“Espionage London” John Day #BookReview

By late 1943, Hitler desperately needed a secret weapon to win WW2. Engineer & master spy Karl Strom devised a simple device that would bring Britain to its knees over night. 
This character driven story of intrigue and guile, love and revenge, tells of the suicide mission undertaken by 4 German spies. It will transport you back in time to the Channel Island of Alderney where they prepared and to the back streets of London, where they struggle to survive. 
Timing is everything in war, and a cruel twist of fate changes history. 

A super-intense John Day Thriller.

Espionage London Cover

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   In “Espionage London”, John Day delivers a fast paced thriller that may as well be glued to your hands as you read. Prepare yourself for a wild ride accompanied by German spy’s with steel resolve. As the four spy’s face trial after trial, their plight will capture your imagination, your heart and get your adrenaline pumping. It’s not every day that you find yourself cheering on the bad guys.

   John Day has written from a perspective that is rarely used. Reading from the point of view of four German’s gives a very human face to a side of WW2 that few take the time to give credit for. Just for this insight, I am adding Mr. Day to my list of favorite authors. He’s taken a risk in writing this that few pursue and I thank him for it.

“She saw them and let out a loud and unfettered scream that tailed off to a wail of abject misery. Sinking slowly to the floor, she cried like never before.”

   It’s clear through the entire book that John Day has put his heart into every word. His characters are extremely well developed. Each trial they face is explored from multiple angles and thought provoking. It gives tribute to the saying “No one is fully evil. Nothing is as simple as black and white. We are all grey areas”.

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   After completing the story, I found myself very conflicted. This is high praise for an author. Think about the skill it takes to put such a human face on people who have for decades been portrayed as pure evil. After reading “Espionage London”, I feel that I have a deeper understanding of the plight of Germans and their motivations for fighting. That is not to say that I condone their actions or the murder of millions. For that reason, the German’s are complicit in an unthinkable evil.

“She decided he had the cold detachment of a venomous snake about to strike.”

   Being American, it took me a bit to fall into the different use of language, punctuation and spelling, but this didn’t take away from the brilliance of the story in the slightest. John Day is from the UK and it’s expected that he writes the way he does. To be honest, I actually prefer authors to write with their native version of English. It helps the reader with a worldview perspective as well as being fun to imagine the narration with an accent. Before you ask, I also added a German accent to the characters as well. John Day’s writing makes it easy to do this and it added another layer to the story that I greatly enjoyed.

“When face to face with your enemy, if you show fear, you’re done for”

John Day does a good job of tying up loose ends and serving up justice where justice is due. As Peter, (one of the main characters) so eloquently puts it…..Revenge is a dish best served cold. I greatly enjoyed his success in exacting that particular revenge. I literally gave a cheerfully loud “Hell yes!” after reading that passage. Some people deserve their fate and trust me on this, that particular person absolutely got what was coming to him. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you read it.  

“Espionage London” is very quotable and filled with interesting insights. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and will be adding his other books to my TBR list.

5 stars!!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: Espionage London – A WW2 Thriller | Series: N/A  |  Author(s): John Day  |Publisher: John Day / Self Published / Publication Date: 9-30-2017 |Pages: 379 (Print) |ISBN/ASIN: B07635MHM5 |Genre(s):  Action / Thriller / Suspense / Historical / Espionage |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 11-06-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

John Day photo

John Day lives in the Channel Islands, on Alderney, in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Much of what happens in Espionage – London takes place there.

Retired from his own businesses, building designer and accredited energy consultant about 10 years ago. He tends to spend much of the year travelling the world. He has a keen interest in photography and the Alderney Island Tourism marketing team use his photos in their publications and notice boards around the island. He is a qualified open water, wreck and cave diver. Many locations abroad and under water are used in his other books.

In the past, he has developed advanced software and has a detailed knowledge of electronics.

He holds the family crest with direct lineage back to King Charles 2nd.

 

 

 

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“Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51” H. E. Culver #BookSpotlight

Melissa is 26, utterly bored, and isn’t far off from ending it all with a nail gun. 

Her witty, dry and twisted sense of humour gets her through each day. Her diary is an insight to where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, and every desk assessment and alien invasion in-between. Will she reach a truce with Sandra, her arch-rival? 

Will she be able to ditch Colin? And can she coax Fran away from turning into a complete psychopath?

