book review · historical fiction · thought provoking · WWII

Book Review: The Occupation

 

A page-turning historical saga that will pull at your heartstrings! For fans of Freda Lightfoot, Pam Jenoff, Sebastian Faulks and Kate Atkinson.

One woman’s secret war against the Nazis. One man’s war against himself…

1940, Jersey

When Nazi forces occupy Jersey in the English Channel Islands, Céline Huber, who is married to a German, must decide where her loyalty lies.

Love for her island, and fear for her Jewish friend Rachel, soon propel her into a dangerous double life.

Meanwhile, Céline’s husband Fred is conscripted into the Wehrmacht in occupied France.

Horrified by Nazi acts of atrocity and torture, he soon becomes a double agent for the French Resistance.

But when things go wrong, and his Nazi masters discover his true allegiance, he finds he has the whole of the German Army on his tail.

How far will Céline go for her best friend? Will Fred make his way home to her?

Or will their lives be changed forever by the brutality of war?

THE OCCUPATION is a moving war & military saga following the separate stories of a young man and woman through the years of the Second World War as they fight to survive. 

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My Review

5/5 stars

Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres to read, and World War II one of the most fascinating backdrops. I visited Jersey many times as a child, and we always went to the war tunnels (probably where my interest was born) although this was always balanced by the Festival of Flowers.

The Occupation centres on a married couple – Céline, an Englishwoman born in Jersey, and her German husband Fred (Siegfried). The two met in Vienna, and later began a bakery in Jersey, where Fred’s talent as a pâtissier offered the islanders delicious pastries alongside their bread orders. To everyone who knows him, he is Fred the baker … until war breaks out and his nationality becomes his label, and Céline’s.

Fred is conscripted into the German army. At first, he’s quite proud of the efficiency of his compatriots, but that is short-lived when he sees the brutality that follows. His ability to speak French and English gets him a job as a translator in Paris, where he adopts the cover of Édouard Vibert and lives among the locals where he witnesses the diversion of food from the French to the German soldiers. His work reveals what is happening to the Jewish residents, and he sees firsthand a family being dragged away. His bosses soon ask him to ‘spy’ for them, as they are looking for members of the Résistance. At the same time, the locals suspect him when he is visited by a German officer. He must convince them (the locals, now his friends) that he’s on their side. To do that, he gets involved in daring and dangerous acts against the German army. But it is when his friends are arrested that he risks his life to help them, and become a wanted man.

Meanwhile, back in Jersey, Céline worries about him, having no news at all. Her Jewish friend, Rachel, goes “missing”, and then Fred’s German brother Horst (A high-ranking Nazi officer) descends on the bakery …wanting more from her than bread. All this leads to her being ostracised by her neighbours, labelled a “Jerrybag” and struggling for her own survival.

Their acts of heroism determine their fate, both Fred and Céline face the German authorities – will they survive? This is historical fiction at its best – it doesn’t wrap the events up in a cosy blanket, but rather shows the good and the bad, showing how war has an effect on people that changes how they treat each other when their own survival is under threat.

This is a powerful story depicting the best and the worst of humanity, but also not painting all Germans with the same brush (Wolfgang) or making all the Jersey islanders out to be virtuous. Written from both perspectives, the author delves into their new everyday existence, each unaware of how their spouse is faring.

Highly recommended to lovers of quality, well-researched, and real historical fiction with plenty to entertain as well as shock.

As always,

 

blog tour · book review · crime · family · literary fiction · must-read · mystery · nostalgia · thought provoking · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Pink Ice Creams

Pink Ice Creams

by Jo Woolaston

Pink Ice Creams

Intent on fixing her broken marriage and the alcohol-fuelled catastrophe that is her life, Kay Harris arrives at her grim and grey holiday let, ready to lay to rest the tragedy that has governed her entire adulthood – the disappearance of her little brother, Adam.

But the road to recovery is pitted with the pot-holes of her own poor choices, and it isn’t long before Kay is forced to accept that maybe she doesn’t deserve the retribution she seeks. Will the intervention of strangers help her find the answers she needs to move on from her past, or will she always be stuck on the hard shoulder with no clear view ahead and a glove box full of empties?

Pink Ice Creams is a tale of loss, self-destruction, and clinging on to the scraps of the long-lost when everyone else has given up hope.


