The Ragged Edge of Night – a review

Thursday_horizons

NaNoWriMo might be my focus for November but I am making time for this Thursday Creation Review as this book seems timely with a strong message.

RaggedEdge

The Ragged Edge of Night

by

Olivia Hawker

For fans of All the Light We Cannot See, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, and The Nightingale comes an emotionally gripping, beautifully written historical novel about extraordinary hope, redemption, and one man’s search for light during the darkest times of World War II.

Germany, 1942. Franciscan friar Anton Starzmann is stripped of his place in the world when his school is seized by the Nazis. He relocates to a small German hamlet to wed Elisabeth Herter, a widow who seeks a marriage—in name only—to a man who can help raise her three children. Anton seeks something too—atonement for failing to protect his young students from the wrath of the Nazis. But neither he nor Elisabeth expects their lives to be shaken once again by the inescapable rumble of war.

As Anton struggles to adapt to the roles of husband and father, he learns of the Red Orchestra, an underground network of resisters plotting to assassinate Hitler. Despite Elisabeth’s reservations, Anton joins this army of shadows. But when the SS discovers his schemes, Anton will embark on a final act of defiance that may cost him his life—even if it means saying goodbye to the family he has come to love more than he ever believed possible.

Review 5 stars

Although the pace was slower than many of my usual reads, the setting of a rural village in World War II Germany made for an underlying threat that drove the story forward. The pace matched the reality portrayed.

The influence of Hitler and his Nazis seeped into the story, although the main protagonist Anton Starzmann was building a new life with Elisabeth Herter, a widow with three children in rural surroundings. His past as a Franciscan friar, whose pupils have been ‘relocated’ by the SS, haunts his gradual attempt to take a stand against the Nazi evil.

Early on he hears a conversation that becomes fundamental:

“Her companion is quick to answer, quick to defend. “It’s only this: I’ve never seen God. Why should I credit Him for a blessing, or leave Him any blame? Men are quite capable of destroying the world on their own, as we can plainly see. They don’t need any help from above.”

Anton observes that he hasn’t met Hitler, but the Fuehrer’s evil exists – and he resists. The musical instruments of his condemned pupils become central to that stand, and not just in their re-use – far better than what the Nazis plan for them.

“I’ve heard the Party are paying good money for brass. The Schutzstaffel want it for casings—ammunition.”

I wondered if music could foil the savage beast and, in a way, it became a means to take a stand. I shared the fear that the resistance within Germany and the village of Unterboihingen, called the Red Orchestra would be exposed and killed.

It didn’t matter that I knew the outcome of WWII as I didn’t know whether anything about that resistance. It’s a sad fact that it became easier for others to see all Germans as evil. Having had a German girlfriend, I know that isn’t true. And this book confirms that there was a lot of good alive, and people trying to survive.

The characters from Anton to minor characters come alive as the story builds and I became invested in their lives.

The village and its surroundings are beautifully described, and the language is so evocative of the hard but special life that Anton and his new family are living. The war rages and the nightly bombing of nearby Stuttgart threaten behind the village life that attempts to continue, using lessons and practises of the past. Barter replaces money – as it did in many countries.

There are highlights to enrich the children’s lives like precious Easter eggs, chocolates and simple handmade gifts.

The end and the impending terror draws closer when a ruthless act forces a final act of defiance.

The story resonated so much with me that I was pleased to discover that it is based on real events. And that makes it relevant to today when Neo-Nazis are on the rise everywhere.

But as the author says:

“We are Widerstand—resistance—you and I. No force can silence us, unless we permit silence. I prefer to roar.”

This book was an Amazon First Reads free with my Prime membership, and even if I’d paid the proper price The Ragged Edge of Night would be a recommended must read.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Method Acting For Writers – a review

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I had intended to post today’s Thursday Creation Review last Thursday, but cold ravaged our household. The younger members of the family recovered within a day or so, but us old folk are still recovering ten days later. I’m forcing myself to write this as the book deserves a good review, although it will be late and briefer than usual.

MethodActingForWriters

Method Acting For Writers: Learn Deep Point Of View Using Emotional Layers

by

Lisa Hall-Wilson (Goodreads Author)

Are you struggling with writing characters readers care about? Critique partners, editors or agents saying you need to write vivid emotions? Do you want to write deep scenes and emotional arcs into your stories to keep readers engaged and turning the pages?