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Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51: Twisted, Hilarious Fictional
Memoir Spills Top Secret Beans of Calamity…

Masterfully crafted from the boundless humour and creativity of Helen Culver, ‘Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51’ embroils readers in the life of Melissa – a bored, disenchanted security guard at the world’s most secure air base. But her life is far from secure, playing out more like an intricate sitcom where every aspect is bastardized with gripping aplomb. Expect love, pranks, kidnapping and even alien viruses…

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United Kingdom – While most authors use their debut release to do nothing but simply test the literary waters, the UK’s Helen Culver is rapidly proving that a first book also presents an opportunity to break new ground. In fact, the clunks, shakes and quivers of her readers can befelt from coast to coast…

Everything unravels in ‘Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51’, which mixes up a cocktail of a fictional memoir, science fiction, comedy and even a touch of romance – all exploding in an unforgettable read based around the lives of those guarding one of the world’s most secretive
places.

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“Through Melissa’s eyes, we explore a colourful and utterly shocking cast of characters who, while supposedly responsible for some of the U.S. Military’s most dangerous and expensive assets, appear to have zero order to their own lives!” explains the author. “From bad relationships and pranks to an eventual kidnapping, brush with aliens and the spread of an extra-terrestrial virus, readers will be pushed to the limits of what their imaginations can handle.” Continuing, “Of course, in the end, it’s all designed to be a good bit of fun. I’ve always been fascinated by how Area 51 and its personnel are kept so secret and elusive…so decided to put my own unique spin on what their lives may be like if we actually got a chance to see into them. Who knows – perhaps it’s all true!”

With the volume’s demand increasing, interested readers are urged to secure their copies without delay.

*Press Review Copies are Available Upon Request
*Helen Culver is Available for Interviews

Contact:
Helen Culver
Email: troypublishing@gmail.com

WW2 Thriller “Espionage London” John Day

By late 1943, Hitler desperately needed a secret weapon to win WW2. Engineer & master spy Karl Strom devised a simple device that would bring Britain to its knees over night. 
  This character driven story of intrigue and guile, love and revenge, tells of the suicide mission undertaken by 4 German spies. It will transport you back in time to the Channel Island of Alderney where they prepared and to the back streets of London, where they struggle to survive. 
Timing is everything in war, and a cruel twist of fate changes history. 
A super-intense John Day Thriller.

Espionage London Cover

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“Great reading at a fast pace with believable characters. Great portrayal of human emotions and failings during a dangerous time. The story is exciting and full of spine tingling adventure along with romance and betrayal. It is set against the beauty of Alderney and the danger of the back streets of London.”  – Shirley McAllister (Amazon Review)

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John Day photo

John Day lives in the Channel Islands, on Alderney, in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Much of what happens in Espionage – London takes place there.

Retired from his own businesses, building designer and accredited energy consultant about 10 years ago. He tends to spend much of the year travelling the world. He has a keen interest in photography and the Alderney Island Tourism marketing team use his photos in their publications and notice boards around the island. He is a qualified open water, wreck and cave diver. Many locations abroad and under water are used in his other books.

In the past, he has developed advanced software and has a detailed knowledge of electronics.

He holds the family crest with direct lineage back to King Charles 2nd.

Espionage London Cover

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“The Liar” Nora Roberts

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions…
 
The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.
 
Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning…

The Liar Cover

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“The Liar” took me by surprise with how hard it grabbed me right from the first page. Nora Roberts has always been one of my favorite authors. Due to this, I’m a bit picky with reviewing her books. I guess it’s because she’s a seasoned author with 50+ books published. I expect a lot from her and “The Liar” delivered!

The book opens with Shelby’s abrupt drop into widowhood and the realization that her now dead husband deceived her in almost everything.  Crushed by millions of dollars worth of debt Shelby gets clever. She takes stock of the fancy home with it’s ugly expensive furniture and begins to sell it all off. This brings further realizations of her late husbands lying which is a reoccurring theme throughout the book. The guy really was a total douchebag.

The book has a desperate feel at first but that weight starts to drop when Shelby and her daughter go back to their roots. There is nothing like being surrounded by a large family who loves you.

Shelby gains independence and with her chin up faces all the hurt she left behind when she ran off to get married. This is the part I really fell in love with her as a character. Her daughter crawled into my heart from the beginning but when Shelby faces down her mistakes with poise, accountability and shamefaced honesty I found that while naive, she really was a good person. I was also pretty mad that she was the one to pay for her husbands irresponsibility. 

