The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

the war I finally won.jpgTitle: The War I Finally Won

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Genre: Children’s/YA, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 2nd October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Like the classic heroines of literature, Ada wins our hearts as she continues her World War II adventures after the Newbery Honor–winning The War that Saved My Life.

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—crippled in her mind as well as in her body. But who is she, she wonders?

Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their guardian, Susan, in a cottage in the English countryside, on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton and her daughter, Maggie, Ada’s dearest friend. Life in the crowded cottage is tense. Then Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? Everyone is horrified. Ada must decide—where do her loyalties lie?

The War I Finally Won is the marvellous conclusion to Ada’s powerful, uplifting story.

~*~

Ada’s life has changed since she ran away from home, where her mother kept her locked up and punished her for being born with a club-foot. Living as an evacuee with her brother, Jamie, and their guardian, Susan, Ada’s journey is not yet complete. Though she has had her foot fixed, and she now knows she is not what her mother said she was, she must find a way to discover who she is. As the war comes closer to British shores, Ada and Jamie’s lives alter significantly, and many changes uproot their lives. When Lady Thorton moves in with them because her home is commandeered for the war effort, Ada feels the safety and comfort she has begun to get used to feel threatened. Only Maggie’s presence and Susan’s understanding seems to calm her through times of turmoil and worrying about Jamie and feeling like she still has to take care of everyone. Soon, Ada becomes accustomed to having Maggie’s mother around, because it means Maggie gets to visit for school holidays. But when Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany arrives, Ada is caught between loyalty to those she loves and fiercely protects and welcoming another young girl who has been forced out of her home and away from all she loves. Soon, Ada discovers a way to be who she is and help Ruth adjust. It is a war she must fight within herself, whilst another war rages on outside – discovering who she is and overcoming the horrors of her past to find peace.

In the wonderful and touching conclusion to Ada’s story, The War I Finally Won, has Ada still struggling with her mother’s words, but finding ways to cope with her anxiety around events she is unfamiliar with. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has taken a devastating war and used it as the backdrop to personal wars – Ada, Mrs Thorton and Susan – and tenderly dealt with disability, both physical and mental, wars, death, love and loss, all through the eyes of an orphaned child during World War Two, and her brother, who can see and accept love for what it is – though Ada’s struggle to love easily is part of the story, and her vulnerability and confusion are ever-present.

Each character in the story is fighting a war. They are all involved and connected to World War Two – as evacuees, as hosts, as a mother and wife to a husband and son who are fighting in the war, a war of loss and of love, and identity wars, to find who they are in a new and frightening world. When the safety Ada is getting used to is threatened, she feels the war anew, and it is Lady Thorton who steps in to help her through it. Ada finds that in this new place in Kent, she has people who care about her: the Thortons, Maggie, Ruth, and Susan – she has always had Jamie, who does what he can to help his big sister throughout both books.

Like the first book, this one dealt with what are difficult themes in an eloquent and thoughtful way, approaching it so that readers of all ages can understand what is going on at their level and through their experiences. Through these characters, the personal and physical war is experienced in different ways, and learning to love and understand others is a key theme in the book.

With a satisfying yet realistic ending, The War I Finally Won is a great way to end Ada’s battle.

Booktopia

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The Falls by B Michael Radburn

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I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

Title: The Falls

Author: B. Michael Radburn

Genre: Fiction/Crime Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: August, 2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Paperback

Pages: 364

Synopsis: A week of despair… a century of evil

Damaged but not yet broken, park ranger Taylor Bridges believes his ghosts are in the past – until a raging forest fire in an isolated canyon of The Falls lays bare the remains of a young woman… and a decade-old killing ground.

After the police enlist Taylor in their investigation, the evidence bizarrely points to a deranged preacher who reigned over The Falls a century ago.

But when a crucial witness and a policewoman disappear, it’s clear that a disciple of The Falls’ dark history is on the loose.

 

~*~

 

The Falls by B. Michael Radburn is the second book in the Taylor Bridges series. Still reeling from the death of his daughter Claire five years ago, The Falls follows on from The Crossing, and Taylor’s struggle with the disappearance and death of Claire. When the daughter of an old friend and her partner stumble across a body whilst exploring the Christiana Goldmine in Eldritch Falls, Taylor is called in to assist the police in the national park. Taylor must grapple with his guilt about Claire, and the emotions that this new case brings to the surface. As the case progresses, links to a string of ritualistic murders that span one hundred years. These murders become linked to a family who has lived in the area for generations, a family determined to keep the secrets of the past hidden away from prying eyes, whatever the cost may be.