Writing deep point of view is like handing your reader a virtual reality headset; it’s dynamic, visceral, and immediate. This intimate and emotive style of writing resonates with contemporary readers, if you’ve got the guts to “go there” with your characters. This writing skill isn’t difficult to master, but it requires a shift in how you tell stories and sometimes those shifts don’t seem intuitive.

What Will You Learn?
• Eliminate unnecessary telling
• Create immediacy
• Effectively use internal dialogue
• Understand and use subtext
• Strategies to make words pull double duty
• Create unique character voice
• Tap into your emotive memory (just like actors do)
• Learn tips from psychology to write emotions with visceral authenticity
• Learn layering and blending techniques for writing emotions
• Identify and eliminate author intrusion
• Learn effective pacing strategies to intensify emotional impact
• Recognize POV breaks
• Know when not to use deep point of view
• Recognize areas where you’re not going deep enough
• Learn what an emotional story arc is and how to employ it

Take this deep dive and get back to writing FAST! Put Deep POV to work on your whole novel (or just key scenes) for an emotional punch readers can’t resist.

Review 5 stars

This short but excellent book was everything that I’ve needed as a struggling advocate of deep POV. I’d attempted to go deep a few times over recent years and tried to use guidance in online articles. Sometimes my writing felt as though it was getting deeper, other times it felt like another failed attempt.

Now, at last, I have a convenient guide on my desk. And as I was reading her book, I was writing another short story, and, with Lisa Hall-Wilson’s guidance, phrases traced salt-runs on my cheeks.

Okay, that’s more purple than deep, but this gem of non-fiction was full of so much immense value that my current writing makes me feel more confident. From simple ways to eliminate unnecessary telling and ways for going deeper, to creating voice and layering emotions, there are so many simple techniques to help a writer tackle deep point of view,

I felt that I was ready to delve far more in my writing with every page I read and I wrote. For me, this was essential and invaluable. (Apologies for weird phrases pulled from a catarrh-addled brain.)

I won’t remove a star for the lack of page numbers as there is great advice on every page. And it doesn’t end there as Lisa Hall-Wilson has a Facebook page – Confident Writers – and she runs courses and offers online help.

Where Did My Kindle Files Go?

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Apologies for today’s Thursday Creation Review not being about anything creative as such. Well, it is about Kindle files and those are books so that counts. Doesn’t it?

Last week, I wrote that my Kindle had died a few weeks ago, so I had to revert to ‘my pile of reconstituted trees’.

I had hoped that the 500+ Kindle titles on my Amazon UK account would transfer to my Amazon US account and be accessible with my US-bought Fire 7 when I updated my address. That was not the case – my UK-bought titles remained behind. I can access them via Kindle Cloud – great news as most of the research books I access from my PC are UK-acquired ones. (The Cloud is no use when I want to read away from my desk.)

Amazon stopped me buying a new device from their UK site to send to my US address – hence the new Fire. I am presuming that my wife’s UK-bought Kindle has the UK books on it – we just need to find it’s ‘safe place’.

Ringing Amazon Customer Services seemed to be the best solution. Maybe they could make the transfer or amalgamate the accounts.

I spoke with two helpful people in Bangalore, India who explained exactly why my UK-bought content cannot be accessed with US-bought devices – ever. Basically, bought Kindle content is tied to the account of the device – and to the ‘household/family’. Therefore, my UK-bought Kindle was acquired from the Amazon UK site which is tied to my AOL UK email address. Accessing that device here in the US was no problem so I could read any of the 500+ books over here in the US – when my old Kindle was working.

I use a different email for my Amazon US account and all content bought via that account appears on any device bought on that account. My Fire 7 is linked to my US account, where it was bought, and this device contains nineteen US-bought titles. However, that means US-bought reference books aren’t on the Cloud.

Seeing the pattern?

“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

Not exactly what Rudyard Kipling meant, so maybe I’ll try this apocryphal quote by George Bernard Shaw:

“England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”

Or create a new amalgamated version:

“Oh, Amazon UK and Amazon US are two monoliths separated by the same rules so never the twain shall meet.”

