Don’t Shout at the Guns by Lawrence Harris

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Synopsis (taken from Amazon):

World War 2 veteren Hank Jensen leaves New York for a nostalgic trip back to the battlefields of northern France. With him go his grandchildren, Aaron and Esther. When they find a camcorder which has an amazing flashback mode they have a real adventure.

This was an interesting read which has left me stumped as to how to review it. It is clearly a young person’s book about WW1. The story follows Hank, his grandchildren Aaron and Esther and two young Britons Hank met at the battlefield’s memorial a few years before, Polly and Tommy. They go back to France to visit the sites of WW1 and the teenagers, with the help of the camcorder, travel back to 1918 and experience an adventure of their own. This book did keep me gripped and wanting to know what happens but I do have complaints about the book.

Firstly, I was not convinced by the storyline of Jenson, the WW1 fighter. Although a good, engaging story, I did not find it realistic, and actually was not particularly informative about the War.

Secondly, I was not convinced by any of the characters. None of them related to me, known of them touched me, I just wasn’t particularly interested in them.

And thirdly, I found it hard to believe that two teenagers would be allowed to travel to France with people they barely knew.

However, that said, I did not put the book down and was intrigued to know the ending.

This is a fictional, young adult book based around World War One.

5/10

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Synopsis:

Some say that the first hint that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came when his mother sent him to school in lime-green Capri pants. Others think it all started with his discovery, at the age of six, of a woollen jersey of rare fineness. Across the moth-holed chest was a golden thunderbolt. It may have looked like an old college football sweater, but young Bryson knew better. It was obviously the Sacred Jersey of Zap, and proved that he had been placed with this innocuous family in the middle of America to fly, become invisible, shoot guns out of people’s hands from a distance, and wear his underpants over his jeans in the manner of Superman. Bill Bryson’s first travel book opened with the immortal line, ‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.’ In his deeply funny new memoir, he travels back in time to explore the ordinary kid he once was, and the curious world of 1950s America. It was a happy time, when almost everything was good for you, including DDT, cigarettes and nuclear fallout. This is a book about growing up in a specific time and place. But in Bryson’s hands, it becomes everyone’s story, one that will speak volumes – especially to anyone who has ever been young.

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This is the first Bryson book I have read and I really enjoyed it. The book follows Bryson’s childhood, into teen years and was very funny. I was laughing out loud at most of the story. It was easy to read, a quick and satisfying read.

Bryson does put the book in historical context and talks about historic events that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the the threat of atomic bombs. However, this was interesting and often amusing as he explains how these events were viewed through a child’s eyes.

He is very honest about what he got up to as a child, including minor thefts and bunking off school. He recalls many funny events and the life he lead in 1950s Iowa. The end was a bit sad, when he talks about what remains of his childhood town and the memories of his friends. But overall, a hilarious book which I really enjoyed.

9/10

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

Synopsis:

A dramatic novel of passion, politics and betrayal from the author of The Other Boleyn Girl, in which Mary, Queen of Scots, fights to regain her kingdom whilst under the guard of Queen Elizabeth’s trusted accomplice, Bess of Hardwick Mary is Queen of Scotland but she has been forced to flee her land and take refuge in an England that is ruled by her cousin Elizabeth. But England, precarious in its Protestant state, set against the mighty powers of Spain, France and Rome, doesn’t need a charismatic Catholic figurehead at large. So Elizabeth’s chief advisor, Cecil, devises a plan in which Mary will live under guard with his trusted accomplice: Bess of Hardwick. Bess is a self-made woman, a shrewd survivor. She is newly married to her fourth and most distinguished husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury. But what marriage can withstand the charms of Mary? Or the threat of rebellion that she always carries? Mary must wait in her privileged imprisonment for the return to Scotland and her infant son; but waiting is not the same as doing nothing!With her characteristic combination of superb storytelling and authentic historical background, Philippa Gregory brings to life this period of great change in her final novel in the Tudor series.

I loved this book. I listened to it as an audiobook, and found as many chances as possible to lose myself in Tudor England.

I loved the characters. There was a usual mix of those I adored and admired, and those I disliked, but also admired. My favourite character was Queen Mary. Her pride and determination were admirable and she made me laugh with many of her antics. I also loved Anthony the little page boy, who at 8 acted like a man, I thought he was adorable.

The story was oozing with history and adventure. There was love, disputes between religions and the issue of family. Wealth played an important part in the story just as it would have done then; the more you had, the higher rank in society you held. And all the women grasped that and fought for that.

I don’t think I have anything bad to say about this book. I was gripped from the start and was not let down, even though as a historical novel the ending is known. However, it saddened me as I had grown to love Mary and Shrewsbury.

