelled by sibling love and determination, she decides to sell the geese. But in order to attain the kind of money she needs, she is going to have to risk her life and take her geese closer to the front lines.

So, accompanied by her Uncle, she sets off to cross wartorn France with her magnificent geese.

Blending fact with fiction, House has created a beautiful, memorable tale. Through the character of 14-year-old Angélique Lacroix we embark on a journey into the terrifying unknown, driven by the love of a sister for her brother.

It’s a story that, although written for ages 12 and up, can be enjoyed by all. Angélique is a loveable character, a strong heroine who sets out to do what is right. Through her eyes we see the horrors of war, the toll it takes on survivors and the lives of the civilians struggling to survive. Personally, I appreciated the way the facts of the war were conveyed. I felt that it didn’t shy away from any truths but was conveyed through the eyes of an innocent 14-year-old, thus making it perhaps more manageable for the target audience.

Angélique’s love of animals stole my heart. I grew up helping on my father’s croft, so I could absolutely appreciate Angélique’s love for her livestock. I think House successfully portrays the importance of their animals, their livelihood and the impact that the Requisition had on small communities.

All in all, this is a powerful, beautifully written story. It’ll simultaneously hurt and warm your heart, and I challenge you not to fall in love with Napolean Bonaparte the gander!

That’s enough of my thoughts though. Walker Books have kindly provided me with an extract to share with you.

If you missed the first extract on the blog tour, be sure to check out Drinking Books to catch up.

Extract

My mourning dress is stiff and tight, a laced-up hand-me- down. Mother is almost invisible behind her long black veil. As we walk down the lane to the village through the warm, rosy dusk, I half expect a bat to blunder into her or a fox to stop and sniff the air as we pass.

Outside the church, the village widows flock around Mother like crows. There are Madame Villiard and Madame Arnauld, and poor young Madame Besançon, whose husband was just nineteen when both his legs were blown off at Verdun.

Old Madame Malpas draws me aside, wringing her bony hands and crying, “What’s to become of you, Angélique? You’ll very likely starve! La Mordue will go to rack and ruin without Monsieur Lacroix!”

“Pascal will be home soon,” I say. “Maman and I can manage till then.”

“Manage, child? When your corn’s still in the ground in August?”

“The farm men have been promised leave.” “And you expect the generals to keep their promises?” She sniffs loudly, then stumps off, calling to Mother,

“Madame Lacroix! What terrible news! Tell me, did he suffer?”

My best friend, Béatrice Lamy, hurries over to me.

“That woman!” she says, rolling her eyes. Then she kisses me on both cheeks and hugs me tightly. “This is unbearable, Angie. I can’t begin to imagine how you feel.”

Guilt prickles me because, just then, I’d been think- ing how much I hate wearing black and having to pretend to be sad. I wish I’d told her the truth before, but Mother always said the beatings would get worse if Father suspected we talked about him behind his back. And now it’s too late. I can’t speak ill of the dead, condemn a brave soldier Mort pour la France. What would

Madame Malpas say? “I’m fine, Bee,” I say. “Really, I am.” She cups my cheek in her hand. “You’re so brave,

Angie. I’d be in pieces if I’d lost Papa. How did you hear the news?”

I lean forward, hiding a smile, and whisper, “Pascal wrote.”

“Pascal!”

“Shhh, Bee. Not so loud.” I glance around, but the village women are too busy comforting Mother to take any notice of us. “Come on. Let’s talk inside.”

The cold stone church is empty. We sit in the front pew, the one allotted to the newly bereaved. Béatrice takes both my hands.

“Is Pascal safe?” she asks. “Is he hurt?” “I don’t know. Mother wouldn’t let me see his letter.” “Why not?” “Oh, you know. She’s upset.” “Of course. Silly question. I’m sorry.” Her eyes brim again with sympathy. Quickly I say, “Do you want to hear the good news?” “Good news?” Her eyes widen. I smile conspiratorially. “The farm belongs to Pascal now – the house, the land. Everything! It’s his.” “Oh.”

“Bee! Don’t you see what this means?” She shakes her head. “He can get married whenever he wants!” “Oh!” Her eyes widen further. “But … Papa won’t let me. I’m too young.” “Pascal will wait, I know he will. And when you’re both ready you’ll live with us, and we’ll be sisters, a real family. Won’t that be wonderful?”

Her eyes shine, then she blushes. “I do love him so much.”

We start to hug, but just then the door opens and the village widows seep inside like shadows, a horde of veiled and silent wraiths.

“I should go,” Béatrice says. “No. Please stay.” “But your mother…”

“She won’t mind.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

I slip my arm through hers while we wait, each looking up at the brightly painted statue of Saint Joan of Arc, high on her pedestal. She’s wearing a full suit of armour, and spearing the devil through his blackened heart.

“I hate that statue,” Béatrice whispers.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I rather like it.”

 

Giveaway

Thanks to Walker Books, I have two copies of this wonderful debut to give away to Strupag readers. To be in with a chance of winning simply enter via the rafflecopter entry form below. This giveaway is open to the UK only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
three-half-stars

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

January 5, 2018 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 11th January 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tätowierer– the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the result of years of interviews between the author, Heather Morris, and Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. Originally written by Morris as a screenplay, she has now adapted her work to create her debut novel – and what a debut it is! Based upon Lale’s own harrowing story, this is a book that needs to be read and shared, with subject matter that should never be forgotten.

I actually wrote a whole draft review upon finishing this book, but honestly, I just didn’t feel like it did the book justice. I’m actually of the mind now that nothing I write will properly convey my feelings on this book. So, please, stick with me as I try to string some words together.

