Sunday, 19 May 2019

#BookReview — No Woman's Land: A Holocaust Novel By Ellie Midwood #HistoricalFiction #WW2

No Woman's Land
A Holocaust Novel
By Ellie Midwood


This novel is based on the inspiring and moving love story of Ilse Stein, a German Jew, and Willy Schultz, a Luftwaffe Captain in the Minsk ghetto, who risked his life to save the one he loved the most. 

When the last of the Jews’ rights are stripped in 1941, Ilse’s family is deported to a Minsk ghetto. Confined to a Sonderghetto and unable to speak the locals’ language, Ilse struggles to support the surviving members of her family. Befriended by a local underground member Rivka, Ilse partakes in small acts of resistance and sabotage to help her fellow Jews escape to the partisans.

A few months later, after losing almost his entire brigade of workers to one of the bloodiest massacres conducted by the SS, a local administrative officer Willy Schultz summons the survivors to form a new brigade. Ilse’s good looks immediately catch his eye, and he makes her a leader of the new unit and later, an office worker. Soon, an unlikely romance blossoms amid death and gore, moving a Nazi officer to go to great risks to protect not only Ilse but as many others as possible and allowing a Jewish girl to open her heart to the former enemy. Knowing that the ghetto would soon be liquidated, Willy Schultz swears to save Ilse, even if the cost would be his own life. 

“We live together, or we die together,” - an ultimate oath of love in the most harrowing setting. 

Dark, haunting, but full of hope, “No Woman’s Land” is a testament to the love that is stronger than fear and death itself.



"Why is she crying? Surely she should know by now that the Nazis kill people."


The Jews had it easy. They had been relocated to the east to work on the farmland. One should envy them their situation. There was food aplenty — fresh air. Yes, the Jews had it easy.

No one mentioned what it was like when the snow fell from the clouds in large fluffy flakes, half burying the frozen corpses that lined the road. Nor, did they speak of the frightened screams of the Jewish babies and children as they were thrown into a deep pit, while General-Kommissar Kube threw candy down at them as if that would somehow make up for the SS and their spades of death which would bury them alive. No. The people of Germany had no idea. They did not know that the SS had murdered God.

It was her mother's smile that would haunt Ilse Stein. A smile in a tear-stained face. Such a tender smile from one whose heart was broken. Ilse knew what her mother could not say. She was trying to tell her to survive, no matter what. But how does one survive when you are forced to live in constant fear of death?

It was a damnable business — the SS and their guns and their massacres. Did they not know they were only making things worse for themselves? The forest was crawling with partisans. It was only a matter of time before the locals turned on them as well. LeutnantWilly Schultz, a former Luftwaffe pilot and now Officer of the Minsk Air Supply Unit, was appalled by what he was witnessing. Not that he could say anything. Not out loud anyway. However, there was something he could do. It might not be much, but perhaps he could make a difference to a few of the women that lived in Minsk Ghetto.

Ilse did not know what to make of Leutnant Schultz. He was different from the others. He treated her and the women under his authority with compassion as if they were worthy of breathing the same air as he did. Ilse fancied that in a different time, she could have fallen in love with a man like Schultz. And maybe, just maybe, in a world where there is peace and musicians are once again thought of as useful people, Schultz could have fallen in love with her...

No Woman's Land: A Holocaust Novel by Ellie Midwood is the story of one woman's fight to stay alive during one of the most horrifying periods in human history.

It is hard to put into words how much No Woman's Land affected me. Like Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark, this novel does not gloss over the oppression faced by the Jewish people, nor the cruelty. Considered vermin, they were treated like vermin. This is a painfully honest book and one that it is utterly compelling. So compelling in fact that I could not put it down, while at the same time, I found myself fearing what was to come on the next page.

Told in the first person, from Ilse's perspective, meant that I felt her pain as if it were mine. Her bravery and her determination to stay alive and to help those closest to her stay alive is a testament in itself to this woman's courage. The things that Ilse has to face, the loss she suffers, left me in tears on more than one occasion. And unlike a fictional telling of the Holocaust, No Woman's Land is based on real people, and the story is true, which makes this book a very personal and emotional account of this horrific time.

