Tag Archives: Amazon book review

An absolutely amazing story that needs to be read

I would like to thank Jodie at Whispering Stories for her lovely review of Heronfield. As an author it means a great deal to me to know that my work has touched someone in this way. Here’s what Jodie said:

Set in Europe during the Second World War, Heronfield takes us on a six year journey of war, friendship, love, sadness, and hope. We meet many different characters, a few of whom are taken right into our heart.

I became strongly attached to one of the main characters, Tony. A young man hardly in his twenties, he is secretly recruited as a British agent in the efforts to foil Hitler’s war. I found myself feeling sorry for him when certain members of his family turned against him for shirking his duties when in fact, unbeknown to them, he was doing the exact opposite, but was duty bound not to tell them.

I felt the turmoil and heartache he was going through. He showed a tremendous amount of strength and courage throughout the story – all borne by his passion to defeat Hitler, to prove to his father that he was indeed fighting in the war, and most of all, the driving force to keep going – his love for a woman.

Another character I enjoyed reading about was Sarah, a volunteer nurse. She gets stationed at Heronfield, a family home turned war hospital. She has plenty of heartache along the way but it makes her stronger over the years. As the story progresses and I found myself rooting for her all the way.

Some characters are constant, and others are fleeting, but memorable all the same. We come across a German soldier who makes us realise that they are not just the enemy. They are human too.

The German soldier does a selfless and heartfelt deed. We meet him again later on in the story and he has the opportunity to end a life. Instead he chooses to back down and explains that he doesn’t agree with Hitler, but if he doesn’t fight under the regime then he’s as good as dead anyway. It’s a touching scene and puts a different spin on the people behind the enemy faces.

The story grabbed me from the opening pages, with the graphic descriptions of the attacks on innocent civilians by the Germans. It’s harrowing but draws you right in, and you get a real sense of what actually went on during the war.

I liked the mini segments that gave real life time lines of what was happening during the war in various locations. It gave a sense of where the story would head next, and the progress of the war. They were superbly detailed without being boring.

The author has expertly carried out her research. The environment descriptions, the horrors of war, the abhorrent conditions of concentration camps, torture methods meted out, and many more besides are so wonderfully detailed that I found myself there. I winced at the persecution of innocents, gasped and grimaced at the torture methods bestowed on one of the characters, and I shed quite a few tears along the way.

My heart was in my mouth many times and the raw emotion grabbed at me and didn’t let go, even after finishing the book. I’ve never read a story that’s taken me by the soul and stayed with me quite the way Heronfield has done, and that’s a really good and beautiful thing – and a sure sign of a brilliantly well-written story.

Sadly I can only give this book five stars. I wish I could give it more but five is the maximum! An absolutely amazing story that needs to be read.

If Jodie’s review has intrigued you why not read Heronfield yourself and see if you agree?

If you have already read Heronfield, then have you thought of leaving a review? I love to hear what my readers think.

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Book Review – ‘An Officer And A Spy’ by Robert Harris

an officer and a spyParis in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of twenty-thousand. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, the ambitious, intellectual, recently promoted head of the counterespionage agency that “proved” Dreyfus had passed secrets to the Germans. At first, Picquart firmly believes in Dreyfus’s guilt. But it is not long after Dreyfus is delivered to his desolate prison that Picquart stumbles on information that leads him to suspect that there is still a spy at large in the French military. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.

I can remember a brief study of the Dreyfus Affair while I was at school. It intrigued me but I never followed up on it, so when I saw ‘An Officer And A Spy’ by Robert Harris I felt I had to read it. I was not disappointed.

This book is an amazing read. Mr Harris has utilised all of the primary sources and leading academic works on the subject to create an incredibly detailed novel, drawing on court records, and also Dreyfus’ own writings. This may give the impression that ‘An Office And A Spy’ is a dry history book, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Mr Harris has written a gripping novel which draws you in – I certainly found it difficult to put down. The scenic descriptions are detailed, giving a great feel for time and place, the characters are well drawn, the dialogue totally believable. But what is most compelling about the novel is the complex plotting. Spying, forged documents, trials and hearings, attempted assassinations and attempted government cover-ups all lead to a taut thriller. I had to stop a number of times and remind myself that this story is real, a true accounting of an historical event, yet it reads like a novel by John le Carré, Robert Ludlum or Frederick Forsyth.

Mr Harris has brought to life the divisions of the Third Republic in France, the racism and anti-semitism, the corruption within the army and the government. From the initial miscarriage of justice, through the search for the truth by Georges Picquart and the defence of the free press in Zola’s J’accuse speech, we are led to the final triumph of justice and release of an innocent man.

The Dreyfus Affair, a scandal and one of the most famous miscarriages of justice of all time, has lain in dusty history books for 120 years, but in ‘An Officer And A Spy’ Mr Harris has transformed it into a spellbinding, gripping thriller which I hope that someone will one day make into a movie. If only all history books could be this exciting!