Purchase Links

Amazon.co.uk:

Paperback:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1984168231

Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RV49TKB

Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07RYX3YWP

Amazon.com:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1984168231

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RV49TKB

Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jowoolaston

 

Author Bio

Jo Woolaston lives in Leicestershire, England with her extreme noise-making husband and two lovely sons. She tries to avoid housework and getting a ‘proper job’ by just writing stuff instead – silly verse, screenplays, shopping lists…

This sometimes works in her favour (she did well in her MA in TV Scriptwriting, gaining a Best Student award in Media and Journalism – and has had a few plays produced – that kind of thing) but mostly it just results in chronic insomnia and desperate tears of frustration. Pink Ice Creams is her first novel, she hopes you liked it.

Social Media Links 

Facebookhttps://m.facebook.com/nevermindthebloggers

Twitter @JoWoolaston

Website: https://www.jowoolaston.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19176972.Jo_Woolaston

My Review

Wow – what a book!

Kay’s story switches between one major life event to another. As a pre-teen, her younger brother, Adam went missing while on holiday – a caravan holiday with her mum and little bro. She harbours some guilt about his disappearance, and it’s clear she hasn’t really grieved and recovered from it all.

Years later she is back at the same caravan park, this time having left her husband Martin. We learn he’s a bully, an abuser with violent and manipulative tendencies, and even now, whilst in a safe place, she contemplates going back to him. But, this time, she fears he won’t forgive her actions.

Vulnerable, traumatised and paranoid, the events that play out at the caravan park and the local area are indicative of her disturbed state of mind. Yet, despite being at her lowest, she still has the strength of character and sisterly love to unravel the details surrounding her brother’s disappearance.

Peppered with nursery rhymes, holiday nostalgia as well as less happy memories relating to her marriage, the story drifts between the past and present. Sometimes, this is a little confusing and jarring – but maybe that’s just the Kindle version. I can imagine a print copy would break the text up more successfully, thus avoiding any confusion as the timeline changes.

The story totally took off, for me, in the second half, where the pace of events sped up, and Kay became clearer as to what happened to Adam – after a series of very unfortunate mistakes, generally due to her drunken state and paranoia and an ability to jump to conclusions at those times.

A powerful read, with moments of humour and sadness. The author’s character observations are uniquely made, but with such clarity and detail that brings every scene to life. Jo Woolaston is definitely a great talent, and one I’ll be following with interest, awaiting her next tour de force.

 

For more news and reviews, fill your boots at these blogs:

As always,

blog tour · book review · British · political · tense · terrorism · thought provoking · thriller

Blog Blitz ‘n’ Book Review – Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand

by Rachel McLean

Divided We Stand

Britain is a country under surveillance. Neighbours spy on neighbours. Schools enforce loyalty to the state. And children are encouraged to inform on their parents.

Disgraced MP Jennifer Sinclair has earned her freedom but returns home to find everything changed.

Rita Gurumurthy has been sent to a high security prison. When a sympathetic guard helps her escape she becomes a fugitive, forced to go into hiding.

To reunite her family and win freedom for her son and her friend, Jennifer must challenge her old colleague and rival, the new Prime Minister Catherine Moore.

Will Catherine listen to reason and remove the country from its yoke of fear and suspicion? Or will Jennifer have to reveal the secret only she knows about Catherine, and risk plunging the country into turmoil?

I’ve come to expect a lot from Rachel McLean as an author, and she never disappoints. This third book in the Division Bell trilogy is every much the “David vs Goliath” story as its predecessors. In the current times of political uncertainty (or should that  be “insanity”?) she takes the reader on another captivating, white-knuckle ride.

You too will be screaming at the pages, begging for the cavalry. It’s escapism into a world that is not so far-fetched from our present reality, where you will be black and blue from pinching yourself to check it’s not from the non-fiction shelf.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

My Review

I admit to being a huge fan of trilogies – and having read books 1 and 2 in this series, there was no way on the planet I was going to miss this one.

The story picks up with Jennifer Sinclair – former Birmingham MP and Cabinet Minister returning home to an empty house after having been arrested for sheltering her supposedly terrorist-inclined son and hiding him from the authorities. She returns to Brum to see citizens hostile to a young Muslim woman. Challenging them, she hears of another terrorist act having been committed in the city. Concern for her own family overwhelms her and she fears for their safety in this new extreme anti-Muslim world.