Lale was 24, a smart, linguistic young man from a Jewish family living in Slovakia. Every family in Slovakia was forced to provide one child over the age of 18 for work detail with the Germans. Lale volunteered himself to save his family, to prevent them from being rounded up into a concentration camp. Not knowing where he was headed or what would face him, Lale left home impeccably dressed as always, ready to face his fate.

This was how Lale found himself crammed into a cattle carriage with other men, headed for Auschwitz. Lale was assigned to the sister camp, Birkeneau and there made a promise to himself that he would survive. His intelligence and charisma meant he was noticed among thousands of others and assigned the role of Tatoweirer, the tattooist – a position which offered him a slightly better life in the camp, but with the traumatic task of marking every prisoner for life with their assigned number. It was through his role as Tatoweirer that Lale set eyes on Gita, a young lady who compounded Lale’s determination to stay alive.

Lale used his relative freedom in the camp to help others, to source and deliver food to keep his fellow prisoners alive, but such actions put him in great danger.

Lale seems like such an incredible man. His attitude, philosophies, and kindness shine through in this novel. I feel that Morris has done a brilliant job of telling this story – I couldn’t put this book down. Despite the horrors within its pages, this is also a tale of love, friendships, and hope. It’s a story that made me stop and think about the individual stories of other prisoners in these camps, what they had to do to stay alive and who they lost along the way. Stories that we will never know but that we should never forget existed.

This is a short novel but it packs a huge punch; the combination of Heather Morris’ storytelling and Lale’s unforgettable true story make this book impossible to put down.

PS I still don’t feel like my words have done this book justice, so just please READ IT!

five-stars

Review: The Alice Network

October 21, 2017 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Alice Network The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Published by William Morrow on 13th July 2017 (UK)
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth ...no matter where it leads.

The Alice Network is a novel built around fact, something that I feel makes this novel particularly special.

Charlie St Clair finds herself pregnant and unmarried in 1947. Her well-to-do family insist she go to Europe to have her ‘Little Problem’ dealt with. Charlie seizes her trip to Europe to try and find her friend and cousin Rose who went missing in Nazi-occupied France. Charlie holds hope that Rose might still be alive and so begins her investigations.

It’s these investigations that lead Charlie to London and to one Eve Gardiner and her driver Finn Kilgore. From this point the story is told in alternating chapters, Charlie in 1947 and Eve starting in 1915.

Eve was part of a network of female spies – The Alice Network. While the character of Eve is fictional, this network existed, led by an Alice Dubois. Quinn incorporates this historical figure, the “Queen of Spies”, as well as some of Dubois’ associates into this novel.

The result is a work of fiction that is not only compelling and addictive but also fascinating and educational. I learned much from this novel with Quinn’s author’s note helping me to distinguish the fact from fiction.

The story, the search for Rose, forms the backbone of this novel but it’s far more than a missing person case. This is a novel of friendship, trauma, love, war, hope and despair. It’s an exploration of the post-war era as well as an accurate account of life in occupied France, and the sacrifices of a group of (generally unheard of) women who had their own important and dangerous roles in the war.

I loved the characters in this novel. The fact that I cared so much about them really finished off this novel for me.

This is a well-written, researched and thoroughly eye-opening novel. I think I’m going to seek out more information on The Alice Network and Alice Dubois herself. Her story and that of her associates is one I feel I need to know more about and I’m so grateful to Quinn for bringing it to my attention through this captivating novel.

Reese Alice Network

NOTE – The Alice Network was picked as a Reese Witherspoon book club read, so if you don’t believe me maybe Reese will convince you to pick it up! 😉

four-half-stars

Review: Kindred, A Graphic Novel Adaptation

January 31, 2017 in Book Reviews, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Kindred, A Graphic Novel Adaptation Kindred by Octavia E Butler, John Jennings, Damian Duffy
Published by Abrams on 10th January 2017
Genres: Graphic Novel, Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century.

Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.

Held up as an essential work in feminist, science-fiction, and fantasy genres, and a cornerstone of the Afrofuturism movement, there are over 500,000 copies of Kindred in print. The intersectionality of race, history, and the treatment of women addressed within the original work remain critical topics in contemporary dialogue, both in the classroom and in the public sphere.

Frightening, compelling, and richly imagined, Kindred offers an unflinching look at our complicated social history, transformed by the graphic novel format into a visually stunning work for a new generation of readers.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler is one of those books that has always been on my radar, but I’ve just never got around to reading. So when I saw there was to be a graphic novel adaptation, I thought it the perfect time to familiarise myself with the story – and swoon over the artwork (which you can see here).

Kindred is the story of Dana, a young black woman living in 1976. Inexplicably, she is persistently transported back in time to an 1800 plantation in the American South. Her life changes when she is there. She is not safe – a free black woman in a white man’s world.

Her trips back in time coincide with the actions of Rafe, the plantation owner’s son. As Dana spends time on the plantation awaiting her return to the 1970s she builds friendships with the plantation workers and slaves. Through Dana, her treatment and the treatment of those around her, we gain an insight into the lives of plantation slaves at that time.

This is such a powerful book. While I can’t speak to the original, this graphic novel adaptation works wonderfully. The imagery is stunning and definitely furthers the Kindred experience.

This isn’t an easy book to read. It’s emotional, heart-breaking at times. While classed as a science fiction novel this a book that is built around fact, history, and it educates the reader.

Having read the graphic novel, I now really want to read the original version of Kindred. I can already see why it has such a well-earned reputation, and I believe that this graphic novel adaptation is the perfect way to bring the story to a wider audience.

four-stars