Although the setting of this book is harrowing, there is also a tender forbidden romance within its pages. Leutnant Schultz and Ilse's pledge, "We live together, or we die together,"is so incredibly poignant because if it were found out that they were in love, then death awaited them both. He was a Nazi and she a Jewess. And yet their love would not be denied. Even amongst the fear and death, Midwood gives us this incredible sense of the deepest of loves. Her ability to weave a love story against such a bleak background, and to make it romantic, even when there was no opportunity for romance demonstrates perfectly why Midwood's books are always met with such rapturous applause and eager anticipation. Midwood's attention to not only the historical setting but the portrayal of the historical characters has to be commended. Midwood has this ability to resurrect people who have been dead for years and breathe life back into them with her writing.

I cannot write this review without mentioning the lengths Leutnant Schultz was prepared to go to in order to save Ilse's life. His courage to go against his Party and his government, when he was so used to obeying orders, reminds us that there are always good people in the world, even when it seems that only evil resides.  

Beautifully written and wholly unforgettable. No Woman's Land deserves the broadest possible readership to make sure we do not forget the horrors of the Holocaust and those who survived it.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.




Pick up your copy of
No Woman's Land




Ellie Midwood

Ellie Midwood is an award-winning, best-selling historical fiction writer. She's a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama.

Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.


Awards:

Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) - "The Girl from Berlin: Standartenführer's Wife"

Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) - "The Austrian"(honorable mention)

New Apple - 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing - "The Austrian"(official selection)

Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2017) - "Emilia"

Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2018) - "A Motherland's Daughter, A Fatherland's Son"

Connect with Ellie: 

Website • Amazon • Goodreads  • BookBub • Facebook.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

#BookReview — CAY - Rosevetha’s Curse:The Civilis Saga Part #3 by Peter Baggott #HistoricalFiction #AncientRome


CAY - Rosevetha’s Curse:

The Civilis Saga Part #3

By Peter Baggott

 

Champion of Teutoburger Wald he craves a son in a barren marriage and seeking a resolution he approaches Witold. She guarantees him a son. But after the death of his wife, he seeks retribution against Roman sympathizers. Witold warns him against harming a fellow seer or he will face dire consequences. Twice he will escape the same Roman, but on the third occasion, there will only be one winner.


“Twice you will meet the same Roman, and he will escape, but when he comes looking for the final Eagle, my Eagle, you and your son will help defend it.”

To lose an Eagle is shameful. But, to lose three Eagles is nothing short of a disgrace.

It was only a matter of time before the Romans returned to this land and sought retribution for those who had been slaughtered and to reclaim the Eagles that had been taken.

Agi of the Chauci had fought alongside Arminius and had witnessed the taking of the Eagles from the hands of the hated Romans, but it was not that which had taken him into the forest to seek the wisdom of the seer, Witold. He wanted to know if he would ever have a son, an heir. The seer’s answer is enough to satisfy Agi, but the warning that comes with it is not so easy to comprehend. Witold warns him of another — a woman just like her, a seer. The destiny of his son will depend on how he treats this woman.

On hearing the news of the lost Eagles at The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, Caesar Augustus cried,“Give me back my legions.” However, such was the shame of the loss that any survivors were banned from returning to Rome. The disgrace would be theirs to carry forever, and that disgrace would also be passed down to their sons. However, the sons of the lost legions come together under the watchful eye of Artorius Civilis. With his help, they would right the wrong, and win back the Eagles their fathers had lost. 

CAY - Rosevetha’s Curse: The Civilis Saga Part #3, by Peter Baggott, is the powerful tale about the unforgettable Civilis family as they desperately try to navigate a world that is corrupt, treasonous, and dangerous, in order to bring honesty, loyalty and peace for their kinsman and the Empire.

CAY - Rosevetha’s Curse is one of those books where the pages practically turned themselves. I did initially wonder why Baggott dedicated over half of this novel to what is essentially a prequel, but, when I reached Part 2 of CAY - Rosevetha’s Curse, I began to understand why he chose to do this. I think the backstory gives this series, and indeed this book, a very firm foundation. The characterisation was superb, and the narrative was an absolute triumph. Baggott presents his readers with highly appealing protagonists and spine-chillingly malicious antagonists.