In her own street, curtains twitch as she arrives at her front door where a CCTV camera is now focused on her house.

Neighbours are wary of her, unwilling to be seen in public with her. So much has happened while she has been “indisposed” at the British Values Centre, and none of it for the good of the people.

The other main protagonist from book two – Rita Gurumurthy – is on her way to a new facility when a car accident gives her the chance to escape. But where can she go, and how long can she survive without being spotted and returned to the hell-hole that left her battered and bruised both physically and mentally?

The plight of the two women to tell their stories to the world without risking further harm continues.

Jennifer finally catches up with her husband and youngest son, Hassan, but there is still no news of Samir.

Rita sees her boyfriend taken from his home by police as she crawls her way into Worcester, starving, cold and scared to death.

Their diligence and courage to stand up to the new status quo is both heart-warming and troubling. Conflict and hostility surface at every opportunity; it seems there is no way for the truth to be told as a result of too many cover-ups, secrets and lies in the corridors of power.

This is another gripping thriller, highlighting the impact of how fear can turn neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend, and all in the name of power.

In all honesty, this story freaked me out somewhat due to the comparisons that can be drawn with our current political landscape. Scary, thought-provoking, gritty and almost voyeuristic in its potential reality.

Another winner!

About the Author

I’m Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I’m told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories – well, I’m sorry but I can’t help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They’re inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

You can find out more about my writing, get access to deals and exclusive stories or become part of my advance reader team by joining my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub.

Follow the author on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

 

As always,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog blitz · British · political · suspense · thought provoking · thriller

Blog Blitz ‘n’ Book Review – Divide and Rule

Divide and Rule

by Rachel McLean

Divide and Rule

Jennifer Sinclair’s fight to save her political career, her family and her freedom has failed. Traumatised by prison violence, she agrees to transfer to the mysterious British Values Centre.

Rita Gurumurthy has betrayed her country and failed the children in her care. Unlike Jennifer, she has no choice, but finds herself in the centre against her will.

Both women are expected to conform, to prove their loyalty to the state and to betray everything they hold dear. One attempts to comply, while the other rebels. Will either succeed in regaining her freedom?

Divide and Rule is 1984 for the 21st century – a chilling thriller examining the ruthless measures the state will take to ensure obedience, and the impact on two women.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US 

Amazon UK 

My Review

Another 5 star read from author Rachel McLean, and I’m not just saying that because I was so desperate to read this second book in the Division Bell Trilogy. In fact, I made myself wait until I could put everything aside and lose myself in this world. However, this is not a world I want to be lost in; unfortunately it feels all too close, too possible and way too scary.

Consider this as a premise: an erosion of rights in pursuit of an ideology framed as an act of loyalty to the sovereignty of the state.

Sound familiar? Heck, it does …and that is what makes it so chilling. Is this what we could become? This is a book that I both wanted to read, and also dreaded reading. When fiction blurs with a potential reality, we hope there’s a happy ending. This book will have you praying for that happy ending … This is fiction with one very scary foot in the door of a new world that might once have been labelled futuristic or dystopian. These days, such a story could all too easily be seen as prophetic. I live in hope that Book 3 of the trilogy will bring the cavalry to stop the madness – although, both in the real world and this fictional one, I have my doubts.

But, back to the book. This continues from where we left off, with Jennifer, once the Prisons Minister, now in the same prison where the death of a prisoner occurred on her watch. To say she is unpopular would be beyond exaggeration. Added to the very real threat now facing her, she is also left unaware of how the land lies for her son, who was arrested shortly before her.

When she is finally transferred to a new facility, she – perhaps naively – assumes there will be a logical and more reasonable solution available to her. At the very least, contact with her solicitor, an update on her family, and details of the charges against her.

These are the same assumptions held by Rita Gurumurthy, arrested in her classroom for not reciting the daily oath with her pupils.

Now, both women face the six step program to prove their loyalty to the state, to confirm their “British Values”, and – more importantly – to denounce their wicked ways. But, this is a place where lying is not an option. And if you fail the test twice, then release is no longer an option either.

With the odds heavily stacked against them, the story is told in alternating chapters, highlighting the differing tactics used to effectively ‘break’ each woman. Jennifer, a former cabinet Minister, an MP, a family woman who puts family and country before career and party, for whom principles mean more than policy. Rita, a strong-willed woman of principles, who believes in fairness and equality. Who is the stronger? Who has the best strategy? And, who, ultimately, will prevail?

