Wednesday 31 January 2018

BLOG TOUR - SEEING IT THROUGH - THE STORY OF A TEACHER & TRADE UNIONIST

Title: Seeing It Through
Byline: The Story Of A Teacher & Trade Unionist
Author: Andy Ballard

Book Information supplied by Authoright Marketing & Publicity
Andy Ballard comes from quite a humble background; being a working class boy from a council estate at a middle class grammar school left its marks. A career teacher with nearly twenty- ve years in state education, he forged a second very successful career as a local, regional, and national of cer of his trade union. His story includes how his work at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers would secure the future of ATL and lay the foundations for the formation of “The Education Union”. Ballard describes the interplay between his private and professional lives, and bares his soul when the pressures of a lifetime of commitment brings his story to an unexpected conclusion.

PURCHASE LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Ballard has enjoyed an extensive career in the education sector including twenty-five years as a science teacher before transferring his efforts to being a trade union official and advocate for teachers and their pupils at local, regional and national level rising to become national President of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Since then he has spent several years as a Senior Regional Official, covering the South West peninsula with a role as spokesman and advocate on employment issues for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Now retired, Andy enjoys spending time at Weston Rugby Club where he occupies the role of first team manager, as well as taking long walks in the Mendip Hills with his dogs, and writing the occasional comment article for his regional newspaper. He lives in Somerset with his family.

ABOUT THE EXCERPT

In this short extract describing my school days I recall the difficulty that being a boy from a council estate at the middle class grammar school presented.
My Grandmother's admonishment had a lifetime of impact on me. She had spent most of her life working in domestic service starting at the age of twelve. Her employers refused her permission to marry until she was 32, and they extracted every last ounce of effort from her for little reward. She regarded them as being entitled to this way of life and looked up to them, almost to the point of revering them. They were gentry, from a different class and people such as her, and by inference me in my turn, had no business seeking to be on equal terms with them. Despite coming from a very humble working class background she remained loyal to the ruling class and would not countenance and criticism of them or the system that kept them in their privileged position.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time this is the mindset against which I have railed and set the scene for my own contribution to the fight for equality and social justice.

EXCERPT
The distinctive blue and gold cap, the blazer with the school badge, and the blue and gold tie meant that you could not hide, or go to and from school unnoticed. This was especially true on the corporation bus that I caught just down the road from my house and which went through the council estate of which our road was an annex. The children from that estate were the ones I’d been to primary school with, and my brother and I were the only boys from our council estate to go to the grammar. They did not attack us or have much to do with us at all, but their disdain was all too obvious and comments about us going to the ‘snobs’’ school set us quite clearly apart. If this were not bad enough, the boys at the grammar school, once they knew where we were from, made it plain that this was their domain, and boys ‘of our sort’ had no place amongst them. Their fathers were bankers, lawyers, accountants, doctors and military men. Many of them lived in large private detached houses, and most owned cars; they regarded themselves as being superior to us in every way. They were far too middle class to be openly hostile, but there are many other ways to isolate people and make them know that they do not belong. I was dismayed and hurt by this. Surely there would be some reward for putting up with the discomfort of being treated with disdain by those who lived near me? Surely showing that I could be as clever as some of these middle class boys would win their approval? I came home one day very disconsolate and my grandmother asked why I had such a long face. I explained how hurtful it was that these boys could treat me as such an outsider and she told me, in words that are now burnt into my soul, “Don’t you dare speak about those boys like that, they are entitled to behave like this, they are gentry.” She didn’t mean to be unkind, she was just reiterating her life-long adherence to knowing her place and she was upbraiding me for wanting to get above my station. Little did she know that this would echo down my whole life, set the foundations for my lifelong belief that there is a better way, and drive me ultimately to my own mission to do whatever I could to improve the lot of ordinary working people and in particular their children. I didn’t know this myself at the time but the fact that I can remember her indignation that I should question the right of my betters to decide how my life should be serves to prove how life defining that moment was.

Sunday 28 January 2018

BLOG TOUR - REVIEW - VERONICA'S BIRD BY VERONICA BIRD & RICHARD NEWMAN


Title: Veronica's Bird
Author: Veronica Bird & Richard Newman
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Release Date: 22nd January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.

A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.

He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.

Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.

Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.

After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.


PURCHASE LINKS
Amazon UK


ABOUT THE AUTHORS
After thirty-five years working for the Prison Service, Veronica Bird is now retired and living in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She is still an active proponent of the justice system and continues to lecture across the country and is a supporter of Butler Trust, which acknowledges excellence within the prison system. 

A qualified architect and Swiss-trained hotelier, Richard Newman enjoyed a forty-year career designing and managing hotels worldwide before retiring in 2001. 
Since then he has gone on to publish a number of novels: The Crown of Martyrdom, The Horse that Screamed, The Potato Eaters, The Green Hill, Brief Encounters and most recently The Sunday Times bestseller, A Nun’s Story. He is currently working on a new novel about retirement and an autobiography of his time in the Middle East. He lives happily with his wife in Wetherby, West Yorkshire where he enjoys being close to his family.