Griffen does right by Shelby in every way he can and I found him to be the perfect man for who Shelby had now come to be. He gives her a steadying hand to hold in the madness but never treats her like she is incapable. I loved how he helped build her up instead of take over. Relationships should be partnerships and theirs is just that. It was nice to see Roberts get that right in this book since I’ve criticized her in the past for romanticizing controlling abusive dynamics and presenting them as healthy.

I won’t ruin the climax for you but it’s a satisfying end. While the storyline was a bit predictable I’ll admit that it’s one of the reason’s I love Nora Roberts’ books. 

I enjoyed reading and will continue to buy and read her books. I’m rating this book at 5 stars.

5 stars

The Technical Data:

Title: The Liar | Series: N/A |  Author(s): Nora Roberts  |Publisher: Penguin Group LLC / Publication Date: 4-14-2015 |Pages: 514 (Print) |ISBN/ASIN: B00O2BKKZS |Genre(s): Mystery / Romance / Suspense |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 9-13-2017 |Source: Copy from personal collection.

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The Liar Cover

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions…
 The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.

 

“Emotive” Kevin Laymon

Emotive is a tale of life, love, compassion, and the pursuit of happiness as told through the eyes of the story’s narrator, Linus. Linus is a puppy living in a small city located in the rolling hillsides of upstate New York. When the abnormalities of his owner Sam are all he knows since birth, he gains a perspective of unyielding acceptance and love towards the man who feeds him, takes him to the park, and murders women in his basement.

I AM LOYAL. I AM TRUSTWORTHY. 

I AM POWERLESS

Emotive Cover

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When I read the summary of “Emotive” it immediately piqued my interest. I have a huge soft spot for books narrated by animals. Since I also love a good thriller, “Emotive” was a must-read for me and boy am I glad I did. I was glued to this book from the first sentence of the first page. I literally read this entire book in one sitting. Well, I read it in the bath but you get the idea.  I can’t believe I let it sit on my shelf so long unread. I feel like I’ve offended the book gods by letting such a story sit unattended. My apologies, please don’t smite me!

Fair warning, this book will rip your heart out. Don’t worry it’ll return it eventually but holy moly is it one hell of a ride. Of all the murders in this book, I have to admit the cow was the hardest. After all Linus had been through, I had tears streaming down my face as I read those pages. How alone he must of felt. How betrayed by humans. How completely hopeless he must of found it all.

Sam will boggle your mind. He’s a total psycho, of that I have no doubt, but he also has one glimpse of remorse for poor Linus. I had a bit of hope for our little K9 hero but that hope was quickly dashed when Sam fell deeper into his obsession and paranoia. It was hard to see Sam discard Linus from his affection. It was hard to see Linus’ basic needs not be met and realize how animals must feel when us humans don’t make them a priority. When we forget to feed them on time or their water bowl doesn’t get refilled or we make them wait hours and hours on end before we let them out to potty. It was eye opening to see how emotionally devastating it is to animal kind to be at the absolute mercy of someone else’s compassion……or lack there of.

It was incredibly hard to see humans fail this one dog over and over again. This is a sight of our kind that will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and a brand new perspective. As I read, my own two dogs lay next to the tub and I caught myself looking at them multiple times wondering just what they were thinking and what they thought of me. I didn’t expect to be so affected. As a pet owner and human in general, this story will inspire some introspection and I was definitely not expecting that when I began to read.

The climax is cleverly crafted and brings everything full circle. Laymon has written a masterpiece. I strongly suggest you read it.

5 stars

The Technical Data:

Title: Emotive | Series: N/A |  Author(s): Kevin Laymon  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 4-5-2016 |Pages: 194 (Print) | ISBN: B019YT5UIY |Genre(s): Thriller / Novella / Serial Killers / Psychological  |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 8-20-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

Emotive Cover

 

“Emotive was a unique read full of interesting perspective. The storytelling through the eyes of a dog created deep emotions & connections with powerful characters. The writing was strong & visual.” – Amazon Customer

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“The Betrayal of KA” – Book Spotlight

As the spaceship secretly lands on Earth, Ka’s mission is clear: find and kill Transprophetics. His shipmates think of him as a killer. On his home planet of Koranth, he is considered a murderer. Haunted in his dreams by the boy whose life he stole, Ka struggles to define who he really is.

A girl in a temple in Thailand. A boy kidnapped in Mexico. Both can do the impossible. Both can move objects with their minds. These two Transprophetics pose grave risks to the Donovackia Corporation as it plans its invasion of Earth.

With a blade in his hand, Ka’s decision to kill, or not, will reverberate across the galaxy.

The Betrayl of Ka Cover

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How about those reviews?