While I need to know how this trilogy ends, I’m not sure I have the mental capacity to do so. I have to keep reminding myself this is fiction, but, damn it, that is a tough call to make.

Ah, what the heck … bring it on. Forewarned is forearmed, right?

An exciting, scary, chilling and thrilling read. McLean knows how to twist the knife, to ramp up the tension, and then … to leave you desperate for more.

About the author:

I’m Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I’m told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories – well, I’m sorry but I can’t help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They’re inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

You can find out more about my writing, get access to deals and exclusive stories or become part of my advance reader team by joining my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub.

Follow Rachel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always,

 

blog tour · book review · political · suspense · thought provoking · thriller

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – A House Divided

A House Divided

by Rachel McLean

A House Divided

Jennifer Sinclair is many things: loyal government minister, loving wife and devoted mother.

But when a terror attack threatens her family, her world is turned upside down. When the government she has served targets her Muslim husband and sons, her loyalties are tested. And when her family is about to be torn apart, she must take drastic action to protect them.

A House Divided is a tense and timely thriller about political extremism and divided loyalties, and their impact on one woman.

Grab your copy here.

Seriously, you don’t want to miss it. It’s virtual reality in book form.

So topical.

So tense.

So frighteningly close to the truth.

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

My review: 5/5 stars.

I absolutely devoured this book, it had me gripped from beginning to end.

From the start, Jennifer Sinclair has her hands full with a political career as the Prisons Minister as well as a busy Birmingham constituency to manage, and a family with two school-aged children. She is a politician with a conscience, with principles she believes in and will stand up for – even when it means not following the party line. When she recognises anti-Muslim sentiment growing, she is keen to prevent it from getting out of control.

A fall from grace sees her return to the back benches before returning to a junior role at the Home Office. Unfortunately, a terror attack in London, only increases her workload, and results in a surge of hate crimes against innocent Muslim families like her own. Her husband, Yusuf, knows too well the effects of extremism and while he wants to be supportive of his wife, he is torn between his community and a growing mistrust of the government.

When their eldest son’s name appears on a list of “people of interest” by virtue of connections he has recently made, Jennifer’s world spirals out of control.

Without giving anything away, this story ends by placing Jennifer in a most dangerous position, one which harks back to her earlier role as Prisons Minister.

This is a fast-paced political thriller with a human touch, showing how politics affects our lives in more ways than we ever realise. Set in the near-future, some two years from now, the issues raised here are so topical and increasingly tense, because they reflect many of the sensitive scenarios facing us right now.

This book reveals party politics in all its glory, confirming suspicions that many politicians put career before country. It is all just a touch too familiar, too uncomfortable and too raw. But, by golly, it makes for a fascinating read – if only it weren’t so close to the truth.

I cannot wait for book two – it’ll be a case of ‘drop everything, and do not disturb’ when I get to jump right back into Jennifer’s story.

Well done, Rachel McLean, you’re definitely on my list of ‘books-to-one-click’ from here on.

Author Bio

I’m Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I’m told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories – well, I’m sorry but I can’t help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They’re inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

You can find out more about my writing, get access to deals and exclusive stories or become part of my advance reader team by joining my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub.

Follow Rachel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Find more reviews, excerpts and author interviews at these amazing blogs.

blog tour · Bloggers · book review · contemporary fiction · friendship · suspense · thought provoking · thriller

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Benevolent Dictator

The Benevolent Dictator

by Tom Trott

The Benevolent Dictator

Ben longs to be prime minister one day. But with no political connections, he is about to crash out of a Masters degree with no future ahead. So when by chance he becomes fast friends with a young Arab prince, and is offered a job in his government, he jumps at the chance to get on the political ladder.

Amal dreads the throne. And with Ben’s help he wants to reform his country, steering it onto a path towards democracy. But with the king’s health failing, revolutionaries in the streets, and terrorism threatening everyone, the country is ready to tear itself apart.

Alone in a hostile land, Ben must help Amal weigh what is best against what is right, making decisions that will risk his country, his family, and his life.

Get your copy from the author’s website or Amazon

My Review: 4/5 stars

The slow ordinariness  of the first few pages might lead you to thinking this book is a drawn-out soliloquy of an undergraduate going through the motions of everyday student life. But you’d be wrong. This novella quickly transforms into a fast-paced, high-energy tale that I had to read in one sitting.