REVIEW
Title: Veronica's Bird
Author: Veronica Bird & Richard Newman
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Release Date: 22nd January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.

A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.

He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.

Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.

Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.

After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
This book was brought to my attention when I was asked by Rachel at Authoright Publicity if I would be interested in reading this book and when I read the blurb it really captured my attention as the Ackworth School mentioned in the book is not far from where I currently live. The area I live in was also known as a pit town and I also have a rough idea where certain streets/areas are in Barnsley too so I thought that this prior knowledge would really help me envision the area's being talked about.

The cover has a grey background, perhaps as a subtle nod to the dirt and dust from the coal miners featured in the book. The central item on the cover is a cage with a bird within it. This cover represents the book and Veronica's life so well. I love the play on words of the title, as Vernonica's surname is Bird, and at one point of the book draws attention to the irony of prisoners referring to being in prison as doing their bird. The byline reinforces the blurb immediately telling potential readers that Veronica Bird has worked as a prison officer for thirty-five years. Though the cover being grey gives the cover a simplistic look I think the cage and the bird within would make me pick this book up in a bookstore to learn more about it. 

I have seen non-fiction and memoir which totally fit the book, as this is Veronica's own life story. the book is co-wrote by Richard Newman, however as you read the book you can hear that it is Veronica's voice telling us, the reader, where she came from, what her life was and what she has achieved in her life. 

I couldn't help but immediately like Veronica as a person through reading this book, she comes across as a down to earth woman who "calls a spade a spade". Some of the area's she mentions in the book were areas I had some knowledge of but you don't need to know the area's Veronica is talking about as her detailed descriptions allow you to visualise these places quite easily. I actually live about a fifteen minute drive away from the school in Ackworth that Veronica attends. My ex-husband came from Barnsley so I have a little knowledge of that area too both Barnsley itself and Carlton on the outskirts. I also have extended family who worked at pits local to where I live and can remember the strike well when best friends were set against each other when one father returned to work whilst the other remained on strike. As the blurb states this book begins with Veronica as an eleven year old, her parents neither read nor write and as Veronica is quite far down in the pecking order of the family being a younger sibling. Because of this by the time Veronica gets the hand me down clothes they are almost always threadbare. There never seems to be enough food to go around, with Veronica finding herself hungry on many occasions. Her father isn't opposed to striking his children with a belt either. The area Veronica and her family live in is situated in the always present stench and dirt of coal dust. 

I loved one quote that Veronica uses in the book "Never mind Fifty Shades of Grey, Barnsley had a thousand shades of black" I think it fits the area at that time perfectly though of course it could be applied to other pit towns too. 

Veronica's eldest brother was epileptic and was becoming worse every month, and no signs of anything to make him any better. Veronica would dream of getting away from this dark, dismal life. Even when her drunken father would threaten to send her to a children's home, Veronica would think it would probably be an improvement on her current life if he did! As I have said neither of her parents could read or write so it was left to Veronica to do the reading for the family. So filling in a scholarship form was a daunting task for Veronica but with her mothers encouragement she did it and even better she impressed when she went to visit the school, so much so she returned home from school one day to her mother and her brother Gordon waiting for her to open and read a letter. The letter was telling her she was accepted and had a scholarship for the Ackworth school. Of course there was a school uniform to be ordered and paid for. The uniform could only be purchased at a specialist uniform supplier in Leeds. Veronica's mum told her not to worry, that she would find the money. Her mum made sure that the uniform would last and bought large enough to be taken in and then let back as Veronica grew. Veronica thrived at the Ackworth school and in the book it seems she had some of her happiest days there. For the first time in her life she had new clothes and enough food to eat too.

However she still had to endure the school holidays when she had to work on her brother in laws fruit and veg stall. She was expected to lift the same heavy potato sacks and other vegetables as the men that worked for him did. She was paid but not as much as someone else would have been paid for doing what she did. In other words she was cheap labour and a free babysitter whenever her sister and brother-in-law wanted one. This brother-in-law would play a pivotal roll in Veronica's life and in fact affect her schooling too.

In later life Veronica becomes a prison officer, she works hard, doing the various training first at Risley, or Grisley Risley as it was and still is referred to for three weeks. Then another eight weeks at Wakefield before she was even given a uniform. I think the idea of throwing new recruits in at a notorious prisons such as Risley and Holloway are to sort out those who cannot cope working inside a prison. Veronica does see some sights in her job as a prison officer, she meets both Myra Hindley and Charles Bronson. Veronica also came in to contact with Dolours and Marian Price who were part of an IRA unit. Veronica worked at lots of different prisons both male and female prisoners and was a great advocate for improving standards within the prison environment. When Veronica became a Principal Officer there were only around thirty in the whole of Britain! She got used to different styles of prisons such as Styal Prison having houses, separate blocks which kept the different types of prisoners apart. These houses held between twelve and sixteen women. For example, one house would contain those considered to be dangerous lifers such as Mary Bell the child killer and Carole Richardson connected to the IRA. Another house would be specifically for mothers and babies, short termer's in another and those considered mentally ill all together in one unit too. Veronica worked in the most modern and the most decrepit prisons. Veronica was firm and fair and had the respect of workmates and inmates alike.
Veronica was often moved on to a different prison to see if she could "sort it out", she even went over to Russia to see how prisons and prison life compared over there. Then hosted visiting Russians to come over here to view our prisons and how they work. 

