Tag Archives: Amazon book reviews

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 – ‘The Soldier’s Farewell’ by Alan Monaghan

The Soldier's FarewellBefore reading this novel I had a sketchy knowledge of the Irish War of Independence. ‘The Soldier’s Farewell’ has brought it to life for me. Set in England and Ireland in 1921 this novel follows the Ryan brothers through these momentous historical times. Stephen is an Irishman who fought for the British during the First World War, he is subsequently sent to London as part of the Irish Delegation to help with negotiations for the independence of Ireland. Joe, his brother, is jailed for his actions as a member of the IRA. Through the two brothers we follow the political and military upheavals of the early 1920’s, the ending of one war and the beginning of a new, more sinister conflict.

A sub-plot follows Stephen’s girlfriend, Lillian. A gifted mathematician, her work is stolen and her career progress blocked because of her gender. This provides an interesting look at the role and position of women in the early twentieth century, noting some changes (such as women’s suffrage in Ireland) and predicting some of the changes which would ultimately come. This sub-plot is expertly woven into the story of independence and helps to create a full, rounded character in Stephen.

As a historical novel ‘The Soldier’s Farewell’ is well researched, the real-life facts and characters portrayed through the story in an engaging way which never lectures. The fictional characters are believable and the dialogue well written. The descriptive scenes are compelling; from streets scenes to a prolonged journey on foot through snowy mountains, from formal meetings and court scenes to desperate military actions, from scenes of love to scenes of murder, Mr. Monaghan has created a world which brings to life a period of history which all British people should become more familiar with.

I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the history of Ireland, the dreams and aspirations of the IRA, and how the Anglo-Irish conflict of the twentieth century was born in Dublin in 1921. (The Soldier’s Farewell is part three of Alan Monaghan’s trilogy set during the Irish Civil War).

Mr Monaghan’s website can be found here

‘The Soldier’s Farewell’ can be found on Amazon

Book Review – ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel

wolf HallHenry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, are well known facts of history. Most people even know the names of some of the other people who played key roles in this matter. What Hilary Mantel has done in ‘Wolf Hall’ is to breathe life into these people. To flesh out the brief, dusty biographies of history into living, breathing people. People we can love or hate, laugh with or laugh at, care for or hope for their downfall.

At the centre of it all is Thomas Cromwell. A man of humble origins, a traveller in his youth, a lawyer, friend of archbishops and, ultimately, confidant of the king. Ms Mantel has managed to get into the character of Cromwell, teasing out possible motives for his actions, deftly drawing the psychology of a man and of an age. History depicts Cromwell as a ruthless self-seeker, and there are aspects of that in this book, yet Ms Mantel digs deeper – a loyal friend, a family man, a loving husband and father, a cultured man who knew many languages, loved art and poetry, loved to hunt with his falcons, was keen to find and train young minds. This bringing to life of Cromwell, and many other characters, makes ‘Wolf Hall’ compelling reading, even though we already know the outcome of the story. Added to this is the in-depth depiction of life at court – the ladies in waiting, the kings gentlemen, intrigue and indulgence, banquets and religious disagreement, hunting and jousting – the list is endless. Along with the background of Cromwell this gives a fascinating insight into life in Tudor times for both rich and poor.

‘Wolf Hall’ is an historical novel with an emphasis on history, both in the plot and the descriptions. Ms Mantel has taken a story we all know and masterfully made it into something new, which any lover of history will enjoy. With one caveat. I enjoyed reading this book, but for some the style may be a little strange. Cromwell is always referred to as ‘he’, which can be confusing at times; so much so that, on occasion, the author resorts to writing ‘he, Cromwell, said…’. For myself, this is not a problem as the style is quite unique and gives a feeling of being in another time with another turn of phrase, another way of saying and doing things. For those who initially find this style difficult to follow I would ask you to persevere, a few pages in and you will cease to notice this most of the time as you become gripped by the story.

‘Wolf Hall’ is a fascinating read, and a great introduction to Thomas Cromwell. I am very much looking forward to following his story through Anne Boleyn’s time as Henry’s wife, and on to yet another queen in Ms Mantel’s sequel, ‘Bring Up The Bodies’.

Hilary Mantel’s website can be found here

Wolf Hall can be found on Amazon

You can find more of my Book Reviews here

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!

Another 5* Amazon review for Heronfield!

Thank you for your kind words P J Sowler. Your comments have been noted and Heronfield is back with a very experienced proofreader/copy editor. Fingers crossed that the changes will be available in print for Christmas! Please do update your Kindle version in the new year.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Wonderful! October 25, 2013
By P J Sowler
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase

What a fantastic read. Just the sort of story I like. Set in WW2 it not only gives plenty of facts but a great story too with the right balance between the two. My only criticism is that it could have been edited better but certainly didn’t spoil it for me. More please.