The daughter of Taylor’s friend, Aroha, becomes involved as a witness and later, is taken. Taylor and the police must find her before it is too late, and before other lives are endangered during the search for truth and its war with keeping secrets and continuing a legacy that has been in place for over one hundred years.

Michael Radburn has created a story using the natural environment and the fear of the unknown, or the fear of what we don’t understand. This gives the characters, both good, bad, and in between, concrete and believable motivations and desires that drive the story towards its relieving conclusion where the reader can finally take a deep breath and relax after the fast paced ride.

This was my first adventure with Taylor Bridges, and I found that I did not need to have read the first book to enjoy this and understand what drove the characters. The mine and the bush of country Victoria was the perfect setting for this mystery, a place where anything could happen. Where shadows dance at the edges of the darkness, and where fear takes over. The novel kept up a good pace and kept me reading as long as possible to find out what happened, and to find out who survived and who didn’t. It is a story where people aren’t always what they seem, and that speaks to the human condition and its various degrees of sanity, desire and wanting to please people, but also, human desire for belief, and legacy. A haunting tale that will keep you up at night, I enjoyed reading this book, and hope that further books are forthcoming and will be just as intriguing as this one.

A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

rowly-6Book Title: A Murder Unmentioned (Rowland Sinclair, #6)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 1st, 2014

Book Synopsis: The black sheep of a wealthy grazier dynasty, gentleman artist Rowland Sinclair often takes matters into his own hands. When the matter is murder, there are consequences.

For nearly fourteen years, Rowland has tried to forget, but now the past has returned.

A newly-discovered gun casts light on a family secret long kept… a murder the Sinclairs would prefer stayed unsolved.

As old wounds tear open, the dogged loyalty of Rowland’s inappropriate companions is all that stands between him and the consequences of a brutal murder… one he simply failed to mention.

~*~

Once again, Rowland Sinclair did not fail to hold my attention, all other books being set aside as the mystery of who killed Henry Sinclair, Rowland’s father, when our hero was just a teenager. The mystery arises when Edna Walling, a gardener engaged by Wilfred’s wife Kate, to landscape the surrounds of Oaklea. The gun used in the murder of Henry Sinclair is discovered, prompting a cousin, Arthur Sinclair, and a former employee, Charlie Hayden, to come out to Yass to influence the investigation in their favour.

Lucy Bennett is involved again, adamant that she will marry Rowland, even though her father has determined he is inappropriate for her. I find Lucy’s stubborn determination that Rowland has indeed professed his adoration and love for her, and extending from that, that he has somehow proposed to her in his many attempts to gently discourage her throughout the series both funny and, in terms of her character, annoying. Lucy’s involvement in this book, however, is more significant. Having failed at nabbing Rowly, she fixes her sights on Arthur Sinclair, and the plot thickens. Soon, another murder has the police set their sights on Rowland, and the family becomes embroiled in danger and mystery to unravel what really happened on the night Rowland and Wilfred’s father died.

Always by his side, Rowly’s companions, Edna, Milt and Clyde are ready to help discover the truth. Their loyalty is recognised by Wilfred in this book, and there is a major turning point in the relationship between the brothers. We finally find out what happened to Rowland in his father’s study and library as a child. We see a gentler side to Wilfred as he does everything he can to help his brother but also his brother’s friends. I found myself liking Wilfred very much in the final pages, and his defence of his brother and family.

Sulari Gentill has captured the essence of the period in all six books, set against the backdrop of the Depression, and now, the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, to which Rowly and his friends were witness to in Paving the New Road. The line up of likely suspects in this book works very effectively when the true killer is revealed, and the mystery, somewhat, at least amongst brothers and friends, solved. This added layer of intrigue and where people were and who they were with at the time of the murder just adds yet another aspect to the book that kept me reading.

I cannot say which Rowland Sinclair book thus far is my favourite – they are all wonderful and I am sad that I now have to wait until later this year for book seven. Though they are quick reads, they are enjoyable and they do take me away from other reading – that I can finish whilst waiting for my next sojourn with Rowly.

Five Years of Rowland Sinclair

rowly-1Five years ago, on the first of June, Rowland Sinclair and his artist compatriots were released from the grey cells and imagination of Sulari Gentill into the literary world, with the help of the fantastic team at Pantera Press. A 1930s gentleman of means, living in a family estate in Woollahra, with his friends Elias Isaacs, known as Milt, a Communist and a Jew and a poet, Clyde Watson Jones, a country boy and painter, and Edna Higgins, the sculptress. My personal journey began with book two, and going back to read them in order has brought a new light to the series. At the time of writing this post, I am up to book five, Gentlemen Formally Dressed, taking place fairly soon after Paving the New Road, and continuing with the themes that have been trickling throughout the books, moving through political dissent in Australia towards that in Germany and what is to come.