I have tried to reveal enough about different parts of the book, to pique your interest without speaking about every detail of the different parts of Veronica's life. This really is a great read. Veronica does not want you to feel sorry for her, she searches and saves what pittance she earns to obtain a job away from her family and still her brother-in-law is obsessed by what she is doing, where she is doing it and with whom. He seems to think she should be at his and his wife's beck and call. In fact he makes her take his children along to one of her job interviews. When Veronica does escape, he always manages to find her and turn up, causing her to move on time after time. I love Veronica's determination to better herself. I also adore the way she may be working away from her family and not get on with her brother-in-law and sometimes her sister either but she never forgets to send Christmas gifts to their children with whose bringing up she was instrumental. Veronica has been to Buckingham Palace on more than one occasion and given various well deserved awards. Veronica is now retired and as it says in the "About The Author" section is living in Harrogate. 

There are sections in this book that will make you gasp, smile, maybe a little chuckle as well as tear up too. I highly recommend reading this memoir, I found I really didn't want to put it down! It is a very interesting informative book from Veronica's not so great early life, to gaining a scholarship and being on the cusp of taking exams, to being removed from this beloved new way of life for no reason but she would provide slave labour for her family. Finally escaping her family and a life of servitude to getting a job unconnected to her family, moving away, becoming a prison officer and on-wards and upwards. 

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were Wow! What a roller-coaster ride Veronica's life has been. From a life where someone told Veronica she was like a little slave, and her being trapped in what looked like a life of drudgery. To her becoming a trusted prison Governor that is sent to problem prisons to "sort them out".

Here is the schedule for this tour so you can checkout the different posts on each blog!



Thursday 25 January 2018

BLOG TOUR - LIFE AFTER DEATH BEYOND DOUBT BY SUSAN STARKEY

Title: Life After Death Beyond Doubt
Author: Susan Starkey

Book Information supplied by Authoright Marketing & Publicity
There is one universal question to which there seems to be no definitive answer: what happens to us when we die? Many people have their own individual theories; different faiths have different beliefs. The rest of us we can merely shrug and resign ourselves to the fact that we can never know the unknowable. Just a few years ago, Susan Starkey would have felt the same way. But following a move to Spain, a sequence of astonishing events changed her life dramatically, turning her scepticism on its head, especially regarding the question of what happens to us when we die. Starkey is now convinced that there is a life after death; this book reveals her personal experiences and shares the verifiable evidence of her discoveries. In this profound story, Susan Starkey explains how she uncovered the roots to her past life, along with a vast family network that had been lost to her for centuries. She shares her ability to contact the Spirit World through a new-found ability to communicate through automatic writing. Life After Death Beyond Doubt is a remarkable and insightful guide to the afterlife, one which will bring comfort to others who may be searching for the answers that Susan Starkey has been given. Her work may prove beyond doubt that there is an existence after death and that we never truly die.

PURCHASE LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After leaving the corporate rat race, Susan Starkey moved with her husband to the idyllic countryside of Andalucia Spain where she enjoys exploring the natural beauty of the area, sampling the regions delicacies and on occasion turning her hand to property renovation projects. A previous skeptic, Susan has since embraced Mediumship after a chance invitation to a spiritualist meeting strongly challenged all the beliefs she held and led her on a path of spiritual discovery.


ABOUT THE EXCERPT

This is a true story of how Susan Starkey receives incontrovertible evidence from her spirit guide, Elephally, that there is “Life After Death Beyond Doubt”.  She describes, in her book, the facts that Elephally gave her about his life on earth.  With her new found ability to communicate with him, through automatic writing, Susan is able to verify Elephally´s origins on a map in Libya and through photographs on the internet.  Elephally also gave Susan details of where she lived a previous life on earth, and through his descriptions she was able to find her home in the mountains near to where she now lives in Andalucia, Spain.  Not only that, Elephally also gave her details of her long lost family, who turned out to be her nearest neighbours.  The following is an extract from her book.

EXCERPT
 “I scoured the internet to see if I could find Elephally’s village but to no avail. I therefore decided to purchase a detailed map of Libya and keenly awaited its arrival, so that I could do more research. The map duly arrived in the post and I decided to seek Elephally’s help again through my automatic writing:

Center by water. The place is Imbari and the village is Assuma, Awbari, Awbari. Yes that is it. This is the place where I lived. You must look further and find out more. I am very pleased. I said you must look at a map and that you would find the place. I am very excited.