Robert Haris’s web page

‘An Officer And A Spy’ on Amazon

You can see more of my Book Reviews here

Book Review – ‘Angels At War’ by Freda Lightfoot

Angels At War ‘Angels At War’ tells the story of the Angel sisters in the turbulent years of 1910 to 1918. I had anticipated that this book would be a light read yet, although the writing is not overly heavy or verbose, this is not a simple historical romance of girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again. Those elements are a part of this novel, but it goes on to be much, much more.

The Angels are sisters (their story begins in ‘House Of Angels’ although ‘Angles at War’ can be read as a stand-alone novel). The characters are well drawn and have depth; all with their good points and their bad, their strengths and weaknesses. The plot is intriguing and moves at a good pace, encouraging you to turn the page and keep reading.

What I was not expecting from this novel was such a masterly handling of the social and political history of the time, which Ms Lightfoot tells through the narrative without the reader ever feeling that they are being lectured to. The description of a turn of the century department store is intriguing, and its modernisation during the novel fascinating. Reading what happened to the suffragettes during their fight for emancipation is enlightening and humbling – the marches and arrests, the prisons and force-feeding are cleverly woven into the story. The description of the work of the VAD’s in hospitals, both in England and on the front line in France, is gripping.

This book seems to have everything, from the excitement of war to everyday domestic life, from male domination to female emancipation, from jealousy to love. Livia is a strong central character whose choices in life are often not the right ones, leading to unhappiness for herself and others. But her choices are always made for the right reasons, in an effort to help those she loves and, as such, she is an endearing character. I think many readers will recognise a lot of themselves in Livia, or one of her sisters.

This book, for me, was a pleasant surprise, which is something I always like. If you are interested in the past but don’t like a heavy history book – or a novel that reads like one – you will find ‘Angels At War’ informative and enlightening, yet entertaining and easy to read. I will certainly be buying more books by Ms Lightfoot.

Freda Lightfoot’s website

‘Angels at War’ can be found on Amazon

For other books I have enjoyed please visit my ‘Book Review’ page

Book Review – ‘To Defy A King’ by Elizabeth Chadwick

To Defy A King

This year we are celebrating 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta. Why did the barons come together to write the charter, and force King John to sign it? Why did the king renege on his promises? 1215 was a turbulent time in English history and in her novel, ‘To Defy A King’, Elizabeth Chadwick brings this period to life. Set in England from 1204 to 1218 the story immerses us in England’s conflicts with France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Roman Church. Following the characters we are able to see how these conflicts influenced the actions of both the barons and King John.

 

The novel begins with Mahelt, daughter of William Marshal (Earl of Pembroke), becoming betrothed to Hugh Bigod (future Earl of Norfolk). The marriages of children of important families in medieval England were arranged for political expediency, not for love. However, Mahelt and Hugh grow to love each other as they struggle to cope with an endlessly changing array of family and political alliances. The Marshal and Bigod families find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict surrounding King John, with Hugh’s family helping to formulate the Magna Carta in the hope of limiting John’s power whilst the Marshals stay faithful to their oath to the King, no matter how much they disagree with him. When John breaks his promises there is turmoil and conflict in England, including a French invasion. Throughout it all Mahelt and Hugh have to tread a knife-edge to protect their family and lands. Only with the death of the King is Mahelt able to re-unite her birth family and marriage family, and look to the future with hope.

As always, the historical research conducted by Elizabeth Chadwick in writing this novel has been immense. We know from history that these people existed. We know where they were at certain times and what their political persuasions were, who they fought for, who they loved. What Ms. Chadwick has done, with great skill, is to bring these people to life. One can only speculate on personal relationships so long ago (although there are hints in some of the historical documents Chadwick has used for her research), but it is this rich development of character which brings the novel to life. If you have no knowledge of medieval history when you pick up the book, by the end of it you will have some understanding of what it would have been like to live in King John’s kingdom – food, clothing, living conditions, family duty, loyalty, political and religious beliefs – for this is a book which immerses you in all aspects of medieval life.

Elizabeth Chadwick has a flair for descriptive writing with pace and believable dialogue. Couple this with well-rounded characters, an historically accurate story and a remarkable depth of research, and you have a book which will keep you hooked from start to finish. If you enjoy historical fiction Elizabeth Chadwick will become one of your favourite authors – if she is not already!

(Elizabeth Chadwick has written a number of novels set in this era featuring the Marshal and Bigod families. You can find the chronological order here on Ms Chadwick’s website. I decided to recommend ‘To Defy A King’ because of its link to the Magna Carta although it is not the first in the series)

‘To Defy A King’ can be found on Amazon.