This was a really good book.
10/10

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon

Russia, 1854: the Crimean War grinds on, and as the bitter winter draws near, the battlefield hospitals fill with dying men. In defiance of Florence Nightingale, Rosa Barr – young, headstrong and beautiful – travels to Balaklava, determined to save as many of the wounded as she can. For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa’s cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from Henry, her fiance, a celebrated surgeon who has also volunteered to work within the shadow of the guns. When Henry falls ill and is sent to recuperate in Italy, Mariella impulsively decides she must go to him. But upon their arrival at his lodgings, she and her maid make a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared. Following the trail of her elusive and captivating cousin, Mariella’s epic journey takes her from the domestic restraint of Victorian London to the ravaged landscape of the Crimea and the tragic city of Sebastopol. As she ventures deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, Mariella’s ordered world begins to crumble and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness and love.

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This is the first book I have read by Katharine McMahon, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was convincing and engaging. At no point was I bored or struggling to continue. McMahon writes in a wonderful way, with humour, description and character. I easily slipped into the story and felt I was there.

The story does jump between different locations and years, but I did not find this troubling, in fact I feel it enhanced the story. It was fascinating to read about how people at home viewed the war, how to them it was only a small part of their lives and how they thought it should go, compared to what was actually happening out there.

I didn’t have a favourite character, all of them touched me. I did find Mariella a touch selfish though. She managed to make the whole war centre around her, amazing! I was happy with the way most characters developed and how the story ended. I did guess what the ending was going to be, but it was still sad and a satisfying finish.

I was left asking a few questions, but overall I really enjoyed this book.

9/10

Women’s work, 1840-1940 by Elizabeth Roberts

I have read this book as part of my Master’s course.

Synopsis:

This volume addresses some of the difficult issues surrounding women’s work during a century of social upheaval, and demonstrates how hard it is to be precise about the nature and extent of women’s occupations. It focuses on working-class women and the many problems relating to their work, full-time and part-time, paid and unpaid, outside and inside the home. Elizabeth Roberts examines men’s attitudes to women’s work, the difficulties of census enumeration and women’s connections with trade unions. She also tackles in depth other areas of contention such as the effects of legislation on women’s work, a ‘family wage’, and unequal pay and status. Dr Roberts’ study provides a unique overview of an expanding field of social and economic history, while her survey of the available literature is a useful guide to further reading.

I found this a gem of a book. It is only 70 pages long which I was able to read in a couple of hours. It is full of information and it takes a different view of women in this period. There is not a feminist feel or take of this period of history which is rather unusual and is a great tool for historical comparisons. This book is very easy to dip in and out of, easy to follow and understand and the content is very interesting and informative.

9/10

Rogues and Rebels by Jo Field

I have to say I was disappointed with this book.

Synopsis:

BOOK 1 OF THE TAWFORD CHRONICLES: A STORY OF INTRIGUE, PASSION AND BETRAYAL IN THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR. Devon, September, 1642: Charles I has raised his standard and declared war on Parliament. The South West is in danger of being lost to his cause. It is imperative that the King’s men continue to fight on. On the Somerset marshes, Roundhead soldiers capture a vagrant carrying vital information, but he is not what he seems. He is ALEXANDER DYNAM of TAWFORD. Deadly with a blade, a master of disguise and a Royalist spy. Widely and wrongly believed to be the bastard son of his guardian, Viscount Westley, he has to cope with learning the truth of his parentage and accepting that he cannot reveal his feelings of love for Ellen, the woman everyone thinks is his aunt. As the country spirals into bloody civil war Tawford buries his frustration in acts of reckless courage and debauchery and faces dangers that go beyond the Royalists’ struggle for supremacy in the South West. Somebody wants him dead, but who? And why? What is the secret of his identity and does it hold the key? Seeking help from Cobb, leader of a band of outlawed Exmoor gypsies, and the lovely Arabella, an accomplished actress and spy, Tawford is drawn inexorably into a tangled web of intrigue, murder and deceit that carries him and his faithful band of followers from Exmoor to London, to Cornwall in service of the King.

There were a lot of characters, and I just could not remember who was who and who was fighting for which side. It was a descriptive book which made me laugh in places, but the story took a while to get going and sometimes it was too descriptive and graphic, leaving violent images in my mind. This book was a let down I’m afraid.

Happy Families by Adele Parks

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Synopsis from Amazon:

Lisa is forty-two, divorced and a mum of three. For the past year, Lisa has been going out with Mark, who is five years younger than her. Lisa really likes him but she worries that one day he will leave – just like her ex-husband did. On top of everything else, Lisa feels really tired and moody, and has put on weight. She thinks it’s the menopause but could there be another reason for how she’s feeling? Lisa’s life is about to change in a big way but does she want Mark by her side? Does he even want to be there? With the help of her family and friends, Lisa starts to believe that a second chance of love and happiness might just be possible.

This was a fun quick read. I enjoyed this book however I didn’t find the menopause story line convincing. Being 42 she should have been more clued up. The problem with the Quick Reads is that they aren’t long enough to get in touch with the characters however, I did get emotionally involved with the lead character Lisa, just not the others. It was interesting briefly exploring family dynamics and how people punish others for other people’s mistakes. It was nice to see a happy ending and everything resolved. It was an easy read and I read the book in one day. I would love to read this story in a full novel, there is potential here for a great book. A good, quick read!

7/10