“Betrayal of Ka is sci-fi at its best. It starts out strong, keeps its pace and manages to be suspenseful till the very end. I initially thought the story would be pretty average, looking at the description. Many sci-fi favorites hover over some cliches. Of course, this book too remains true to some of the regular elements of a sci-fi thriller. But it brings in a lot of novelty.” – Page Hungry Bookworm

“Five stars for The Betrayal of Ka, and a warning that, as the saying goes, “once you start this book you won’t want to put it down.'” – Don Sloan

“This book is GRITTY. It hits on politics as well as some of the lesser used subjects in science fiction. It will kick your butt. This book is also multi-faceted. It brings up real political issues that are relate-able to our current time period while at the same time creating a story that is both entertaining and emotion catching.” – AlliesOpinions

This is one Sci-fi book you don’t want to miss! It’s listed for free with Kindle Unlimited! Get your copy and see what all the buzz is about.

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Shea Oliver Author Pic

Shea Oliver lives in Niwot, Colorado, near the base of the Rocky Mountains. He can often be found wandering through mountain forests and alpine tundra. An avid hiker and photographer, he often uses his time in the mountains to work through various characters and plots. When he is not enjoying nature, Shea is a devoted father of two teenage sons and a serial entrepreneur.

 

“Double Dealing In Dubuque” Dean Klinkenberg

     Writer Frank Dodge is feeling optimistic for a change. He just landed a plum assignment from a national magazine to write about the growth of boutique food in the Midwest. Dodge’s mood quickly turns sour, though, when his scheming rival Helen shows up–is she trying to steal another story from him? When a fire erupts at the food convention Dodge is scouting out, two people die and Dodge can’t shake the feeling that the fire was no accident.
 
Dodge’s search for the truth will take him from the specialty shops of Galena, Illinois, through the neighborhoods of Dubuque, Iowa, and to the murky backwaters of the Mississippi River, landing him in the middle of a volatile feud between ice cream queen Stella and chocolatier Ashley.
 
Can he keep Helen at bay as he investigates the fire? And how far will Stella and Ashley ultimately go to skewer each other? Double-Dealing in Dubuque is a compelling novel that delves into what can go wrong when feuds get out of hand.

Double Dealing in Dubuque Cover

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There is so much that I loved about this book! It was so good! Frank Dodge is witty and very clever. He may stick out like a sore thumb at times with his fancy hats but as different as he is….he’s also right at home along the river. His love and acceptance of others cultures was moving. He has a depth and realness to him that really made this book. He also has a way with people that I would think comes in handy in his profession. He has this down-home quality that inspires people to trust him….. which leads to confessions. Oh…the confessions!

 Klinkenberg has real talent with crafting characters. Each new person introduced as I read added another layer to this story. From a bartender to a backwoods bear of man, every single person adds authenticity to the river culture. The river is really it’s own character. Everyone’s lives revolve around it in some way and there’s no doubt it’s got a bit of a siren song. It calls to many and doesn’t let go of some. The Midwest really does have it’s own magic and allure that is too often overlooked. Thankfully, books like Klinkenberg’s come along and fix that. If after reading “Double Dealing In Dubuque” you don’t feel the call of the river……I don’t know if anything will call you….ever.

Want diversity in your reading? Well this book delivers in the best way. Not only is Frank a gay man but it’s not a defining part of his character! Do you get that? It’s as mundane as his hair color! Why? Because who Frank loves isn’t who he is, it’s a part of him…not one label but one of many. I loved how Klinkenberg handled Frank’s “relationships”. Our partner preference isn’t the whole of our identity and thanks a million to Klinkenberg for pioneering that logic into his writing! I don’t want to drop any spoilers but…..the end….I’ll admit it…I cried. It was beautiful and tragic and sad. Really, really sad.

By the way, don’t read this book on an empty stomach. Actually, wait…maybe you should. “Double Dealing In Dubuque” inspired me to try all kinds of new restaurants. The food in this story will inspire you to find a few pounds you weren’t previously sporting though but, you know what, YOLO. Ha ha, but really. Try the foods. Klinkenberg knows what he’s talking about. 

I loved everything about this story. It moves fast but not too fast and the story keeps you engaged with plenty of twists to make you wonder just “who dun it”. I enjoyed the story and I know you will to.

5 stars.

5 stars

The Technical Data:

Title: Double Dealing In Dubuque | Series: Frank Dodge Mysteries |  Author(s): Dean Klinkenberg  |Publisher: Amazon Digital Services / Publication Date: 7-7-2017 |Pages: 298 (Print) | ISBN: B072TM35FR |Genre(s): Mystery |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 7-28-2017 |Source: Copy from author.