Now you must find the hut in the mountains with the goats and the young boy. You have seen in your mind’s eye a vision of the hut. It is high in the mountains. There is no one living there now. Take the path to the left and then to the right and carry on upwards to the sky. There is only a narrow pathway. When you get there you must pray for lives of your friends and yourself. This is your destiny and you are doing well. Keep looking and you will find. 

Looking at the map, I felt goose bumps on my skin as there is an area to the South of Libya called Idehan of Ubari where there is a village, Awbari (Obari). This was incredible and proof to me of Elephally’s authenticity.

I also subsequently found photographs on the internet of the Ubari Lakes (Awbari), exactly matching Elephally´s description of where he lived.”


Susan's book is aimed at anyone who has asked the question: what happens to us when we die?  She believes that this book proves that there is an existence beyond the grave, where people will be cared for with love and kindness.  This book is aimed at bringing comfort to those who are facing death themselves or who are close to friends and family who are about to pass over.




Monday 22 January 2018

REVIEW - THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ BY HEATHER MORRIS

Title: The Tattooist Of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date: 11th January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust - and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov's incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive - not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also - almost unbelievably - a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story - their story - will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I'd had this book on my list to read for a while and after reading another book set around the same time I decided I was ready to give this one a go. I was apprehensive as the book is based on a true story meaning the characters in this book aren't made up, they are real live people going through being in Auschwitz.

I have seen that there are two covers for this book and I have decided to describe that I should describe the colour one which is the one for the edition I read and I have pictured that one above in this review. The covers main "colour" is an ash grey colour that becomes more meaningful as you read the book. There are faded blue stripes too, that represent the uniforms some prisoners were made to wear. At the top portion of the cover there are two clasping hands, the way arms are positioned numbers are visible on one which is also becomes even more relevant as you read the book. At the upper right of the cover is a circular "stamped" circular type design that says "Based on an incredible true story".  At the very bottom section of the cover is the dark grey outline of Auschwitz in the dusky ashy atmosphere. I feel that this cover is a very strong one featuring lots of important elements from within the book. The only thing I would change on this cover is the position of the arms, as on the different cover I have seen the arms are in a slightly different position meaning the tattooed numbers are visible on both the female and male arms.

The genres I have seen listed for this book are "General Fiction", "Historical Fiction" which fit the book very well along with "Holocaust". I find it a shame that more is not being made of this book being based on a real story, maybe we should have a "based on a real story" genre. 

Before I actually begin talking about the content of the book, I should explain how at the very beginning of the book there is a section about how Heather came to meet Lale. Heather was introduced to Lale as he "might have a story worth telling". Heather goes on to say the day she met Lale Sokolov was a day that changed both their lives. Their friendship grew as Lale trusted Heather with the innermost details of what he saw, did and witnessed others doing during the Holocaust. 

The book begins with Lale sitting at his desk that is set up nearby the arriving transport trains at Auschwitz. Lale has a piece of paper in his hand with a number on it 34902. The woman in front of him already has a faded number on her arm. Lale starts working on her arm. He tries so hard to be gentle that he doesn’t go deep enough with the needle and has to go over the number again with more force. The young woman doesn't flinch or cry out at the pain, Lale is fully aware he is inflicting. Those being tattooed have been told to say nothing and do nothing. As he wipes away some of the blood the man next to him whispers a warning to Lale urgently "hurry up". A man in a white coat approaches, looking the women over as he walks. He roughly grabs the young woman's face who Lale is in the process of tattooing and jerks her head about. The young woman looks as if she is going to say something. Lale quickly mouths “shhh” at the young woman and when the man in the white coat moves on Lale tells the young woman she is doing well. Once again Pepan urges Lale to be quicker at his job.

Then the book goes back to how Lale ended up at Auschwitz in the first place. Lale is well educated and well dressed in one of his suits hoping to impress whomever he will be working for. He is holding his suitcase which contains some clothes and a few possessions. Lale is standing shoulder to shoulder with the other men packed into a train carriage that is usually used for transporting cattle. These men are being taken "to work" for the German cause under the direction and orders of Adolf Hitler. None of the men really know where they are going or what they will be doing. They travel for two days though there are many stops none of them are to allow the men on that train food, drink or toilet & washing facilities. A young man called Aron approaches Lale and asks why he is so calm. Aron wants to organise the men to fight back against the Germans. Lale explains to Aron that men's fists, no matter how many are not a match for guns. 

Finally, the train stops for the men to get off, they have arrived at Auschwitz. As Lale walks through the iron gates he glances at the words written in German above him "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" which translated reads "Work will make you free". Lale does have the advantage of speaking many different languages so at least he can understand the orders the Germans are shouting at him and his fellow travellers. Lale does his best to explain the orders to those around him to prevent them being shoved about and beaten until they understand what they are being told to do. Commandant Rudolf Hoess speaks to the men, telling them they are at Auschwitz now and they need to work hard, do as they are told and they may go free one day. But he also warns if they disobey there will be consequences!

