A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game that Won the War by Simon Parkin

birds and wolves.jpgTitle: A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game that Won the War

Author: Simon Parkin

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Sceptre

Published: 12th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 310

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Find out what is happening in the Atlantic, find ways of getting the convoys through, and sink the U-boats!’ Prime Minster, Winston Churchill

  1. The Battle of the Atlantic is a disaster. Thousands of supply ships ferrying vital food and fuel from North America to Britain are being torpedoed by German U-boats.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill is lying to the country about the number of British ships sunk. He is lying about the number of British men killed. And worst of all, unless something changes, he knows that Britain is weeks away from being starved into surrender to the Nazis.

This is the story of the game of battleships that won the Second World War. In the first week of 1942 a group of unlikely heroes – a retired naval captain and a clutch of brilliant young women, the youngest only seventeen-years-old – gather to form a secret strategy unit. On the top floor of a bomb-bruised HQ in Liverpool, the Western Approaches Tactical Unit spends days and nights designing and playing wargames in an effort to crack the U-boat tactics.

A GAME OF BIRDS AND WOLVES takes us from the sweltering fug of a U-boat as the German aces coordinate their wolfpack, to the tense atmosphere of the operation room as the British team plot battles at sea on the map.

The story of Operation Raspberry and its unsung heroines has never been told before. Investigative journalist Simon Parkin brings these hidden figures into the light and shows the ingenuity, perseverance and love needed to defeat the Nazis in this gripping tale of war at sea.

~*~

In 1941, the Battle of the Atlantic is raging between Britain and Germany, months before Pearl Harbour is bombed and the Americans finally enter the war. Following the sinking of a ship taking evacuees to America for safety, where only thirty-three of all the children aboard survived, Churchill decides it is time to take more action. With each sunken ship, Britain is receiving fewer supplies to keep the country going. In 1942, a retired naval captain and a group of Wrens begin to plot a strategy to defeat the U-Boats, using maps and small ships to build a game to plan warfare – a game that would come to be known as Battleship. Parkin weaves between this and what was happening with Germany, and peppers it with personal stories of what happened, and in the events leading up to the creation of the game, showing just how close things came to ending up a different way, and how a simple game of secrecy became one of the biggest and most significant strategies in the war that would end in 1945 with the defeat of Germany.

Had Operation Raspberry not gone ahead and had these people whose stories have never been told not risked their lives to plot the naval battles of the Atlantic, World War Two might have had a very different outcome for many people in Europe and indeed, the rest of the world. This is another story from the war that has previously been untold and was shrouded in secrecy until Simon Parkin discovered it. It is an important story, because it adds to the historical record of how the trajectory of World War Two was changed, and ultimately, changed the outcome of the war.

Knowing these stories adds to our understanding of the war – some facts may have been known – the general facts, the basics, but not the intricacies of how the game came about, who was involved and what they spent their days doing, as well as the dangers they faced even just planning and executing the game, which led to safety measures being put in place after a few incidents.

Like other aspects and figures in history who have long been hidden, silenced or ignored for one reason or another, including issues around secrecy like this war game, these stories coming to light expands on what we already know, and gives us a new understanding for what happened and how it happened, and what it took to get there. With carefully researched books like this, these stories are told in engaging and intriguing ways, and should perhaps become recommended reading for students of history, especially when studying this area of history, so they can gain a better understanding beyond what we already know.

An intriguing read for anyone studying or interested in history.

The Sisters of Auschwitz by Roxane van Iperen

sisters of auschwitzTitle: The Sisters of Auschwitz

Author: Roxane van Iperen

Genre: History, Biography

Publisher: Hachette/Seven Dials

Published: 12th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 305

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: The life-affirming story of female bravery, Jewish Nazi resistance and surviving the horrors of Auschwitz

WINNER of the Opzij Literature Prize 2019!

During the Second World War two Jewish sisters – Janny and Lien Brilleslijper – run one of the largest hideaways in The Netherlands: The High Nest, a villa in The Gooi area. While the last remaining Jews are being hunted in The Netherlands, the lives of dozens of hideaways kept going for better or for worse, right under the noses of their National Socialist neighbours. Eventually, the nest is exposed and the Brilleslijper family put on one of the last transports to Auschwitz, along with the (Anne) Frank family.

Roxane’s novelistic eye combined with her rigorous research result in a hugely compelling portrayal of courage, treason and human resilience. THE HIGH NEST is a truly unforgettable book.

