WHEN BRITAIN SAVED THE WEST by Robin Prior

18 04 2015

1940

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review.

1940 – Dunkirk, then the Battle of Britain. When the year opened, Chamberlain was still PM, by the time it closed Churchill had replaced him and appeasement was a dirty word.

This book is not of course aimed at the professional historian, but for the ordinary person who considers herself something of an expert on WW2 (as a result of her grandmother’s stories and, more recently, all the novels she has read set in that period!) it is an eye-opener.

I had never realised just how close Britain came to following France, “appeasing” Hitler, and allowing the invasion to take place uncontested. If Churchill had not taken the reins, that is exactly what would have happened. Throughout most of 1940, the appeasers (Chamberlain until his death in September, Halifax, Butler) kept talking to the Italians (and through them to Hitler) behind Churchill’s back. And meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, Roosevelt was showing no interest in helping Britain, merely stipulating that if (and he meant “when”) Britain capitulated the British Navy should not be allowed to fall into the hands of the Germans. Churchill’s response to this was that no capitulation would ever occur under him, and that the appeasers who replaced him if things got too desperate would be seeking the best possible terms from the Germans so presumably the Navy would of course be handed over intact. In the end, it was Hitler who declared war on the US, not the other way about. (I never knew that!) If Hitler had limited himself to incorporating the whole of Europe, including the UK but excluding the USSR, into the Third Reich – which is what appeared to be his aim in 1940 when Britain, with the support of Canada and other countries of the British Empire, stood up to him and the Battle of Britain was fought, he might well have achieved this objective. But when the island nation of Britain with its powerful navy and its ring of radar stations proved almost impossible to either invade or bomb into submission, he turned his attention to the USSR. And the USA. Quite mad, of course. Worse than Napoleon, who lost half a million men in Russia before facing the inevitable (slow-but-sure!) response from across the Channel. At least the Germans don’t consider Hitler a national hero, as the French do Napoleon!

There are chapters, like the one recounting the sequence of events at Dunkirk, where the amount of detail seems unnecessary and I found myself skipping pages, but all in all, this was a very enjoyable and very memorable read.





BLOOD AND ROSES by Mark Dawson

15 04 2015

Blood and RosesAs predicted yesterday (HERE) I read the final volume of this trilogy in one go last night. It doesn’t have the kind of setting I was talking about in that review, but if you’ve enjoyed the first two books this one is essential reading. And there is certainly leeway at the end for yet another spin-off. If it happens, I shall be waiting for it.





SHAMAN FRIEND ENEMY by M. Terry Green

14 04 2015

Shaman Friend EnemyThe second in the series and not as good as the first, Shaman, Healer, Heretic, but that was brilliant (my review HERE); this is very good in parts and good in others. I enjoyed it though and I’m fascinated by shamanism so I shall definitely be reading the third one.





IN COLD BLOOD and BLOOD MOON RISING by Mark Dawson

14 04 2015

In Cold Blood

These are the first two books of a trilogy. They are also, I understand, a spin-off from an earlier series by Mark Dawson featuring a certain John Milton. Here, though, Milton is only a name in the background. I haven’t read those other novels so I don’t know whether Beatrix Rose, the protagonist in this trilogy, featured in the previous series. It doesn’t seem to matter.

The great thing about these two books is the setting. The setting of the first, In Cold Blood, is northern Kenya and Somalia – exactly where the horrific massacre of the hundred and fifty Christian students by al-Shabaab at Garissa University took place a week or so ago. And part of the story is actually set in Dabaab refugee camp, the biggest refugee camp in the world and “home” to 300,000 plus refugees from Somalia, which is also in the news: in the wake of the Garissa massacre, the Kenyan government has given the UN High Commission for Refugees just three months to “do something” – at the end of that time they are closing down the camp. All these were simply names to me before I read this book. The description of the sites and the depiction of al-Shabaab in action are vivid, realistic and compelling.

