But wait, I hear you mumble, you've missed a category this year! What about Erotica? Where's the Erotica? Well, the simple truth is this - I haven't actually read any true erotica this year. I'm not sure if that means I've finally grown up, or perhaps it means I'm getting too old to enjoy the hot, steaminess of erotica. Probably the latter, but whatever, it has dropped off the Awards radar this year.
The Historical Fiction genre encapsulates some of the most talented, indie writers in the Universe and this year, I've read some amazing historical fiction. Accordingly, as in some previous years, I've chosen four nominations for this title, instead of the usual three, but even then, some superb books have had to miss out.
The nominations are:
A Motherland's Daughter, A Fatherland's Son by Ellie Midwood
If you read my reviews, you will know what an enormous fan I am of Ellie Midwood's novels set during the second world war. Her latest release; A Motherland's Daughter, A Fatherland's Son has done absolutely nothing to dampen my love and enthusiasm for this immensely talented author. In my humble opinion this is Midwood's finest work to date and she just gets better and better with every story she pens.
Set, initially, at the start of World War II, when Germany and the USSR were allies, we meet Kira, a Russian military interpreter and Werner, a young, German soldier who meet in Poland, whilst their superiors are discussing the things allies discuss at the time of war. Kira and Werner fall completely and hopelessly in love, with the ultimate plan being for Kira to defect to Germany and the pair to marry. Herr Hitler, however, has other ideas and when Germany reneges on it's mutual non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union and invades their territory, the two lovers find themselves facing each other on the battlefield. How can their love possibly survive the horrors both will experience, as atrocities are committed by both sides, on their enemies? Is there a way out for these two lovers, or was their future doomed when the first Panzer division rolled into Soviet territory?
In many ways, this story reads like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet; the two lovers destined to never be together. As each chapter alternates between Kira and Werner, the reader is drawn into deep sympathy for these characters, as they try to make sense of the horror that their daily lives have devolved into. As a reader, I can honestly say, by the end of the book I alternated between hope and despair for this angst-ridden pair, as they both tried desperately to keep the warmth of their love alive despite the horror.
This is a tough book to read, partly because Midwood is so accurate in her depictions of the true horrors of this war. She does not hide from the raw senselessness and violence that saw one quarter of the population of the Soviet Union wiped from the face of the earth, in the bloodiest conflict in human history. She doesn't gloss over it - and neither should she. This was a horrific war that, at times, portrayed the very worst of the human condition, but... and it's a big BUT, this war was also capable of showing great human kindness, understanding and love and Midwood displays this beautifully and with great tenderness. I think the author summed it up perfectly when she talked about how individual soldiers from both sides, quickly found common ground when they were forced into a position of cohabitation, as they were in the Russian medical centre. German and Russian wounded rapidly realised they had much more in common, that drew them together, than that which pulled them apart. It is this insightful writing by Midwood, that lifts this book FAR above your average war story.
As I said earlier, I believe this book is Ellie Midwood's most powerful and most enjoyable book to date. I can only wait, with bated breath, for the next missive from this ultra-talented author's pen. A Motherland's Daughter, A Fatherland's Son is an absolute triumph and a must read for all fans of the genre and all readers everywhere. Bravo, Ellie Midwood!
The Chronicles of Aveline by Ken Fry:
It really doesn't matter what genre Ken Fry writes in; whether it is action/adventure, biblical conspiracies or historical fiction, the result is always a fantastic story well worth reading. Such is the case with Fry's latest novel, The Chronicles of Aveline.
Set in the 12th Century, between the Crusades, Sir Phillip Fitzwilliam, a veteran of earlier Crusades to the Holy Land, suspects another Crusade is imminent and he worries about his legacy and his estates. One son has already decided the Church is his future and the other son is determined to follow his Father's footsteps to Palestine and battle with Saladin, for God. Sir Phillip's daughter Aveline is, however, unique for a young titled lady of the time. A skilled horsewoman, archer and sword fighter, she wants something more from life than the boring, pointless, exercise of marriage and embroidery. She is equally determined that she wants nothing to do with the all-powerful Church of the time, its priests and nuns whom she mistrusts with a passion.
When Aveline finds the possibility of marrying for love, with the Earl's son, her natural womanly passions take over and when her and her lover are charged, by the Church, with the sin of fornication, their lives will be changed forever. Persecuted by the Church and separated from her beloved, Aveline determines to escape their clutches and follow her lover to the Holy Land, as a woman Knight.
As always, Fry's descriptive narrative takes the reader right inside the 12th Century and we feel the pain and the passion experienced by Aveline as she is mistreated and abused by the Church. As a hero, Aveline has so much to offer; courage, determination, compassion and not the least, femininity. I found myself riding alongside her, advising her and shuddering occasionally at the trials she faced. Fry is that sort of an author - his stories get under your skin.