Ben isn’t your regular student. He shuns the parties and drinking fests in favour of study. He knows what he wants from life, but is unsure how to get it. So he controls the one thing he can – his education. A cross-university debate introduces him to Amal, the sheikh-student who goes on to win the argument that “Ideology is dead”. A later encounter, thanks to one of Ben’s quirky friends, sees the two young men discuss their life options. A subsequent invitation to a family ‘do’ gives Ben a taste of the life Amal has. A lifestyle that is then offered to Ben, when Amal’s elder brother suffers a fatal accident,  pushing an unprepared Amal to the forefront of his country’s ruling monarchy. While his father, the King, still lives, failing health means Amal will be king in the very near future – a prospect he had always been happy to defer to his now-dead brother.

In situ as Amal’s adviser, Ben not only has to learn about his new friend’s country (Argolis) but he also encounters a mocking and hostile attitude from the King’s own top adviser – Daniel – who sees him as a nuisance and inconvenience to be tolerated and put down at every opportunity.

The comparison of the British and Arab systems of governing are all too apparent as Ben struggles with the idea of public executions, and the absence of women in any role beyond domesticity. Meetings with fellow Brits add a touch of humour, particularly “the empire party” serving up Marmite, football and episodes of The Antique roadshow. Since Argolis had once been under British rule, it was amusing and fascinating to see the subtle power play going on between the unassuming Brits – who, on the face of things, seem like thoroughly good chaps! Say no more …

The ending was a little abrupt for my liking. I felt sure there was more to Rania’s story (Amal’s sister) than was mentioned, and I would have like a definitive ending for Amal – some explanation, acknowledgement of what happened to him.

Overall, a really enjoyable, exciting read – I would have loved it to be longer and for the ending to be more developed, but, that aside, it was an interesting and well-written story that kept me hooked from start to end.

PS – I loved the idea of a certain former UK Prime Minister (with ‘connections’ to Middle Eastern affairs) popping by for a visit, only for it to be … (well, I couldn’t really say what happened, could I? But I loved the relevancy and, even more so, the outcome!!)

About the author:

Tom Trott was born in Brighton. He first started writing at Junior School, where he and a group of friends devised and performed comedy plays for school assemblies, much to the amusement of their fellow pupils.

Since leaving school and growing up to be a big boy, he has written a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival; he has written Daye’s Work, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and he has won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest.

He is the proverbial Brighton rock, and currently lives in the city with his wife.

Catch up with Tom on Twitter, Facebook or via his website 

 

Read more reviews, excerpts and author interviews throughout this blog tour.

Thanks for reading 😉

art · Casualty of Court · culture · MOOC · mystery · series · thought provoking · Why write

Arty-farty? Moi?

Maybe just a little bit, but hopefully not in an annoying way.

I’m still me – none of those hoity-toity airs and graces to be found here. Just the kid from the council estate with a keen curiosity for something a little different. I don’t know where it came from, though – this sudden love of paintings. It kind of snuck up on me. Although, I do remember feeling ecstatic when my pastel version of Van Gogh’s sunflowers was put on display in the school corridor when I was twelve.
Not that I developed any further skill after that. I may have peaked too soon, resorting to paint by number kits after my family members erupted in laughter at my efforts during a game of Pictionary (Seriously, it was only meant to be a finger …)

A BBC programme – Fake or Fortune – in 2011 triggered something deep in the recesses of my mind, introducing me to a new kind of mystery: art and culture crime.  The series featured journalist, Fiona Bruce and art dealer Philip Mould — dubbed “the art detective” — and, together, they investigated remarkable stories delving beneath the surface of paintings. From Paris and Amsterdam to Cape Town, the banks of the Nile, and New York, the team employed old-fashioned detective skills and the latest forensic testing to reveal compelling tales of lost masterpieces, forgers and Nazi-looted art.

OMG! I was hooked.

I had to have more. And more is exactly what I found in the form of a course about Antiquities Trafficking & Art Crime run by the University of Glasgow. (I sound almost cultured now, don’t I? Don’t worry, it’s all a front – as my mum would say ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’.)