Her style of writing reminds me of Nevil Shute

Yet another 5* review for Heronfield.
However, in my mind, the number of stars is far outweighed by the very kind comment about my writing style.  To be likened to such a great author as Nevil Shute is truly an honour.  Thank you lizziep
5.0 out of 5 stars authentic, 1 Nov 2013 By lizziep
This review is from Amazon
Having read a number of books set in the war, I started to read this book with a certain amount of trepidation – too often authors are not able to convey the real sense of what it must have been like to be in that situation. “Heronfield” was a most ‘pleasant’ surprise (I use the word ‘pleasant’ in quotation marks as I have to admit that some of the descriptions were unpleasantly graphic – but even this added to the feeling of reality and authenticity) in that it was obvious that the author had not only spent a great deal of time researching her subject, but had complete immersed herself in it. From the descriptions of pre-war life in the big house, to the description of life in an interment camp, the whole novel had a feeling of authenticity and was able to indicate to me what it must have been like to have been alive during that whole dreadful period – not just a serving member of the forces, but also the civilians living (or existing) back at home and how they coped. Ms Balchin is a relatively new author, however, her style of writing reminds me very much of the style of Nevil Shute – an author I have gone back to time after time. I suspect that Ms Balchin will have a similar effect.

Is the Amazon Review system fair?

Many authors are questioning that validity of Amazon reviews at present. I can sympathise.

Some people who have read Heronfield, but not purchased it from Amazon, have tried to review the book but the reviews do not get posted. You can imagine my surprise then, on 2nd November 2013, to find a book to be published on 7th November 2013 already reviewed and ranked!

So what star rating does this unpublished book have?
10 reviews with an average of 4.1* On the kindle page Amazon states ‘This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item’. In fact it has not yet been released in any format and the reviews are from Amazon Vine. What is that you ask? Amazon says Amazon Vine invites the most trusted reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make informed purchase decisions’. 

Bearing in mind that the book has not yet been published Amazon shows a ranking (based presumably on pre-publication orders) of:
#558 Paid in Kindle Store
#4 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Fiction Classics
#10 in Books > Fiction > Classics
#12 in Books > Fiction > Romance > Historical

As an author, I know that I would like to get my books reviewed by as many people as possible, so I can hardly criticise someone else for feeling the same.  However, Amazon Vine does not appear to be available to self-published authors (please do feel free to contact me and  correct me if I’m wrong).  All I would argue for is a level playing-field for all authors.

What is your opinion?

Do you think this system is fair?

Can an unpublished book actually be regarded as a ‘classic’?

I would be interested to hear your views.

Finally though, as a new author, I recognise that no matter what system Amazon uses reviews are incredibly important for building the reputation of an author, and for sales. I would therefore like to thank the people who have been able to post reviews for Heronfield. I value your feedback to help me to become a better writer, and to produce other books that you might like to read as well.  All of your kind words and encouragement are much appreciated!

Another great review for Heronfield!

If you want action, adventure, romance, and history all rolled in to one absorbing read give this a go.

4.0 out of 5 stars I’d give this 4.5 stars if I could!
31 Oct 2013
By Sarah
Another book I downloaded to my Kindle while listed as free, and while I very rarely give 5 star reviews this almost managed it! Set during WWII Heronfield is set in a stately home that is commandeered for the war effort. I’d almost class this as an epic saga, we cover the whole of WWII with the characters but without ever feeling like it’s dragging.
I found Tony’s central story line pretty gripping and was really annoyed when the other characters interrupted, then almost couldn’t bear to leave them to get back to Tony!
I love my books to be character driven and this ticks the box, however there is a huge amount of historical fact woven in to the novel, the author explains this in the preface and it’s worked into the fictional story line quite well. Some of the historical info is less necessary to the plot but it does give an idea of the scale of the conflict and is interesting.
There was nothing really wrong with the story but I’m not a huge fan of massive literary coincidences and two of the male characters run into each other towards the end rather conveniently. I’ll say no more as I don’t want to give anything away but the world is a big place so it lost half a star for that.
This is a self published novel so don’t expect perfection, having said that though it has been written to a very high standard and I would highly recommend even the paid version as you get a lot of book for your buck. I believe that the author’s website states the book is being given a professional edit and I think it will benefit a little from the final polish.
If you want action, adventure, romance, and history all rolled in to one absorbing read give this a go.

Thank you Sarah for your great review on Amazon. I understand what you say about ‘literary coincidences’, they can sometimes spoil a good story. I did a great deal of detailed research for the book and would just like to put your mind at rest – The SS did send people who did that type of work to ‘that place’ towards the end of the war; the other character was with a unit that was in the area on that day. So while it was a big coincidence, it was not impossible that they would meet there!

For anyone who has not read Heronfield and wonders what that is all about – maybe you’re missing out on something!