Tuesday 14 January 2020


3.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads


How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Scifi/dystopian novella

Kalan and her younger sister, Sett, live in a climate-changed world in which every minute of every day is a struggle to survive.  Kalan spends her days scrubbing infected lichen from walls of buildings, trying to earn enough for her and Sett to sleep with a roof over their heads.  Life is cheap...

The premise of this book is original, inventive and interesting, and the writing itself is intelligent and evocative.  Some of the characterisation is great - namely Sett and a band of itinerant scavengers, the 'glow punks' - but at other times I felt it came second in the author's mind to describing the world he has created.  Much of the world-building is delivered via an omniscient narrator, so it read like a newspaper article, or an introduction.   

The dialogue is mostly sharp and convincing, except for sections of inner dialogue; rather than keeping Kalan and Sett's thoughts in the third person and writing them in 'deep point of view', the author has them talking to themselves, expressed in a rather clumsy first person.

To sum up, it's an unusual and most atmospheric story and has a lot going for it, and there is no doubt that the author has talent, but I think he would benefit from studying the craft of fiction writing in order to learn more effective methods of putting his story across.  It is his debut; he clearly has much potential still to be realised. 


Monday 6 January 2020

THE OCCUPATION by Deborah Swift @swiftstory

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I read all of Deborah Swift books as soon as I can after they're released!

In a Nutshell: A story about the World War II occupation of Jersey, and a German soldier with conflicted loyalties...

I knew little about the occupation of the Channel Islands before I read this book, and it certainly opened my eyes; I had no idea the islanders suffered such hardship.  Deborah Swift's books are always meticulously researched without that research ever being apparent (such an art!), so I know that the novel is an accurate depiction of the time.

The story centres around Céline and Fred, who own a bakery on the island.  Fred is German, and is conscripted into the German army.  Both points of view are written in the first person, which was absolutely the right choice, and Céline's story also involves her friend Rachel, who is Jewish.  When I first started reading, I thought it was going to be one of those 'cosy' sort of wartime books (the type that have covers showing smiling landgirls and tick all 1940s nostalgia boxes) but I couldn't have been more wrong; the picture of how mild and safe Jersey seems at first is there to provide the constrast with how precarious life becomes.

This novel is such an 'easy read'; the writing flows so well and, considering it's based on some events that actually took place, is unpredictable and certainly a page-turner.  The overall message it puts across is how war changes everyone, and how quickly people can be led into prejudice about their fellow man—and I'm not just talking about the Nazis and the Jews.  I applaud Ms Swift for not providing a neatly tied up, happy ending; the outcome for many of the characters made it a much more powerful story than it might have been had she gone for the safer option; I found that I became more and more engrossed as the story went on.

Reading this gave me new respect for all those who suffered under the Nazis.  I enjoyed it, a lot.  Definitely recommended.