Baggott does not shy away from what can make for uncomfortable reading. Within these pages, we watch the making of a monster. The young Victus shows all the signs of what he is to become. He is manipulative, very charismatic and even charming when he wants to be. However, there is a very dark side to him. The first to suffer his abuse is a dog, and then the level of violence escalates as he turns this viciousness towards women. There are multiple violations of women in this story, as well as murders, but Baggott is careful to strike a balance between how he wants the characterisation of Victus to be perceived and the audience his book is aimed at. 

Baggott is a master at conveying the time this book is set in. I have said it before, and I will say it again, his attention to historical detail and historical fact has to be commended. This book is luxuriantly detailed, and the historical characters have been richly brought back to life. Baggott is a born Historical Fiction writer. He nails the historical backdrop every time. Superb.

Due to the intensity of the story and the large cast of characters, I don’t think CAY - Rosevetha’s Curse: The Civilis Saga Part #3 is a standalone read. However, this series is so good that you would be doing yourself a disservice by not starting with Book 1.

The Civilis Saga is escapist Historical Fiction at its very best. 
I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde
The Coffee Pot Book Club.


Pick up your copy of

CAY - Rosevetha’s Curse:



Peter Baggott

Peter Baggott is a debut author with a deep interest in Roman history. He has served in three uniformed employments and is very familiar with Roman tactics which are still used in everyday life: shield tactics and skills – testudo being much used in the Police and Prison Service. Peter chose for his writing this historical genre because of his innate interest in the subject and having been born in the Roman city of Lindvm, modern day Lincoln. In his teens, on a daily basis, while delivering newspapers, Peter traversed the exposed Roman remains from The Steep to the Newport Arch, the only full Roman archway in Great Britain. While working in a local hotel close to the ruins he utilised this knowledge to become a self-appointed guide to visitors from far and wide and has continued to keep up to date with local finds. There are many stories surrounding the infamous Legio IX Hispana, who were based in Lindvm, their disappearance has inspired his continuing interest in all things Roman. ​ Peter has also visited numerous Roman sites, both in the UK and in Europe and has used original Roman historical sources of Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio, Google Maps for distancing and location, Wikipedia and several archaeological online sources. Thus, he tries to keep abreast with new finds upgrading his work accordingly.

Connect with Peter: Website • Twitter. 

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Book Review — Wyvern of Wessex (Sons of Kings #3) by Millie Thom #HistoricalFiction #Vikings #AngloSaxon

Wyvern of Wessex
(Sons of Kings #3)
By Millie Thom


Eadwulf is back in the Sea Eagle with Bjorn and his crew in a quest to discover if Eadwulf’s father, King Beorhtwulf of Mercia, is still alive after twenty years as a slave. Bjorn’s great dragonship carries them down to the searing June temperatures and strict laws in the Moorish lands of al-Andalus. But searching for Beorhtwulf proves more difficult than they’d expected, causing them more trouble than they bargained for… 

In Wessex, King Aethelred is now dead, leaving his twenty-one-year-old-brother, Alfred, to succeed to the throne. Though his succession was agreed by the witan, Alfred must now prove himself worthy of the kingship, or lose it. But Wessex is in turmoil, besieged by Viking Danes intent on subjugating the kingdom – and knowing that the new king is young and inexperienced. Alfred must use all his wiles if he is to outthink and outmanoeuvre Guthrum, the Dane who nearly becomes his nemesis. 

Alfred’s victories and defeats take him on a journey of learning, during which he gains experience and strength. We share his highs and his lows and how he rises from the depths of despair to save his beloved kingdom from total conquest. 

And at his side at his greatest time of need, is his new ally and friend, Eadwulf of Mercia.



“I have just one piece of advice for you, Alfred of Wessex… Surrender!”



On a grassy plain, thirty miles west of Winchester, Alfred’s army finds themselves face-to-face with the newly arrived Norse Summer Army led by Halfdan, son of the late Ragnar Lothbrok. To his dismay, Alfred soon realises that the Norse Army is far better equipped than he could ever hope that his army would be. The Norse are wearing mail byrnie and metal helms, whereas in Alfred’s army only the nobles wear such armour, and there is a blood lust in the Norsemen’s eyes which would have put the fear of God into even the bravest of Saxon men. However, it was said that no one could tell the difference between a brave man and one who is pretending. The Norse Army may well be intimidating, but Alfred will not let them see that he is intimidated. He is the King of Wessex, and he will lead his men bravely into battle, even if it is God’s will that the crown of Wessex would not be his to wear for much longer.