During processing Lale has to provide his name, address, occupation and his parent's names. He is then given a slip of paper with a number on it, 32407. An SS Officer pulls off Lale's jacket, rips his sleeve and slams his arm on a table for the number to be tattooed. The actual tattooing takes only seconds. After processing the men are made to strip, shower, have their head shaved and to put on old Russian Army uniforms. 

Lale and Aron meet back up having being given the same block number, 7.  That night Lale needs to pee and as he approaches the designated area something holds him back when he hears soldiers approaching. The young soldiers just randomly shoot the three men that are in the process of using the "toilet facilities". Lale makes a vow to himself that he is going to survive this awful place. It is this determination and survival instinct along with his friendship with Aron that saves Lale's life when he is ill. Lale then meets Pepan the current tattooist and is taken under his wing and made his assistant.

So much happens in this book both to Lale and fellow prisoners he is friends with and to others around him. This book takes you through a whole range of emotions, anger and fury for the innocent people being sent to concentration camps, sorrow for the loss of the prisoners loved one. The fact that these people didn't know if they would ever see their families ever again. Disgust at how the Germans treat the prisoners. Then also pride in those people in the concentration camps that fought on and that survived everything and anything that the Germans could think of throwing their way. 

I guess it's not a case of favourite "characters" as these are real people so the following part of my review is me mentioning these people and how I felt about them whilst reading the book. Of course, there is so much I could say about Lale, I admire his selflessness, the way he makes the decision to be the "one child to work for the Germans" so that his older brother who is married with children can stay at home with his family and that his parents will be left in peace to continue to live in their own home. I also admired his first small act of defiance setting fire to his clothes. Lale goes on to secretly defy the Germans when necessary. As the tattooist he has his own room, he has the privilege of eating slightly better food elsewhere from the bustle of the main food line, he also receives larger rations. Lale does not forget those friends he made back in Block 7 as he hides some of his bread and shares it with them. Lale makes friends easily, and later in the book he has a couple of the young women who work in Canada (which is where all the prisoner’s possessions go to be sorted through) smuggle him money, jewellery etc, to barter/pay to the outside building contractors he has made friends with. In exchange for the money, jewels etc, one of the builders and his son bring in whatever Lale and the prisoners need from chocolate, other food, and medicines. Lale uses the chocolate to bribe Kapos (those prisoners who work for the Germans by keeping eyes on all the prisoners in their block.) He treats Gita his girlfriend to chocolate. Lale to me, represents hope throughout the book. Gita is younger than Lale and has been held elsewhere. Lale is besotted with her from the moment he sees her and re-tattoo's her number. They snatch moments together on Sundays when no prisoners in the camp work except the tattooist if there are incoming prisoners. They quickly fall in love with each other. Lale shares his extra rations, and uses chocolate to bribe the kapo in Gita's block to get them some time alone. Gita tells Lale only her first name, she refuses to give him her surname or talk about what has happened to her.

I felt shock and horror on the behalf of Cilka. When she arrived at Auschwitz she was singled out by "The Commandant" and was allowed to keep her beautiful long hair. But there is a price to pay for everything in Auschwitz and Cilka's price is becoming the sexual plaything of "The Commandant". Cilka plays an important part in ensuring Lale lives at one point in the book, without her asking a favour in return for all what has been repeatedly taken from her. I was also angry whilst reading a certain part of the book where Cilka is labelled a collaborator and is actually punished! Surely her treatment at the hands of The Commandant was enough punishment for a lifetime.

The next person that kind of played a little on my mind after finishing the book was SS Baretski, it's strange as during the book you see many sides to him. The young fairly innocent boy, writing to his girlfriend and asking Lale's advice on gifts to send her. Then there's the cruel, sadistic side when he is punishing the prisoners. Or when he toys with Lale, sometimes being friendly and passing on a note to Gita. The banter he has with Lale the advice that Lale gives SS Baretski on how to treat his girlfriend and how Baretksi feeds back to Lale if his suggestions worked. It's almost as though in different circumstances they could have been friends. At times you think SS Baretski is also a victim of Adolf Hitler, as he doesn't really have a choice in being at Auschwitz either. Though of course he is living in a much better position, is well clothed and well fed too. 

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book was that it was an amazing, eye opening real-life tale of survival against the odds. 

Heather Morris does a fantastic job with her writing style. As you read it is the voices of Lale and Gita that you hear telling you their story of how they got through the darkest days of their lives.
Gary Sokolov must be so proud of the brave yet kind Lale & Gita who strove to survive in the harshest of conditions yet still tried to help others around them.

The epilogue was incredible, I honestly loved the extra input about "After". After reading the horrors that happened to these people it was kind of soothing to the mind to know some people did survive despite the Germans best efforts to work them to death. It's difficult to say much about the epilogue without giving anything major away. To be honest I would have been left irritated and upset not knowing what happened to certain people. Though I would have liked to know how things turned out for Leon as he did have the horrendous Dr Mengele experiment on him. 