The reader has an upper hand though, in knowing the history of the period, if they do, or at least knowing the major events that follow in the decades after The First World War that our fine Rowly finds himself caught up in, often by accidental association or by being in the wrong place, at the wrong, or perhaps sometimes, the right time. Rowland’s journeys are plagued by murder and intrigue, false accusations and colourful characters – both fictional and historical, who bring a colour to the stories and situate them firmly in the
rowly-21930s and the turmoil of the period.

Rowland is introduced in A Few Right Thinking Men, set against the backdrop of the conflict of the Old Guard and the New Guard, leading to Francis De Groot stealing the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Premier Lang. Culminating in Rowly and his friends needing to escape, they take a tour of the Continent, their return journey recounted in A Decline in Prophets, where several bodies drop to cover up the crimes of a church leader. Book Three, Miles Off Course, has the backdrop of Old and New Guard, rowly-3Communism and the Depression against Rowland’s brother insisting he search their sheep farming property for the head station hand, leading to a conspiracy of sheep theft. It is with Paving the New Road that the series heads to Nazi Germany, and Rowland is exposed to the dangers of the politics of Fascism and what it could have meant for Australia, had Eric Campbell been successful in transplanting the ideas of Hitler to our shores. Rowland’s dangerous and near-death encounters lead into book rowly-4five, Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, and what I see as a shift in Rowly and Wilfred’s relationship – Wilfred seems to come to a better understanding of his brother. I am looking forward to see what books six, A Murder Unmentioned, and book seven bring to the series after I finish Gentlemen Formerly Dressed.

Within each book, Sulari has created a world that is immersive, and delivers the history of the period in an accessible way, in arowly-5 fun way, in comparison to some history books or school textbooks. They are one of my favourite series of historical fiction novels, mingled with crime, intrigue and Rowly’s affection for Edna, which, so far, has not been reciprocated. It is the combination of the characters and plots that pull the reader headfirst into the series, and I hope, makes them never want to end their
association with Rowland.

A Decline in Prophets by Sulari Gentill

rowly-2Book Title: A Decline in Prophets (Rowland Sinclair, #2)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: July 1st, 2011

Book synopsis: In 1932, the R.M.S. Aquitania embodies all that is gracious and refined, in a world gripped by crisis and doubt.

Returning home on the luxury liner after months abroad, Rowland Sinclair and his companions dine with a suffragette, a Bishop and a retired World Prophet. The Church encounters less orthodox religion in the Aquitania’s chandeliered ballroom, where men of God rub shoulders with mystics in dinner suits.

The elegant atmosphere on board is charged with tension but civility prevails…until people start to die. Then things get a bit awkward.

And Rowland Sinclair finds himself unwittingly in the centre of it all.

~*~

My second adventure on the Aquitania was as charming and mystery filled as the first, when I read it for the New South Wales Writer’s Centre. This was my introduction then to Rowly, Milt, Clyde and Edna, but I still loved reading it again. Following the disastrous events of A Few Right Thinking Men, Rowly is still reliant on a walking stick to support his healing leg while he and his friends travel abroad, on their journey home from a tour of Europe back to Sydney. Yet, as the quiet cruise pushes forth through the waters of the world, bodies begin to drop. First, Orville Urquhart, an Englishman on the voyage towards New York with them, is murdered with the can Rowland’s cane that he now has to discard as evidence. Yet, the case is unwanted by Scotland Yard, and by the NYPD, and is thus left to fester as a great maritime murder mystery.

Following the somewhat unexpected departure of Jiddu Krishnamurti, Hubert Van Hook, a Theosophist with Annie Besant, proclaims Rowland as the next World Prophet of the organisation, something that will follow him home, much to the ire of his brother, Wilfred, half way through the novel. Yet it is the death in Sydney Harbour is Bishop Hanrahan’s niece, Isobel, that starts the unraveling of the case and descends Rowland and his friends into a world of discovery and attack in a Roman Catholic graveyard and church. The events of the final, climatic chapters lead to a conclusion that I never saw coming but that effectively wraps up the novel, leading into the excitement that I hope will be Miles off Course.

           

Having read this for a second time after reading book one, several things made a lot more sense, such as his brother Wilfred’s attitudes towards Rowland and his friends, and what he thought of the apolitical stance his brother took. But also, the little references to book one were clearer, perhaps an excellent reason to start with A Few Right Thinking Men, so that the scope of the series is better understood, and enjoyed. The combination of history and mystery in equal parts is fascinating and extremely well done, and I am eager to read the rest of the books.