Did I think the book was too short? Absolutely - I always hate it when I come toward the end of a Fry novel. I don't want it to end. Did I think the story ended too abruptly? For sure. There is much more to tell of Aveline and her adventures, but I can relax in the hope that Fry is currently working on the continuation of Aveline's journey.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - when it comes to Indie Author's in today's marketplace Ken Fry is one of the most adaptable, versatile and readable authors out there. He stands at the very top of my favoured author list. When I hear there's a new Fry due out - I jump. The Chronicles of Aveline is an absolute winner and I can not recommend it enough.
Miss Etta - A Novel by Deanna Lynn Sletten
We’ve all seen and enjoyed that great movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but have you ever wondered what happened to the real woman, named Etta Place, from that movie? Well, author Deanna Lynn Sletten has given us a fictional account of who she may have been and what may have become of her, following Butch and Sundance’s supposed demise, in her novel Miss Etta. We will discover her life, as a young woman, before her chance encounter with the infamous outlaw, Harry Longabough, better known to history as the Sundance Kid. The author takes us, through Etta’s eyes, on a journey through the American West, to New York City and down to South America, where it is believed Butch and Sundance met their end. The story is told as flashbacks for Etta, who now lives quietly in a small mid-western town, as Emily Pleasants, where she is a highly respected and loved schoolteacher, yet all the while always aware that her past could catch up with her and knowing those famous Pinkerton Detectives are still looking for the whereabouts of the criminal Etta Place.
Miss Etta is a truly sweeping novel that spans the decades and the country. Author Deanna Lynn Sletten has taken her beautiful lead character, Etta and imbued her with a strength of character required to not only survive the trying times of living with two outlaws, but to overcome them with cheerfulness and hope for the future, despite the overwhelming odds. I particularly loved the moral dilemmas Etta faced in loving Sundance and Butch. Constantly all three of them found their lifestyles at odds with the morals drilled into them as children and with justifying what they were doing, when they all knew deep down it was wrong. Ultimately they all longed for a life where they could put the past behind them and begin again. I appreciated that when Etta was faced with the choice between the deep love she had for Sundance and any other option, it was always love that won out. At its core, this is a beautiful love story about family, about a deep, passionate love for one man, and life-long love and friendship for another. I did enjoy the sometimes jealous interplay between Butch and Sundance, both of whom loved Etta with all their hearts. This is a fantastic story, a great adventure and a real joy to read. I recommend this book highly to all lovers of romance, action, adventure and history.
Laurel's Choices by Exie Wilde Henson:
Laurel was a young woman from a middle-class family who followed her beloved father into teaching. When she meets and marries Justin Worth, a professional photographer, her life will change forever. Justin has a sense of adventure and realising photography, alone, cannot sustain a family, he moves Laurel and his young children to a ramshackle hut in the middle of the Pisgah Forest in the mountains of Western North Carolina, to set up a logging team. Set in the early 1920’s and flowing through to the War years, Laurel’s Choices by Exie Wilde Henson takes us on a remarkable journey, with this incredible family, as they endure the hardships and dangers of live in a primitive logging camp, the privations of losses of The Great Depression, and the heartbreak of World War II. All through this Laurel and Justin attempt to bring their family up with love and respect for each other and the utmost love and respect for, their neighbours, the wonderful, proud, but hard-living mountain people of Western North Carolina. They face all their trials and tribulations with humour, dignity and a profound sense of faith in a power greater than them. Anything the Worth’s can do to help their fellow man or woman, they will gladly do.
I read a lot and few books have moved me as much as this simple story of familial love and devotion presented to us by Exie Wilde Henson, in Laurel’s Choices. I am sure the story, although fictionalised, was a recounting of the author’s own experiences growing up and as such it provides a truly wonderful social commentary on that particular region and that particular period of history. The two main characters, Laurel and Justin were selfless, dedicated and showed compassion and love beyond what anyone could expect, given the difficult circumstances they faced. This was truly one of those books I didn’t want to end and deliberately slowed down as I came toward the finale. The writer’s style is so natural, flowing and so easy to read. Her knowledge of the area and the social history was extensive and leant an absolute realism to the story. I love historical novels, but most importantly I love historical novels with a purpose and a message for us in today’s world. This book truly does that, with its simple, yet profound comments on what constitutes a “life well lived”. I can’t recommend this story enough – it’s an absolute winner.
drum roll please!
EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES LIFE PRESENTS TO YOU AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!
HAVE A GREAT LIFE AND SPREAD THE LOVE!
CHANGING THE WORLD – ONE READER AT A TIME