This book gave me the same stunned, sorrowful emotional feelings at how on earth one human can treat another in the way the Germans did during the Holocaust as I had a similar reaction to reading the book Surviving the Angel of Death written by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor. These are amazing books, to read about what happened to these brave individuals and how they dealt with it all. I think it is so generous and courageous of them to take the time to re-live what they went through to tell everyone the truth about what happened during that horrific era known as the Holocaust. The suffering these people went through should never be forgotten. This is in my opinion another book that should be read in schools to teach about the Holocaust and how it affected the people then and how it should teach us lessons for the future. The survivors and those that lost their lives deserve for their stories to live on. One last thing I need to say, have the tissues at hand and be prepared to read late into the night and have this book take over your mind and thoughts from the very beginning to the very end.

COVER COMPARE

I think the cover on the left with the stripes of the prisoners uniforms would stand out more on a book store shelf. It represents more things that are within the book such as Auschwitz, uniform stripes the tattoos and the male & female holding hands despite where they are. 

The cover on the right with the male and female holding hands with their prison camp numbers showing tells you what a poignant and emotional read the book is.
Though both covers invoke emotion, both say that the book is based on a true story. To be totally honest, I personally, would choose either of these books up from a book shelf to learn more about them.

Which cover do you prefer?
And have you read the book? 
Did your choice change after reading the book?

Monday 15 January 2018

REVIEW - THE BUTCHERS - BREEDERS SERIES BY KATIE FRENCH

Title: The Butchers
Series: Breeders Series
Author: Katie French
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Release Date: 9th December 2017

BLURB from Amazon
I’m not a mother. I never will be. But when my adopted daughter, Mo, turns sick, I’ll do anything to save her. That includes going back to the very people who want to use her to as a living science experiment. With Clay, Auntie, and Ethan at my side, I know we can save her. But when we come up against the most barbaric group we’ve ever encountered, all our lives are forfeit. Can I save Mo? Can I save anyone?


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
As soon as I realised that this book was available I knew I just had to read it as soon as possible, even though I'm feeling sad to think its the final book and the end of The Breeders Series.

The cover matches the rest in the newer covers series very well, meaning they'll look fantastic on a bookshelf! I'd say the face featured on this book is most likely one of the new characters we meet in the book. I would say it is a good likeness to the description of Desdemona, or Desi for short. A brilliant character! 

For genres this book falls into I would say Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Fantasy and Post Apocalyptic with a little genetics thrown in too! I think it should appeal to a wide variety of people from teens upwards. I am definitely not in the YA/Teen category but I have absolutely loved reading this brilliant, brilliant series.

At the very beginning of the book there is a section that recaps what has happened to the characters so far which I really enjoyed. I had remembered the books quite well but a section to refresh your memory is really good and it certainly pulls you right back into the book which picks up straight after the ending of the last book.

The butchers begins with Riley trying to patiently teach Mo her letters but Mo then has some sort of fit or seizure. These seizures have been happening more and more often as well as lasting longer each time too. Everyone around Riley can clearly see that Mo is ill and possibly even dying but she refuses to accept the probability. Riley has been through a lot and having the possibility of ever having any children has had its emotional toll on her and she has become so attached to Mo as if the half human, half creature is her own daughter.
It is decided that they desperately need to get help for Mo even though it may be a dangerous journey. After a discussion they realise the only people that may have the facilities and medical supplies are Nessa Vandewater or Corra. So its a case of which is the lesser evil....they decide on Corra and that they'll escape with Mo when she is well again. 
Whilst searching for fuel to enable them to travel to Corra, Riley, Clay and Ethan come across a fuel station that has been burnt out. They also discover a family tied up and burnt to death. This is the first inkling and distance connection they have with the new tough men who call themselves "The Butchers".  It is Ethan that finally finds some horses they presume belonged to the burnt family that they can use to get to Corra.

When they do contact Corra she agrees to help, keen to get her hands on Mo again but says she will only help if Clay stays away, she will not allow him into the bunker at all. So Clay and Auntie are directed to a "safe" place that is in an old fairground/theme park. It's here that Clay meets what he thinks is a young man possibly a bender. When Clay has to fight a couple of the Butchers scouts, it is the young male with a crossbow that helps him defeat them. 

In the meantime knowing the Butchers Scouts are heading for Clay, Riley borrows a solar car and goes to help Clay and Auntie. Clay, Auntie and the mystery young make all go back to the bunker. Doc gives Riley some sort of injection supposedly to help her relax and sleep. It's whilst she is asleep that things go wrong. A member of her family group actually betrays her and it cuts her very deeply. It is Betsy who explains what has happened, when Riley finally wakes up.

There's so much going on in this book. Clay and Riley meet the hardest group of survivors they have ever met, The Butchers. The Butchers are a groups of heavily tattoed, bald men who are collecting women, girls and medical supplies and the people to use them. These men are brutal and there's no second chances with them. The Butchers live in what is described as a stone fortress. In an attempt to defeat them, Riley and Clay's group will have to infiltrate The Butchers and their home and attempt to overthrow their leader.