This course was dynamite, firing off all sorts of explosions in my curious mind. I learnt about the looting of cultural treasures from archaeological sites around the world; smuggling networks; the demand for illicit antiquities; high-end art heists; fraud and forgery; art vandalism and thankfully also about repatriation, recovery and return of those stolen, priceless pieces.

Brain overload … yet, I wanted more … and not just a weekly newsletter about the progress being made in finding these lost works of art, or more awful news of another heist or a site being plundered.

It’s at this point my mind did a little flip – and a sequel I was writing (Casualty of Court) morphed into a series.

Hey presto, the Blackleaf Agency was born and my newly qualified PIs were thrown into the murky depths of the art world.

It meant I could pursue my love of writing and combine it with my other unhealthy obsession, that of endless, methodical, jaw-dropping, fascinating research into a topic that had inspired, educated, and enthralled me. Not a bad way to pass the time, is it?

Doing something you love is not always an option, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

So, to answer my own question: am I arty farty?  Not in the pretentious, snobbish way (I hope), but when it comes to a mystery in that scintillating, almost out-of-reach world then I’m in up to my neck – granted that’s probably only waist-high for most people, but it’s a serious immersion for me 🙂 and I’m more than happy to be there.

Thanks for reading 🙂

challenge · forensics · fun · human identification · learning · murder mystery · profiling · research · thought provoking

Identifying the Dead – a research project

The key to any great story is in the detail, isn’t it? If the facts are questionable – and worse still, wrong – then the whole story is tainted.
No-one wants to read a mystery story and find the plot to be a complete joke because the author hasn’t bothered to find out how certain procedures work and has just glossed over the facts to reach an unconvincing – and laughable – conclusion.
As an avid reader, when this happens to me I am not only disappointed with the outcome, but I feel cheated. The story that was promised to me in the blurb description was all hype just to get my attention. And I hate it when that happens.
Does the phrase ‘it does what it says on the tin’ not apply to books too? Well, it should!
So, to make sure I don’t commit the same heinous crime of fiction myself, I have enrolled on a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) entitled ‘Identifying the dead’ offered by the University of Dundee. Here, the whole forensics procedure is explained in an entertaining way – almost like watching your favourite TV show and seeing what the experts see as they build the clues to solve the murder.

Forensics-pic

Here’s what’s involved:

The first step in any investigation involving a death is to determine the identity of the deceased. This free online course will take you on a journey through the world of forensic anthropology, unveiling the tools that will allow you to reveal that identity.

Join forensic experts to identify the dead

In the shadow of Dundee’s Law Hill, a grim discovery demands the attention of forensic experts. Unidentified human remains have been found and the police need to identify the victim to move forward with their investigation.

After a meticulous recovery of the remains, it will be your job to:

  • document and attempt to explain any evidence of trauma;
  • identify the victim through biological profiling;
  • and undertake a facial reconstruction.

Experts from the University of Dundee’s award-winning Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHId) will guide you through the process of human identification.

They will introduce you to the fields of human identification; forensic anthropology and archaeology; craniofacial identification; and the study of the human body.

Evaluate evidence as the case unfolds

Week-by-week, the case will unfold, providing you with more information about the victim. You will be presented with theoretical material and hands-on learning opportunities, to evaluate the case information and use what you have learned, to piece together clues to the victim’s identity.

You will be able to discuss, with educators and others learners, your thoughts on the identity of the deceased, based on your evaluation of the evidence.

Get your own copy of the murder mystery

After you submit your evaluation of the victim’s identity, all will be revealed at the end of the final week. You can continue your journey into the life and death of our victim in your very own ebook copy of a specially-written murder mystery by international best-selling crime novelist Val McDermid.

Can you use the skills that you will learn on this course to identify the dead?

Sound’s cool, doesn’t it? I cannot wait to get started 🙂 

If you’re interested, check out Future Learn Courses, there’s bound to be something that interests you too.

 

NetGalley · superhumans · thought provoking · thriller

All aboard!

Well,I am nothing if not persistent (annoyingly so, some might say!!)

Bus number 2 poses plenty of twists and turns as it veers towards what could have been a very disturbing truth for mankind. It alternates between the present day and the 1940s, detailing the extent to which Hitler’s leading men were prepared to go to ‘create’ the perfect human specimen.

The Bleiberg Project by David S Khara

is a fivebleiberg star thriller, filled with intrigue and conspiracy theories. It will make you question how such atrocities could happen and indeed, why were they so obsessed with the need to create a superhuman?