 

 

Why should you read book reviews?

Why should you read book reviews?

For most of us deep in the trenches of the book world this kind of question has a pretty obvious answer. Our books are our lives and we live and breath each part of every story. We well know that each person’s reading experience is unique and having an intimate view of our favorite stories from all angles is what dreams are made of.

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There’s also a practical side to book reviews. For the prospective buyer, it’s a great way to try before you buy. Most reviewers are careful to avoid spoilers so it’s a great way to know that the book you’re buying is the book you thought it was. Summaries can be tricksy sometimes and I’ve been burned more than once by them. Like most people, I am on a tight budget and nothing makes me more angry than using my few funds to buy a book that was nothing like the summary said it would be. Ever seen the movie “Inside Out”? I look a whole lot like “Anger” as he melts the window. 

Anger inside out character

Checking Goodreads or Amazon and having the ability to read a plethora of reviews brings me all kinds of happiness. 

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Another great thing about reviews is that when you’ve read a book that hits you so hard it changes the landscape of who you thought you were you get to brag to everyone about it in your review and help a great book gets loads of attention. 

Should people get paid to write a review and if they do should you see that review as tainted?

I probably have a less than popular opinion on this because I think that paying someone to write a review is fine. I don’t see that the author of the review earning money for their work is a disqualifier for honesty. Some of the most in-depth and thought provoking reviews I’ve read have been from people paid to write them. I love when someone puts time and effort into a review to shape it into this beautiful opinion on a story that deserves it. I’ve read paid reviews of books that got horrible reviews. Turns out, those horrible reviews came from more than just that paid reviewer. Sometimes, a book sucks. Sometimes an author tries to put out a crap product that they try to pass off as great and that sucks. It really does. When I read your review of a book, I don’t care if you were paid to write it or not. I am looking for how the book moved you…or didn’t. I want to know about the book….not your income. As a reviewer, I base my opinion on the content of your reviews. That’s it. If your reviews are wildly opposite to others, my opinion of your honesty is based on that alone. 

Why is someone earning a living from their writing even an issue? I mean, there is a clear divide on it and I can’t figure why so many people are against paying someone for their abilities. Not everyone can write a great review. Not everyone has the ability to decipher meanings or explain why a book just doesn’t work. It’s not helpful to an author to get a review that just says “your book sucks”. How does it suck? What exactly has gone wrong? You want authors to turn out a great product but they need guidance like the rest of us. With the rise of the self-published movement, authors could use more back-up. I see reviewers (paid or not) as a great way to get that back-up. 

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Let’s empower writers of all kinds to come together and build great worlds with great heroes! 

 

Book Review “The Last Orphans” N. W. Harris

One horrifying day will change the life of sixteen-year-old Shane Tucker and every other kid in the world. 

In a span of mere hours, the entire adult population is decimated, leaving their children behind to fend for themselves and deal with the horrific aftermath of the freak occurrence. As one of the newly made elders in his small town, Shane finds himself taking on the role of caretaker for a large group of juvenile survivors. One who just happens to be Kelly Douglas–an out-of-his-league classmate–who, on any other day, would have never given Shane a second glance.

Together, they begin their quest to find out why all of the adults were slaughtered. What they find is even more horrifying than anything they could have expected–the annihilation of the adults was only the beginning. Shane and his friends are not the unlucky survivors left to inherit this new, messed-up planet. No, they are its next victims. There is an unknown power out there, and it won’t stop until every person in the world is dead.

The Last Orphans Cover

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Prepare yourselves, this book moves fast. It’s non-stop action the entire read. There is never a good stopping point and every single time you have to close the book it will cause you literal pain!

Shane is a kid whose entire life goes to hell in a hand-basket far quicker than it has any right to. This book is a great insight into how quickly things really can fall the heck apart. The death scenes are brutal and horrific but I do have to give Harris kudos for his imagination. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a single bug again without thinking of this book.

Some of the realities of this story and the choices that the characters have to make was heart wrenching. No one thinks about tiny babies in these scenarios. Once that was brought up it stuck in my mind and still sneaks into my mind when I really REALLY don’t want it to. Because really, I would like to think that I would go house to house rounding up babies to take care of but……with the ever growing chaos and the continuing decline of older kids and safe places….it’s something to think about for sure.

Harris has created a world that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. I’m looking forward to continuing the series and getting more answers to exactly what is really going on. 