Veneri Verbum Book Review

Veneri Verbum by Zanzibar 7 Schwarzenegger

Writing a book may be the perfect solution to all of Christopher Cullum’s problems. He’s currently living at home (at age twenty-five), but his mom fears she’ll be doing his laundry forever. If he doesn’t accomplish something notable soon, she may invoke some tough love. He might even have to clean his room.

~*~

Opening this book is like opening Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Eyre Affair at the same time: an explosion of welcome insanity, and a healthy dose of crazy that we all need at some point in our lives. I entered the world of Christopher Michael Cullum, and followed him down the plot hole after his Figment, Elsa. Traversing the land of lost plots, faceless characters and court cases involving a jury of poopieheads, and a hot-dog judge, Christopher and Elsa discover Shiv, the one whom reincarnates several times, my favourite as the female impregnated dragon as one of his sex changes, and named Shivana, and Eric, the One Who Always Dies. And thus we have entered the world of NaNoWriMo, where we will meet NaNa Romo, and launch cat cannons across the realm, and bask in the eternal deaths of Eric. Confused? Welcome to NaNoWriMo. Enjoy the plot bunnies while you stay.
Christopher’s journey is complicated by multiple plot bunnies and tribbles, and the many plot holes he finds himself tumbling down like Alice down the rabbit hole, although, unlike Alice, he doesn’t play croquet with a long-necked bird, he has to fix his plot holes…and at every turn, Eric is dying, Margie the fairy appears but she is not his fairy godmother and he must defend himself against faceless jurors after blood, and a confused NaNa Romo who integrates her shopping list into prophecies he needs to follow to find his way back home, away from the insanity of his mind…but is a healthy dose of crazy all he really needs to finish his journey of NaNoWriMo? And will he clean his room when he is finished?
It took me about four or five days to complete this for review, and I was disappointed when it ended. It was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens, but then, once it came to it’s conclusion, I felt myself feeling sad that I had to leave Christopher and his Figments. But I hope that Zanzibar has more in store for me, and Christopher. Whilst this is quite niche and definitely, participants of the great NaNoWriMo will understand this more than those who do not, it is still a great read, a fun read. There is so much to explore and be found in between these covers that the journey is half the fun, and upon finishing, you will find yourself crazier than you once were, but in a good way.

The Ice Cage by Joshua Cejka

The Ice Cage by Joshua Cejka

When the Twin Cities do winter festivals, they spare no expense – outside taverns with gas heating, photo Santa in a sleigh, room made of polished ice with a dead body inside… wait a minute. When such a very public affront to the festival spirit comes up, Homicide Detective Meg Brown must move as quickly as a reindeer to get the whole thing solved before the vaunted and famous Papa Brown Christmas dinner. Thankfully, a ‘usual suspect’ makes herself clear straight away, but of course nothing is quite so simple.

Can Meg clear the case before one of her suspects ends up dead at the hands of someone else? Can she gather the witnesses and evidence before the Christmas Ham gets cold? Can she ever get enough coffee? And just what does a mysterious nightclub owner have to do with all of it?

This is the fifth of the Meg Brown Mysteries and the first one of any length. If you haven’t read the others, please do. They’re fun. You’ll probably like them.

~*~

This was a first for me in my love of crime fiction and crime television shows, even considering I watch Castle, and they’ve investigated some fairly strange murders in the seven seasons the show has been going: death by candy cane to the eye. And at Christmas! With the case not so cut and dried as Meg hoped so she would be able to make it home for Christmas with her loved ones, Meg and Riggins are working against the clock to solve the case.
The pace of the writing and story was set out in a lovely fashion, and I found myself reading for over an hour one day, just to get to the end and find out what was going to happen and who had killed the victim with a candy cane. It is the mystery of the candy cane death and the looming spectre of Christmas, and family Christmas traditions. I enjoyed this just as much as the previous four, and am looking forward to reading book six, and any subsequent books in the series.
One thing I love about the Meg Brown books is their continuity with each other. In book four, we were introduced to Kenzie, Meg’s former enemy and now friend, and her daughter. The inclusion of them, and Spike, Meg’s best friend, connected the books in a seamless way. Also, the deliberate slow reveal of character’s lives and what they are like works well – I think it fits the way Cejka has chosen to tell these stories of Meg and her friends.
The climax of the story reveals an outcome that I never saw coming, and it worked. When everything seemed to wrap up tidily in a Christmas bow, so to speak, so easily, I did wonder if there was much more to the case than I had been presented with. And behold, there was! Wonderfully executed, and I hope to revisit these books one day.

obtained from Amazon