When a trusted kinsman turned traitor, Eadwulf of Mercia’s life was irrevocably changed forever. Eadwulf had been just a boy when he was sold into slavery at a Norse market. From there on in he had been brought up as a Dane. He had eventually been given his freedom by Ragnar’s eldest son, Bjorn Ironside.

It had been twelve years since last Eadwulf had sailed in a longship, and he would not be doing so now if he had not heard a whispered rumour that his father, Beorthwulf, the former King of Mercia was still alive. But 20 years is a long time, and if he had survived, what kind of broken man would he be? For foreign slaves are bought to al-Andalus to be of use in the service of Emir Muhammad, where they will spend what is left of this life in the mines or the quarries. It is a forlorn hope, but Eadwulf must discover the truth. One way or the other…

Millie Thom has once again given us an evocative and utterly compelling story of one man’s fight for his people, his kingdom and his throne. Wyvern of Wessex: Sons of King #3 was everything I wanted it to be and then some.

This is very much the story of Alfred the Great and how he came to deserve the name that was bestowed on him by others. In Thom’s adaptation, Alfred is a truly human hero, who makes mistakes that cost him many sleepless nights. Initially, Alfred is trustingly optimistic, but he soon learns that an oath, given by a victorious enemy, is worth very little, and a treaty of peace is worth even less. But Alfred is a quick study, and the mistakes he makes are not to be repeated. His ability to turn disaster into success and his dogged determination to never give up made him not only a likeable character but one in which it was easy to understand why men risked their lives to follow him, even when the odds were not in their favour.

Likewise, Eadwulf’s character continued to develop throughout this book. Eadwulf's journey, from a young fearful child to a warrior has been compellingly enthralling, and although for me in this book, I felt Alfred took centre stage, I still enjoyed reading about Eadwulf and the life he had made for himself and his family.

In the first two books, several of the antagonists are the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. But with the death of Ivar, Halfdan now longs for domestic pleasures away from the battlefield. Guthrum happily steps into Halfdan’s shoes and leads the Norse Army. Thom has paid close attention to the historical detailing of this time and this historical character. I thought her depiction of Guthrum was spot on. He is cruel and ruthless in his determination to snatch Wessex away from Alfred. And although he comes across at times as unscrupulous and untrustworthy, his respect for Alfred is genuine. He soon learns that Alfred is a formidable foe and one to be taken extremely seriously. His characterisation certainly drove this story forward, and although I did not like him all that much, I thought his portrayal was fabulous!

In amongst the brutal strife are moments of simple domestic pleasure — a good fire, fresh bread, the joy of catching a fish for the first time. Thom has carefully balanced the savageness of warfare with everyday activities, which gave the story some much deserved moments of peace and it also reminded the reader what Alfred was fighting for.

Thom’s compelling narrative has to be commended. From the dampness and lushness of the grass to the treacherous marshes in Somerset, Thom pays attention to the little things which give this novel not only credibility but a sense of realism. Not many authors can adequately pull this off, but Thom has.

I have to mention the battles, for there are several. Thom has an intuitive knowledge of what to leave in, what to leave out, and what to leave to the readers’ imagination. The battle scenes are epic, but at the same time, Thom does not write pages and pages of continuous violence. Instead, Thom concentrates on the emotion — Alfred's fear, his despair, and his fatigue make these scenes utterly irresistible.

If you are looking for a series that contains a finely balanced mix of love, patriotism and treachery then Wyvern of Wessex: Sons of King #3 is for you. Although Wyvern of Wessex is book 3 in the series, it does work well as a standalone, but considering what happens in the first two books it would be a shame to miss out on the story of Alfred’s life.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.





Pick up your copy of
Wyvern of Wessex
(Sons of Kings #3)



Millie Thom

Millie Thom is a former geography and history teacher with a degree in geology and a particular passion for the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period. Originally from Lancashire she is a mother of six grown up children and now lives with her husband in a small village in Nottinghamshire, midway between the town of Newark and the lovely old city of Lincoln. When not writing, Millie enjoys long walks and is a serious fossil hunter. She is also an avid traveller, swimmer and baker of cakes!

Connect with Millie : Website • Twitter