George Bernard Shaw Painting; George Bernard Shaw Art Print for sale

 

After that light entertainment, back to the programme.

There are some solutions.

Number 1: if I had just a single Amazon account, then I could change that into an Amazon account in another country. If I’m right, my problem is having two active accounts with two separate emails. Two different emails make me two different people.

Bottom line: if you are planning to move to another country, talk to Amazon first about taking your content with you. DON’T CREATE A SECOND ACCOUNT BLINDLY.

Rhif 2: follows on from that email observation – and it’s my cray-thinking so not based on fact. If different members of a family with different emails can be a ‘Household’ and share books, why can’t my two email personalities? Question to Amazon Customer Services.

Numéro 3: I can purchase a new device with my US account as a gift. The recipient then links it to their own Amazon account – my wife just gifted her grand-daughter in that way. So, Roland US can gift Roland UK a Kindle/Fire? Question 2 to Amazon Customer Services – once we find my wife’s Kindle and see if it still has the 500+ books on it.

My fear is that by updating my address, I dismantled our ‘Household’ so there will be no content. No content = No Household for Roland UK to join. I have also noted that every time I now want to buy a Kindle title on my UK account, it won’t let me and says to go to the US store. That means any gift cards from my UK family are worthless for now.

Número 4: Amazon Customer Services did throw out one solution, although it was one that they were unable to implement. The technical guy in India said that my ISP might be able to set up a network that would give my US device access to my UK content. A solution I’ll be pursuing once others have been investigated.

For now, I have e-books on my Fire and at least eight paperbacks lined up to be read and reviewed. Hopefully, that means that the Thursday Creation Review will be back to normal next week.

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POSTSCRIPTS

First postscript: One of the comments on Amazon raised the question of whether a writer faced similar restrictions selling books. I believe that there are no restrictions of this kind. For writers, Amazon allows one to sell almost worldwide. However, I am reading that the market beyond Amazon is far greater. So, don’t go the Amazon exclusive route. I did and I’m rethinking my strategy for my Snowdon Shadows series.

Second postscript, or Ail bostysgrif: I am intending to submit an entry for the 2018 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest. However, I’ve strayed outside my comfort zone as the Genre is Young Adult Romance with the Theme of Masquerade. I have one beta-reader perusing my attempt, but it would help to have input from at least one other person.

Any beta-reader volunteers, please? Yn ddelfrydol siaradwr Cymraeg.

EveMyles-Sparkle

Joseph Barnaby – a review

Thursday_horizons

When my Kindle died recently, I had to revert to my pile of reconstituted trees and so today’s Thursday Creation Review is the most recent paperback I finished. Beyond that, I will be reviewing a book that I’m reading – drum-roll – on my new Kindle Fire 7.

That new acquisition was a problem as almost all my 500+ Kindle titles are on my UK account – and Amazon stopped me buying a new device from their UK site to send to my US address. So, the new Kindle is linked to my US account which has only a couple of dozen titles – enough for now, even if some are in my paperback collection.

Anyway, time for this review.

NOTE: book release on October 5th 2018.

 JosephBarnaby

Joseph Barnaby

by

Susan Roebuck (Goodreads Author)

Stand by your beliefs – even if it means going to the end of the Earth.

By standing up for his principles, horse farrier Joseph Barnaby lost everything. Now, when a personal vendetta goes too deep to fight, he escapes to the Portuguese island of Madeira where he finds work on a small farm only accessible by boat.

The balmy climate and never-ending supply of exotic fruit, vegetables, and honey make it sound like paradise. But, for Joseph, it’s the ideal place to hide from the world.

Not everyone is prepared to give up on life’s misfortunes. The local fishing village has its own surprises and the inhabitants of Quinta da Esperança have more grit in them than the pebbled beach that borders the property.

Review 4.6 stars

When I discovered that the main protagonist was “horse farrier Joseph Barnaby”, my ears pricked, and the Portuguese island of Madeira made this a Must Read. When I won this excellent novel in an Advance Giveaway from author Susan Roebuck – but with no obligation to write anything about Joseph Barnaby – the book moved to the top of my reading pile.