After Roxane and her family moved into The High Nest in 2012 she spent six years writing and piecing together its story. Fundamental elements of Roxane’s research into The High Nest are the personal, unpublished memoirs Janny Brilleslijper wrote for their close friends and family members. Roxane gained access to historic interviews with Janny, Lien, Eberhard and others, as well as many personal conversations with Janny and Lien’s children. The book will contain many photographs from the Brilleslijper family archive.

It is 1940 and the Final Solution is about to begin. The Nazis have occupied the Netherlands, but resistance is growing and two Jewish sisters – Janny and Lien Brilleslijper – are risking their lives to save those being hunted, through their clandestine safe house ‘The High Nest’. It becomes one of the most important safehouses in the country, but when The High Nest and its occupants are betrayed, the most terrifying time of the sisters’ lives begins. This is the beginning of the end.

With German defeat in sight, Janny and Lien are put on the last train to Auschwitz, along with Anne Frank and her family. What comes next challenges the sisters beyond human imagination as they are stripped of everything but their courage, resilience and love for each other.

~*~

There are many stories around about the Holocaust that explore as many facets as possible, but usually through the stories that have been allowed to be told in non-fiction, such as this one, or in historical fiction. As the description says, Roxane had permission and access to the archives of the Brillespijer family to tell the story. In the back of the book, she provides a list of the sources she accessed. This book has been translated from Dutch, so most of the sources are presumably, in Dutch. It is important that Roxane received permission to write this story and did it so carefully, as it is such a horrific part of history and needs to be dealt with sensitively.

In this powerful story of Janny and Lien starts just as the Nazi’s are encroaching on The Netherlands, and grabbing land for their use, so Janny and Lien find a way to get their families to safety and help as many Jews as possible. Yet there is still uncertainty prowling around, and though they spend four years helping as many Jews as possible escape the transports to concentration camps, a betrayal brings it to an end, and they find themselves on the way to Westeros and Auschwitz, and finally, Bergen-Belsen with the Frank family – at first, all of them. At the end, they are alone at Bergen-Belsen when they find out Anne and Margot are there. Janny and Lien are amongst the last to see Anne and Margot alive.

Roxane’s biography is filled with horror and uncertainty – as it should. Reading and learning about things like the Holocaust shouldn’t be sugarcoated or comfortable – it was awful. The story of Lien and Janny doesn’t shy away from the fear and the horror felt over the years of Nazism and war. It shows the steps taken as Hitler and the Nazis marched across Europe, taking land and segregating sections of society to ensure land for what Hitler hoped would be an Aryan world. As Janny and Lien do what they can to protect their family from harm, and keep each other going, their story is one of the powerful stories of the Holocaust, and shows what people went through without shying away from the gritty reality that people faced during the war.

 

Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5) by Kate Forsyth

battle of the heroesTitle: Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published:  1st September 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 188

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Do not lose faith. Remember the words of the story, remember the words of the spell…

Quinn, Sebastian, Elanor and Tom have defeated the black witch Githa and found the last crucial piece of the prophecy — the sea serpent’s scale.

Back now at Wolfhaven, they search desperately through the castle crypts for the sleeping heroes, who they hope will save them all … before the dark moon rises and they lose everything.

~*~

In the final book of the series, Quinn, Elanor, Tom and Sebastian head back to Wolfhaven Castle with the unicorn horn, the griffin feather, the dragon’s tooth and the sea serpent scale to awaken the sleeping heroes and save those trapped in Wolfhaven. Thinking they have tricked sister witches – Lady Mortlake and Mistress Mauldred, the four children seek to infiltrate the castle. Yet those they seek to destroy are waiting for them, and with only twelve hours to save those trapped in Wolfhaven, they must work quickly and use all their wits and trickery to achieve their goal. But will it be too late, or will Wolfhaven Castle

2019 BadgeAs the fairy tale quest concludes, each of the four heroes has grown across the series, with Elanor becoming feistier as each book has gone on – which helps her when she faces Mistress Mauldred and helps her friends fight off those who wish to harm them. As the fairy tale quest comes to an end, with a happily ever after and the friends feeling at home with each other and hopefully, their new skills and roles in life, and the series ends wonderfully, with the quest wrapped up delightfully, but a feeling of challenges still ahead. But perhaps these challenges will be of a different kind for these friends.

Having read a lot of Kate Forsyth’s books now, I believe of the ones I own, I only have two or three that I need to read for the first time. The rest will be re-read at some stage as well, and now, with each book I am noticing the fairy tale motifs more and more and the way each motif brings something unique to the book, whether it is for children, young adults or adults. I have loved Kate’s stories for years, and I look forward to each new release from her eagerly.