5 stars!

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: The Last Orphans | Series: The Last Orphans |  Author(s): N. W. Harris  |Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing / Publication Date: 10-9-2014 |Pages: 277 (Print) | ISBN: B00NJCL302 |Genre(s): Teen / Young Adult  |Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 4-25-2017 |Source: Copy from personal collection.

David Smith – Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

David Smith is a British author who has now published four works under the Troubador imprint. His first novel Searching For Amber has been described as “A powerful and notably memorable debut” with a review describing it as “masterly and confident” and another as “Extraordinary, poetic, enchanting, sublime”. In addition to writing, he is currently CFO of a blue chip UK public company and lives near the South Coast in England with his wife and three teenage children.

https://www.davidsmithauthor.blog

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Letters To Strabo Cover

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David Smith — Guest Blog

My Inspirations for Letters to Strabo

Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.

My first idea for Letters to Strabo came from the memory of a trip I made twenty years ago to Olana, the amazing Catskills home of the painter Frederic Edwin Church. It was a truly stunning experience. Both the exterior but more importantly the interior of this Moorish extravaganza produced a complete sensory overload that day that has stayed with me ever since. I’ve long wanted to write a love story that starts with a visit to this house by a young writer, but for ages I didn’t have a good starting point.

However, as I researched further, I discovered that the name the Churches chose for their hilltop home overlooking the Hudson was originally derived from a quotation contained in one of the first English translations of a Geography written by the first century BC Greek scholar Strabo: “Olane, one of the treasure-storehouses on the Araxes River, with a view both of a fertile valley and of Mount Ararat where Noah’s Ark is said to have come to rest.”  Frederic’s wife Isabella had given him a copy of this work for Christmas 1879. I confess I knew nothing about Strabo (Geography’s Herodotus) but my next discovery sealed my idea. I found that Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens to use his real name) made a visit to the Church’s just a few years after this and that Twain had referred to Strabo many times in his early successful work The Innocents Abroad. Furthermore, both Twain and the Churches had been touring the lands described by Strabo at almost exactly the same time but had never met. The die, as they say, was cast.

Twain was accompanied on his visit to Olana by his family and by Grace King, the southern novelist. Her description of his two elder daughters, Susy and Clara “More entrancing characters I have never met in my life” sparked me to research deeper into the story of these remarkable young ladies. Their loves, dreams and the personal tragedies they endured gave me the inspiration for the backstory of my heroine Eve.  Further research provided me with neat links to Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Peggy Guggenheim and Homer amongst others.

Letters to Strabo is therefore both a love story and a coming-of-age tale, set in the late 1970s that takes the form of a fictional odyssey recorded with disarming honesty by my protagonist, an innocent young American writer called Finn Black. His adventures, both funny and evocative, follow closely the itinerary taken by Twain on his own périplus around the Mediterranean a century earlier and are structured around the seventeen chapters of Strabo’s great work.  The amazing places Finn visits, the art and cultures he comes across and most importantly the people he meets are faithfully described by him for Eve, the Olana archivist, now his long-distance pen-pal. Eve’s replies, her Letters to Strabo as she calls them, however, not only reveal to Finn her own hopes and dreams but increasingly disturbing glimpses of a tragic past; a past that echoes that of Twain’s two daughters.

This proved a complex project and I greatly enjoyed the research but ultimately any novel must tell a story that captivates the reader. I therefore hope my story will both intrigue you and provide an opportunity for reflection on the doubts and dilemmas of youth. It’s deliberately rich, emotionally charged and at times intense, but also, I hope, ultimately spiritually uplifting and life-affirming. What else should a true love story be?

Letters To Strabo Cover

Adam Finnegan Black, or ‘Finn’, an innocent young American who is insatiably curious about life, made a promise to his mother before she died: To find out what really happened to his father…

His ambition is to be a travel writer, like his heroes: Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and the ancient Greek ‘father of geography’, Strabo. His journey of discovery takes him through the radiant literary, cultural and picturesque landscape of the Mediterranean.

Following his heart and inspired by Letters to Strabo, written by his long-distance pen-pal Eve, Finn gradually learns more about himself but also about the woman he hopes will one day become his wife.

Funny, provocative, disarmingly honest, Finn’s story captures the excitement and mistakes of youthful energy and proves ultimately life-affirming in the emergence of new hope from personal tragedy.

Quite simply one of the best coming-of-age novels you will ever read: Letters to Strabo will appeal to lovers of literary fiction, good travel writing and the classic works of Ernest Hemingway.

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