There is still a very taught tension between Clay and Doc. Doc is a bender who does look a lot like a girl but he wants to be treat as a male, and is in love with Riley. However Riley only has eyes for Clay. Her heart and soul are in love with Clay. Clay is the love of Riley's life, whereas Doc is her best friend. The two males do end up coming to some sort of truce in this book, where Doc does something that Riley finds hard to believe let alone forgive. Clay tries to look at things from Doc's point of view and does end up feeling a little empathy but he certainly is not giving up on his relationship with Riley to make Doc feel better. Though Clay does attempt to speak up on Doc's behalf a little when Riley refuses to speak to him. 

Clay and Riley have to come face to face with Nessa, Clay's mum once again. Nessa isn't in great shape as she has had a visit by the butchers so all her female subjects have been taken away along with her equipment. Nessa has been badly injured but its the fact she seems even more unhinged than ever. So much so she wants to destroy all records of her work and if she can take some people down with her she will do that too.

Characters I loved were of course were Riley and Clay, but I also loved Auntie and Ethan. Ethan does a lot of growing up in this one. He really looks up tp Clay who continues to treat him like a younger brother yet is willing to teach him to fight, use guns etc whereas Riley seems, quite naturally to want to keep Ethan protected and safe. She doesn't want him to see all the horrors of the world they live in. Betsy is a bit of a surprise in this book, though she still speaks in rhyme and is always giving Clay those puppy dog eyes, she actually comes through and is a big help at one point in the book. People seem to disregard Betsy as "not all there" or "away with the fairies" but she actually listens much more than anyone thinks she does.

New characters I loved were Desdemona, another female who is as tough as Riley and can fight. Desdemona has never been in the Breeders program so doesn't have the ankh tattoo that Riley has. Desdemona joins in the fighting and is part of the group that infiltrate the butchers stone fortress in an attempt to rid the world of the butchers leader Barrage. At one point in the book Barrage shows how evil he is in his attempt to make Riley reveal the whereabouts of Mo. Barrage wants Mo so he can use her blood/DNA to find the formula that has made her mature faster in the hopes of using that to create himself a strong army. Barrage basically wants to rule whats left of the world.

There are more women rescued that become part of Clay and Riley's group that Clay feels he has to protect. I thought that the Nanny Grace was a similar tough, smart, forthright character, like Auntie. Nanny Grace tries her best to look after the other two females with her. Nanny Grace tries her best to shield the young girl Sissy from the horrors of the world around them, rather like Riley with Ethan. 

I could seriously go on and on about this book but I don't want to spoil the reading experience for everyone. Lets just say this book is so super action packed. The Butcher's really keeps you at the edge of your seat with lots of nail biting scenes. There are also some poignant scenes that have you sniffling and reaching for the tissues, specifically a certain scene with Riley and Mo. There's lots of ends tied up in this book, but I would still love even more. We met some new characters in this book and it seems such a shame to be saying goodbye to them already. 

I have honestly loved this series from the first word to the last! Now I need to find another fantastic dystopian/post apocalyptic series to read. I'm sure this series will remain one of my favourite ones that I will always recommend to fellow book lovers. This series is a must read!

My immediate thoughts at the end of this book were, Wow! I love, love, loved it! . . . but that's the end!  

Thursday 11 January 2018

REVIEW - FINAL 7 - CELL 7 TRILOGY BY KERRY DREWERY

Described as "The electric and heart stopping finale to Cell 7 and Day 7"

Title: Final 7
Series: Cell 7 Trilogy
Author: Kerry Drewery
Genre: Sci-Fi, Teen, Fantasy
Publisher: Hot Key Books, Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date: 11th January 2018

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Martha and Isaac have escaped, but are now on the run - the government has branded them rebels and a danger to the public. Despite the rewards being offered for turning them in, Martha and her friends are safe in The Rises, the area of the city full of the poor and the powerless. But then the Prime Minister orders a wall to be built around The Rises. Is it for the the safety or the poor - or is it to imprison them? Martha needs to act, and to act fast, in a tale of breathtaking treachery that reaches right to the heart of government...


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I had mixed feelings about reading this book, on one hand I really really couldn't wait to read it, yet at the same time I also didn't want the story to come to an end. I was really looking forward to catching up with Martha and Isaac after the ending of Day 7. In fact my immediate thoughts as I finished reading Day 7 were: Could there be a book three? Please tell me there's more to come from this dystopian/futuristic society? There's so much more, there has to be!

In keeping with the rest of the series this cover has The backdrop of the cover is a brick wall which fits well with the theme of incarceration the focal point of the cover is as eye-catching as Cell 7, and Day 7, though this time the colour is red. In the centre of the "eye" or maybe a "camera lens" though in this book it could also represent the idea of a target because the “Rises 7” are all wanted felons in this book Then there is the tree again, which I would say represents the tree Martha used to try to catch a glimpse of during her incarceration. The tree with the bird flying away from it is once again prominently featured, and I still think that maybe the tree represents the growth of something? Perhaps a banding together of those against this present justice system. The bird may represent hope and freedom. I’m looking forward to finding out more in this final installment of the Cell 7 Trilogy.