Winding up a series is always bittersweet – you want it to go on, and to know what happens after the last page has been turned – where do they go to from here, what happens to your favourite character? Yet at the same time, ending it on a high note, where everyone finds a way to fit in with what has happened, and their world, and where it feels right for the characters is enjoyable and brings a sense of completion to the world you’ve been inhabiting for so many books. I can go back and read them again or imagine their lives beyond the page, and know they are happy, and their world has been set right.

Another excellent series from Kate Forsyth for all ages!

 

The Drowned Kingdom (The Impossible Kingdom #4) by Kate Forsyth

the drowned kingdom.jpgTitle: The Drowned Kingdom (The Impossible Kingdom #4)
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st of May 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 185
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Quinn, Sebastian, Elanor and Tom have found a dragon and conquered the dreaded Beast of Blackmoor Bog. Only one item remains on their impossible quest – the scale of a sea-serpent. Now they must journey to the drowned kingdom, where they will face their deadliest challenge yet. And there they will uncover the truth behind all that has happened … the truth that will change everything.

~*~

Quinn received her witch’s staff in the last book – and together, with her companions and the unicorn, Quickthorn, Rex, the griffin, and Beltaine, the dragon, they set off to seek the Drowned Kingdom of legend, and find the final piece of the prophecy, the scale of a sea serpent. It seems simple, yet as they seek to find a way to get across the waters, Quinn and Tom discover secrets about Quinn’s past, about where she came from, that will lead them to unforeseen discoveries when they arrive at the Drowned Kingdom, and in their quest to save a sea serpent from being misused by Githa, the evil witch who has been trying to thwart the four heroes the whole way, alongside Lady Mortlake.

Yet more secrets are uncovered, as well as Quinn’s past – secrets about those Ela and Sebastian thought they could trust, and what the people they have left behind are faced with or have been forced to do. In the Drowned Kingdom, the four heroes face life and death, and danger at every turn. Slowly, they will come to find their way to the sea serpents – but at what cost, and will they achieve their goals?

Four books in, and each piece needed to complete the prophecy is on the way to being collected, and from there, only a few elements are needed to complete it – which will become clear in the fifth book, which I have started reading. As the quest heads into its final stages, Quinn, Elanor, Sebastian and Tom must grapple with the knowledge they’ve recently learned and how it changes things – or if it does.

2019 BadgeAs this series comes to the end, I am hoping that the heroes achieve their goals – which I am sure they will, but it is all about the journey getting there, and how Quinn, Elanor, Tom and Sebastian achieve it with the help of their beasts – a unicorn, a griffin, a dragon and a sea-serpent.

The fairy tale trope of the quest has been cleverly drawn out over the past four books, and will inevitably conclude in the fifth instalment, where they have to get back to Wolfhaven Castle and save those who are trapped by a spell there. Now that they know who is behind it, and helping Lord and Lady Mortlake, the four heroes must get into the castle, and find the heroes – but will they achieve this in the next book?

A thrilling addition to the series.

The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3) by Kate Forsyth

blackmoor bogTitle: The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st February 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: After escaping the bog-men in the wilds of the Witchwood, Sebastian, Quinn, Elanor and Tom journey south on their impossible quest. Sebastian and Elanor seek help from Crowthorne Castle, but both allies and enemies will reveal themselves. Tom and Quinn venture into the mysterious moors … where a hideous beast lies in waiting. Best-selling, award-winning storyteller Kate Forsyth weaves battles, beasts and bravery in this epic new five-book series.

~*~

Quinn and her friends are venturing in search of the third beast – the dragon and the dragon scale. To find it, they separate – Quinn and Tom into the mysterious moors as they are drawn into more danger, and Elanor and Sebastian head to Crowthorne Castle, hoping for help from Lady Ravenna. Yet in both places, the friends will encounter allies and enemies – and begin to find out who and what is behind the dark spell that has been cast over Wolfhaven Castle and its inhabitants, and Elanor’s father. Here, they will find out about the beast in the moors and be thrust into danger that will lead them to discoveries they never thought they’d find on their journey.

The midway point in the series sees our heroes temporarily separated for a while each pair tackles the next part of their journey in unique ways.  In this installment, the heroes are in search of the dragon scale for the spell to awaken the sleeping heroes of the prophecy they are following so they can save Wolfhaven.