Blood Moon Rising

The second book, Blood Moon Rising, is set in Iraq. The title sounds like a vampire story, doesn’t it, but sadly what takes place in this novel is all too normal and real and perpetrated by “ordinary” people. Again the same vivid description of the reality of life, this time around the oil field at Rumalia, the third biggest in the world, and again the horrifying reality of how the poor, the people caught in the cross-fire, live.

And the protagonist, the heroine? I’m not going to tell you much, just that she is another all-but-invincible superwoman and that she is out for revenge – they killed her husband and took away her three-year-old daughter – but in this case there is an ever-widening crack in the invincibility: she is dying of cancer, has only months to live.

Gruesome but gripping. And mind-opening, too. We readers tend to get a little bit cosy (or at any rate I do) with our murders set in more or less civilised societies, our historical novels set in more or less romantic times gone by, and our fantasy worlds of vampires and zombies and wizards and so on. Welcome to the real world.

(Needless to say, I have downloaded the final book of the trilogy, Blood and Roses, and shall be reading it this evening – and quite likely well into the night!)





The Best Definitions from Ambrose Bierce’s ‘Devil’s Dictionary’

5 04 2015

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

The funniest and wittiest quotes from Ambrose Bierce’s comic masterpiece, The Devil’s Dictionary

We’ve read the whole of Ambrose Bierce’s wonderful The Devil’s Dictionary and, below, have distilled the book into 25 of the very best entries in this classic lexicon. The only stipulation we set ourselves was that the quotes we selected had to be short and pithy – preferably no longer than one sentence – to ensure maximum quotability. We hope you enjoy our selection.

Admiration,n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

Barometer,n. An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

Clairvoyant,n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron – namely, that he is a blockhead.

Comfort,n. A state of mind produced by contemplation of a neighbor’s uneasiness.

Consult, v. To seek another’s approval of a…

View original 332 more words





THE ICARUS PLOT by Jenny Schwartz

29 03 2015

Icarus Plot cover

I have to say that I prefer to review books written by complete strangers. Knowing I am expected to comment on or even write a review of a book written by a friend or acquaintance fills me with trepidation. I like that word, but it is not strong enough. Fills me with horror.

So it was with trepidation (not horror, for we are only BL acquaintances, not friends – though I should like to be) that I finally began Jenny’s The Icarus Plot after it had been gathering metaphorical dust in my Kindle for several months. And I knew within the first few lines that Jenny is the real McCoy. After a couple of pages I was comparing her favourably with Philip Pullman. I read the story straight off – it is not long, more a novella than a novel – and went to bed happy. Happy to have discovered another author whose other books I can now look forward to reading, and happy with the world: it is a story that leaves you happy.

Thanks, Jenny.





IRRADIATED by S Elliot Brandis

29 03 2015

Irradiated coverNot much time for reviews at the moment. I just want to give a brief mention to this book, Irradiated, and to Jenny Schwartz’s The Icarus Plot (coming up next).

Irradiated was a Kindle Free and, as we all know they, like all self-published books, range from the highly professional and as good as anything brought out by the big publishing houses to utter rubbish. Irradiated, fortunately, is one of the former, and far better than many of the mediocre paperbacks gathering dust on the shelves of Smith’s and Waterstones.

It is set in a dystopian post-nuclear-catastrophe future of mutants desperately trying to eke out an existence in the ruins of our “civilisation”. (I put civilisation in quotes, sarcastically, but in fact when you compare it with the world they are living in, or with much of the all-too-real past, you have to admit that the world we live in is very civilised indeed.)

It is extremely well written in every respect, and highly recommended. My only gripe with it is [SPOILER COMING UP] that the heroine, Jade, a character I identified with totally from the word Go, dies at the end of the book. Yes, dies. Just like that. I’d been all ready to leap straight into the sequel , but a sequel without her? Perhaps she only seemed to die? I rushed to the blurb and reviews of the sequel (Degenerated). No, she had died.

So had my interest in the series.

You can’t introduce a James Bond in the first book then kill him off and expect the series to go on quite happily without him.

 








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