The genres I have seen listed for this book are YA, Sci-Fi & Fantasy & Teen. I totally agree that this book fits all those categories but I personally would also add dystopian and futuristic too. I should also confess to most certainly not falling into the category of being a Teen or Young Adult either but I have truly loved reading this brilliant book series.

This book starts with a prologue kind of refreshing your memory to where you are within the book series. It all begins with Martha panicking as to whether Isaac is breathing or not, she can hardly see through the tears in her eyes and her hands are sticky with blood. Gus is with Martha and he places his hand on Isaac's chest and tells Martha that Isaac is breathing. The car they are travelling in is hurtling towards the boundary between "the haves" in the city and the "have not's" in the rises. As they approach this once, invisible boundary they notice lots of lorries ahead and what looks like some sort of wall being constructed. Though at the time they don't know what to think about it. Martha quietly murmurs wondering what it is for, To keep us out? Control us? Then whispers Berlin, Israel, Belfast, Korea and Gus replies "And now London"

I really enjoy how the chapters vary from being from the point of view of the different characters such as Martha, Max, Eve, Cicero and the TV broadcasters too. It makes the book feel fast paced and you feel you are there watching the broadcasts that are churning out the stories as the government wants people to see them. Martha Honeydew, Isaac Paige, Eve & Max Stanton, Ex-Judge Thomas Cicero, Ex-presenter Jerome Decker and Gus Evans are being labelled as terrorists and the media has given them the name of the "Rises Seven". Martha is still being blamed for planting a bomb at the old TV Studio's and it keeps being reported if Patty Paige dies, Martha will be back on death row. The show, Death Is Justice is still being produced and the prisoners are now being kept at The Old Bailey. It's certainly a case of the "show must go on" with Joshua out of favour its out with the old and in with new. So the new presenters are Kristina Albright always in her pristine suits and immaculate looking and is now the main studio presenter. Then there's Gerome Sharp, the man "on the scene" or within the scene and part of it in this book, There's a few times Gerome finds himself in a predicament being in close quarters to prisoners and at the receiving ends of items being thrown! Throughout quite a lot of the book, the general public are led to believe that Martha is in fact in prison. So Martha spends lots of her time being afraid of being discovered and having to use various disguises such as a large hood and even a wig at one point. Martha, Isaac and Gus were helped to escape by a "mystery" woman who is very pivotal in this book as she has inside information that helps the "Rises Seven" And mostly Martha gather documents needed to reveal all the underhand deals and the biased trials the government have been a part of. The government and Prime Minister Rennard show what they think of the people living in the Rises by contructing a wall and staffing it, so that all those that live in the Rises but work elsewhere have to have a pass to get out of the Rises to get to their jobs. Things rapidly become worse until only the privileged few with special passes are allowed through the wall border. It is lucky for Martha she seems to have help from such a high ranking person and that means she can get in and out of the Rises. Not that it easy, as she has to disguise herself. 

In this final book the whole voting on who lives and dies escalates even more than in the other books. As the "Studio" is moved to the Old Bailey that is a historical building as it is where those sentenced to death were kept years and years before. Gerome Sharp loves going on about historical cases, and what it must have been like to walk along the corridor called "Dead mans walk". He goes into great detail about a section of the corridor that is open to the elements above being where those in the olden days would gather to pelt the convicted with rotten fruit and vegetables!

Among my favourite characters in this book were Eve, especially the very last scene she is in. (It will make sense when you read the book). We do see a totally different more cunning and sly side to Max in this book too. He goes through a phase of not knowing who to trust or what to do to attempt to help his mother gain her freedom. We also learn in this book that though they haven't initially told each other that Eve and Cicero are in love with each other. 
Of course I love the character of Martha who once again shows her bravery, though she probably would see it as that. Martha has to put trust into a mystery woman who seems to want to help her and the Rises Seven clear their names and change the whole justice system. Though what is in it for the mystery woman? Does she stand to gain anything? Or could it all be some bizarre trap.

In Final 7 we see the general public living in the Rises banding together to support someone that has helped many of them. It is these people from the Rises that together with some of the city people finally see clearly at what is wrong with their current justice system. Martha manages to provide documents that make them think about what they have been led to believe currently and in the past. There really is strength in numbers in Final 7.

I really don't want to go into the plot in more detail as I think that would spoil the reading experience of others. Just be prepared with the tissues as there were a couple of parts that had me tearing up. There is love, sadness, loss, family, the kindness of strangers and the betrayals of those once thought to be so reliable. There really is so much packed into this book I absolutely hated having to put it down. In  fact I ended up reading the book in just three reading sessions. One of the things most disturbing about this book is that it isn't all that much of a big leap away from our present reality. There's so much reality TV these days, and there always has been a fascination with courtroom drama and serial killers etc. It doesn't take that much imagination to visualise the plot and contents of this book happening in our near future at all!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading this book were . . . wow! . . . only one word needed to describe this book and the same word to describe the whole series. . . brilliant!