The fairy tale archetypes and tropes are still there, especially the beasts and the quest, and the magic that unites them and helps them find a way around challenges they face. As dangers grow, so does the tension, and conflict, which will only bring the quartet closer as they discover that for now, they cannot trust anyone else except each other.

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I am loving this series and polishing it off very quickly. It is filled with adventure and conflict, and friendship, and the power of friendship. It truly is a delightful series, and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. Aimed at readers aged between eight and ten, I believe it is a good read for many age groups and audiences.

Each character is unique and flawed, and relatable in many ways. They fulfil the fairy tale archetypes, but at the same time, are unique, and very different from the characters of fairy tale traditions, and have many more complexities behind them than usually might be found in fairy tales, depending on which version of the fairy tale you read, and how close to the original it is.

I am now reading book five, and the series is heading towards its ending. Next, I am going to review book four, and as each book builds on each other, the series is growing and building on the previous books, and creating a world that is tight, cleverly created whilst still a bit scary, but also, somewhere that I am sure, by the end of the series, will be light and fun again, as it was before the Mortlakes took over.

Book Bingo Twenty-Three – A Book Set in the Australian Outback and DOUBLE BINGO

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Welcome to one of my final book bingo entries for the year with Amanda and Theresa, and my first for November. This time around, I am ticking off a book set in the Australian Outback, where I have been able to get a bingo in one down row and one across row by ticking off this category.

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Across:

BINGO!

Row Four: – BINGO

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Down:

BINGO!

Row Two: BINGO

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Last Dingo Summer

In this category, I chose the eighth book in the Matilda Saga, The Last Dingo Summer, which is set in the small country town, Gibber’s Creek, and explores the forgotten histories and stories of women, Indigenous people and other groups often forgotten or left out of history. In Jed Kelly’s ongoing story, the trials and tribulations of country life and Indigenous issues and the post-Vietnam War refugee influx give the story of these courageous women an intense and intriguing background. It fills this category perfectly, as would any of the books in the series. It is a series I am going to be revisiting once I have all the books, and reading them close together.

Keep a look out for my next book bingo on the twenty-third of November!

Wolves of the Witchwood (Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth

wolves of the witchwoodTitle: Wolves of the Witchwood (Impossible Quest #2)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st November 2014

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: I know every hidden path through these woods.
Trust me. There is no griffin in this forest.

Hunted by Lord Mortlake, Tom, Quinn, Elanor and Sabastian flee for cover. The unicorn leads them into the darkness of the Witchwood, where they meet Wilda the witch. Can she be trusted?

Danger surrounds, but there’s no time to lose. The four unlikely heroes must find the griffin, dragon and sea serpent before it’s too late.

Best-selling, award-winning storyteller Kate Forsyth weaves battles, beasts and bravery in this epic new five-book series.

~*~

Picking up soon after Quinn, Elanor, Sebastian and Tom journey into the Witchwood, in search of the griffin’s feather they need to save those trapped in Wolfhaven Castle, Elanor’s home. To do so, they must encounter a witch, who waylays them on their way to find the griffin and reunite with Tom’s father – having another part of the prophecy come into being. As they venture through the land, they encounter many challenges and the obstacles along the way.

As the children go further on the quest, they face challenges that they must work out on their own, using the cryptic clues that Arwen, whom Quinn is doing her witch training with. Working together, as many fairy tale heroes do, they manage to solve as many problems as possible, yet there are some that people they meet along the way will have to help them with, and do what they can to ensure the children get home to Wolfhaven to save their families from Lord Mortlake.

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In these short books, there are fairy tale themes of towers and quests – two things that are common across all Kate’s novels for both adults and children, and her love of fairy tales is clear throughout. This magical series is perfect for all ages and lovers of adventure, magic and fairy tales.

What I love about this series and Kate’s work overall is the feeling of tumbling through a rabbit hole into a world of danger and delight in equal parts. I’ve been a fan since I was about sixteen, with The Starthorn Tree, and have loved her adult and children’s fiction ever since, waiting for each new book eagerly. As I have all five in this series, I am hoping to read them all this month – in a challenge I am taking part in with Kate via Twitter  to read as many books by Australian Women as possible, which will add quite a few to my usual year long Australian Women Writers Challenge, which currently sits at eighty-four, roughly fifty percent of my total reads for the entire year.

Moving on with the series, my next read, in amongst everything else I have, is book three: The Beast of Blackmoor Bog. I am loving these books and recommend them to all ages and all lovers of fantasy and Kate Forsyth’s books.