The exact reason why Joe Barnaby escapes his life with horses in England is carefully revealed in flashbacks that felt at moments like a Dick Francis mystery. In contrast, his new life working on a small farm near the fishing village of Quinta da Esperança became a wonderful romance with both the island and with a young deaf woman, Sofia – although there are obstacles thrown in their path, including Joe’s past.

For me, the romance worked, and I was swept along; plus, the horseracing mystery spurred my ‘detective’ skills. I began to suspect what might have happened as the clues were slipped out, and the resolution satisfied me – as did the romantic denouement.

I must admit that there were some minor moments where my equestrian brain questioned the odd bit of phrasing, but slight, and even as an equestrian journalist, I have made mistakes. I was interested in the way that Riding for the Disabled featured – having personal connections to that inspiring movement.

The settings were vividly described, and I was immersed in the story because of those descriptions – and through the wonderful cast.

There were some great characters, from the main protagonists of Joe and Sofia to the supporting cast, from memorable fishermen to the two principal antagonists. The latter were not as devious as the ones that challenge my brain in crime novels, but they displayed traits that kept the protagonists challenged. Sofia’s bees are characters themselves as well as an inspirational community. And I must mention Ed the donkey – just read and find out.

One woman was elusively mysterious, adding a clever thread to the story that wove through so many elements – I’m avoiding spoilers here. I want to say that there are a few clever threads, from the island’s past to the medical themes.

Sofia’s deafness seemed to be understood by the author and sensitively handled – adding to my engagement with the character. How others interacted with her was well contrasted, with some signing, others lip-reading, and those frustrated by her.

This novel was the perfect combination for me – horses and romance in a Portuguese setting. A strong 4.6 stars and a recommended quick read.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Code Name Verity – a review

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Three troubled weeks and mounting problems have delayed this review – apologies. I finished reading Code Name Verity on September 5, but a bad head cold laid me low, and now financial hurdles have arisen.

However, I am attempting this edition of my Thursday Creation Review and hope that I can catch up as there are full reviews outstanding from early in the year – and I’ve just finished another book.

Verity

Code Name Verity

(Code Name Verity #1)

by

Elizabeth E. Wein (Goodreads Author)

Two young women become unlikely best friends during World War II, until one is captured by the Gestapo.

Only in wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat. But then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France. She is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in “Verity”’s own words, as she writes her account for her captors. Truth or lies? Honour or betrayal? Everything they’ve ever believed in is put to the test . . .

A gripping thriller, Code Name Verity blends a work of fiction into 20th century history with spine-tingling results. A book for young adults like no other.

Review 5 stars

When a young woman is captured by the Gestapo in occupied France, she begins writing down an account for her captors about a plucky lass, Maddie from Manchester. Her story, told as one of her captors accuses ‘in novel form’, shows how Maddie learns to fly and becomes an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot. She befriends Queenie, an enigmatic Scottish aristocrat who is recruited as a spy by the Special Operations Executive. Through this account, the Gestapo learn secrets about the Allies war-effort as well as about the two young women – and the reader realises that the writer is Queenie.

“I of course took the opportunity to interpose wi’ pig-headed Wallace pride, ‘I am not English, you ignorant Jerry bastard, I am a SCOT.” 

Queenie is accused of being a collaborator, giving away crucial wireless codes and more for her ongoing survival. However, as this account spilt out with disturbing details, I wondered what was being revealed. Perhaps it was the novel’s opening quote about passive resisters that made me unsure about Queenie’s account. Or the truth is, as Queenie writes at the beginning, “I AM A COWARD” and a traitor?

What is truth? What is verity? That is the question in war when some sacrifices pay that ultimate price, and principals are abandoned. The atmosphere is rife with emotions – grief gives way to anger as the details are exposed of an era when so many died; what did they die for? The truth?

Although Queenie’s account is written for the Gestapo, it peels back their layers, even revealing cultural tastes.

“Nothing like an arcane literary debate with your tyrannical master while you pass the time leading to your execution.”

There are moments of humour that distract and buy time. For whom? For what? On one level, it seems that the cost of this betrayal will be too high, yet I wanted Queenie to survive.

I just hoped that this was a masterful deception and that a rescue was imminent. When the novel switches from Queenie’s POV to that of Maddie, I experienced new emotions – not just renewed hope. The voice changed, although the writer had already given us a taste of Maddie’s character as well as of the harsh existence in Occupied France.