Summary: Jeremy Corbin is a trader on Wall Street, currently he is in a very depressive after a drinking bout led to the death of a child as he drove home one night. He grew up without his father in his life, believing him to have abandoned his family. When Jeremy is told of his father’s death by the CIA and that he was actually killed, he also learns his father did not want to leave his family, but circumstances meant he had to go away in order to keep them safe. Armed with this news, he tells his mother, who then hands him a locket, containing a key bearing the Nazi emblem – the Swastika. More than a little confused, Jeremy then gets the news that his mother has also been killed and he finds himself heading for Europe with a CIA agent and a Mossad agent. Can his life get any more complicated? Well, yes, it can …. and does!!

My thoughts: I am fascinated (possibly too much so) by this period of history and I soaked up this story like a sponge. Jeremy Corbin is a bit of a dullard, very much wrapped up in his own problems and not trying too hard to help himself. He has a tendency to feel quite sorry for himself and is forced to learn to think and act differently when he embarks on his escapade with the secret agents. The female CIA agent is a tough cookie, but she grows to like Jeremy, inspite of his poorly timed one-liners and ‘woe is me’  attitude. The Mossad agent is the most interesting character of the three, and what develops for his character is truly riveting. The pace is fast, but without losing the details. Highly recommended to anyone who finds this subject matter as compelling as I do, and thankfully there is more to come as a series is underway 🙂

change · NetGalley · review · revolution · thought provoking · thoughtful

Maybe more truth than fiction – a book review

Living with Strangers

by Elizabeth Ellis

I gave this 4 stars.

strangers

Summary:

When her brother Josef suddenly leaves the family home for no apparent reason, young Madeleine Feldman is bereft and unable to function normally. As the only remaining middle child, she feels his absence more deeply than her siblings and now finds herself isolated from the family unit. Her school and home life suffer as she drifts from one bad decision to another and the relationship with her parents, particularly her mother, seems irreparable. It is this lack of direction that sees her move to France to accept a position as a nanny, a job for which she has neither training nor any great yearning to pursue. Yet, it is the distance that she needs to become independent and lead her own life, away from the disapproving glances and comments at home.

Another unfortunate relationship ends as she finds herself pregnant and seeking a new job and new surroundings. Luckily she finds both with a lovely French couple in need of help and who then offer her the support she requires to bring up her child. With little family contact, other than with her youngest sister, Sophie, she builds a happy life for herself and her daughter in France. Her world is upset when she receives a package from Josef’s  partner, informing her that he has disappeared yet again. At the same time she learns that her father is seriously ill and takes it upon herself to find her brother and reunite the family before it is too late.

My thoughts:

Europe, in the 1960’s and 70’s, is still coming to terms with the aftermath of the war, there are still stigmas attached to being a German family in London, and Maddie’s father has kept many facts of his life a secret in order to bring up his family in peace. Attitudes are changing and Maddie is in the midst of the ‘revolution’, yet still unable to account for all of the events of her family’s past.  Her poor decisions and lack of direction in life all stem from the time of Josef’s departure and how he was so suddenly removed from her life and everything she understood. Her relationship with her mother is painful to see, (but is well explained later in the story) yet Maddie now doesn’t feel as though she belongs or fits in any longer, her role has become superfluous, leaving her with no other option than to flee herself.

The struggles that Maddie has to face are handled with care and empathy. It is easy to understand her point of view, but at the same time you wish for her to just say something. Her only outburst doesn’t achieve its desired intentions and she becomes more withdrawn than ever from her family. The French couple seem to offer her the type of relationship that she yearns for, but there is always a niggling doubt that things would have been different at home, if only Josef hadn’t gone.

When she returns home, albeit with some reluctance, she is called up to unite the family. Her position as the middle child now seems to have become a pivotal role, one upon which everyone is now relying to restore the lost connections and make everything good. As an adult, and a mother, Maddie can now appreciate the circumstances under which her parents felt obliged to manage. Their past lives had made them react in the only way they knew how and now Maddie is to be the one to confirm their validity and try to mend old wounds.

The story is written with great conviction, it is neither overly dramatic nor action-packed, but it does feel real. It’s a gentle, thoughtful tale, set in an age where great prejudices still thrived alongside a willingness to move on and reform.

Do we really know the people with whom we spend our lives?

Are we not all living with strangers to some extent?