To say more would require spoilers. Just know that Maddie’s story is as riveting with unexpected plot twists that play through to the end – to the truth, or should I say Verity.

All the characters are engaging, whether they are the older adults like the officer that recruits Queenie, or the young people on the frontline of this and so many other wars. Elizabeth Wein captures a deep sense of all those caught up in these life-changing events.

This is a brilliant and gritty YA novel that sweeps the reader along with the feisty and resourceful protagonists – pulled into their minds and actions. I felt I was witnessing the highs and lows of lives experienced in the face of the traumatic horrors of war

And running through the novel, adding another layer to the central characters, was the Neverland theme – poignant and beautiful.

“How did you ever get here, Maddie Brodatt?”
“‘Second to the right, and then straight on till morning,'” she answered promptly-it did feel like Neverland.
“Crikey, am I so obviously Peter Pan?”
Maddie laughed. “The Lost Boys give it away.”
Jamie studied his hands. “Mother keeps the windows open in all our bedrooms while we’re gone, like Mrs. Darling, just in case we come flying home when she’s not expecting us.”

Code Name Verity must be my favourite read of 2018 as it played with all my emotions. I look forward to reading both the prequel the Pearl Thief – which is more in the style of a classic mystery – and Rose Under Fire a sequel of sorts.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths – a review

Thursday_horizons

For today’s Thursday Creation Review, I’m catching up on an outstanding one from March when. I wrote a few words on Goodreads for this third book in the Fiona Griffiths series by Harry Bingham and promised a longer review.

This will be my third review of a Fiona Griffiths book – see also: Book 1. Talking to the Dead and Book 2. Love Story with Murders.

Anyway, as promised…

StrangeDeath

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths

(Fiona Griffiths #3)

by

Harry Bingham (Goodreads Author)

It started out as nothing much. A minor payroll fraud at a furniture store in South Wales. No homicide involved, no corpses. Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths fights to get free of the case but loses. She’s tasked with the investigation.

She begins her enquiries, only to discover the corpse of a woman who’s starved to death. Looks further, and soon realizes that within the first, smaller crime, a vaster one looms: the most audacious theft in history.

Fiona’s bosses need a copper willing to go undercover, and they ask Fiona to play the role of a timid payroll clerk so that she can penetrate the criminal gang from within.

Fiona will be alone, she’ll be lethally vulnerable – and her fragile grip on ‘Planet Normal’ will be tested as never before …

Review 5 stars

Fiona Griffiths is one amazingly quirky detective and this third book adds just another layer or two to her persona. Harry Bingham continues to throw curve balls in her path, starting with that title.

When DC Fiona Griffiths is tasked with investigating a minor payroll fraud, she discovers a vaster crime is lurking within the first. Fiona is asked to go undercover as a timid payroll clerk to penetrate the criminal gang from inside. But, being alone and vulnerable, challenges her ability to cope with reality.

I enjoyed this third book even more than the previous. Fiona continues to go down unexpected paths and evolve in unexpected ways. With her new persona, she is so complex and fascinating that there was room for her to explore this new world, discover different people – all well portrayed – and prove she can interact convincingly with criminals. If you have read the first two books, then you know that her father has criminal connections. However, she is always operating on a precipice – in reality, and in her mind.

As Fiona becomes Jessica, there is a clever change of pace that matches the new character – a new character that Fiona inhabits almost too well. The title began to make sense, but then the author added new twists and turns – new layers to his protagonist and that title.

The settings are crafted with a realism that matches the unfolding story – from London offices to remote Welsh farms. Gritty when the scene requires that but uplifting when the reader needs green spaces and strong breezes. A year in Fiona’s life covers so much territory.

Harry Bingham is a great believer in keeping readers thinking as well as the coppers and the criminals. He creates believable situations and demonstrates the depth of his research, even down to the details of forms that Fiona/Jessica handles and the electronics both sides use.

Nothing is ever easy or calm when undercover, and as Fiona/Jessica got deeper into this criminal world, I asked, “Will Jessica survive?” Prepare for another awesome ending.

I look forward to visiting Fiona Griffiths’ Cardiff/South Wales world soon, especially as she has ongoing questions to resolve.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars