Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd Robinson – Review.

About The Book

June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark. 

Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .

To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.

And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Blood and Sugar was a fascinating book to read but also a harsh reminder of slavery in England during the 1800s. It’s difficult to think that people were treated this way, the violence, the control, even the way they were spoken about was shocking. That they weren’t human and their lives didn’t matter. 

But some of the people in this group don’t think the same way. The main character Harry is determined to find out why his friend was tortured and killed. And also find out what happened to so many slaves. 

Whilst I liked Harry’s character and his refusal to stop asking questions the outstanding part of the novel was the description of the various areas in Deptford and its inhabitants. I could see and almost smell and feel certain areas. The conditions that some had to live in. The way that the slaves were abused by their  ‘owners’ was horrific. And the fact that it was ignored by the ones with power. 

I have a couple of favourite characters, both women. These are Jamaica Mary, because she made me smile and Cinnamon who did the opposite and made me cry. Her story made my blood run cold. 

I hadn’t given much thought to slavery in England but I read part of this novel in another slave port, Liverpool. I had attended an exhibition concerning slavery there a few years ago. This novel made me remember that, had me looking at certain areas in a different way and made me so thankful for abolition. 

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin – Review.

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About the Book

We went to school that Tuesday like normal.
Not all of us came home . . .
Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the close-knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing.
Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via JellyBooks.
I was very keen to read this novel because it sounded so original.
All of it is told through the eyes of a six-year-old boy whose family were affected in the worst way possible by the shooting at the school. He survived, without any injuries but there were multiple casualties. Including his older brother.
You see all of his emotions, that range from sadness at his brother’s death to happiness that he is no longer there to bully him. And of course there is the guilt at thinking like this and the terror of that day that is never far away.
As the novel progresses you see how much Andy’s death affects the family in completely different ways. Nobody can judge what is the right or wrong way to grieve. But because Zach is so young, and it his story, you can see how raw the suffering is. When he has to handle his own emotions and try to understand why his parents are coping the way that they do.
At times it made me smile, but it is also heartbreaking the way Zach sees his Mum and Dad change. And how they appear not to see how he is also feeling. He was a little boy who I adored. A caring, brutally honest six-year-old boy whose family went through hell.
If you read this book, pick a day when you won’t get disturbed, have plenty of tissues and can just immerse yourself in Zach’s world. It is an astonishing read.
This was the first book I read in 2018. If all of the other books I read this year are anywhere near as good I am in for a cracking year.

You can buy the book here

A Constant Soldier by William Ryan.

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About the Book

The pain woke him up. He was grateful for it. The train had stopped and somewhere, up above them, the drone of aircraft engines filled the night sky. He could almost remember her smile . . . It must be the morphine . . . He had managed not to think about her for months now.

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

My Review

War Fiction is only something I read occasionally, the books that I have read previously have all been told by a British or American slant so reading a novel told by a German officer’s view was completely different.
When Paul Brandt arrives back home from the Eastern Front with horrific injuries he is understandably disillusioned. He had never agreed with the War or Hitler’s plan and only joined up when he was given two options. Serve or go to prison for political offences. Soon after his return he sees a face from the past and when learning what is happening nearby he is determined to try and help.
When reading this novel, I felt almost like a spectator. It was obvious that Germany was devastated by the war they had no chance of winning but so many people were still in denial. I could see so many different personalities. Brandt and Neumann full of remorse and self-hatred, Jäger, bitter, rational and not afraid to upset those around him. And then there were the bullies, Peichl was one and there were others waiting in the background for their chance to shine.
There were other things that struck a chord. Doctors who visited the rest hut were feared and it took a while to realise who they might be. Definitely not the type of person you would expect a doctor to be. Gold fillings and teeth found in the possession of an officer was a chilling reminder of what was going on nearby.
Whilst distressing at times I wasn’t as devastated as I expected to be. Strangely perhaps, to others it was the description of the weather that I found most upsetting. How it must have been for a member of my family walking home across Europe after years spent as a P.O.W.
A lot of the novel was about desperation and fear but there was also a calm acceptance where I would have expected panic. There were also odd snippets of humour, mainly from Brandt and Jäger that was much appreciated.
I would have liked to know more about what happened to the characters who survived but accept that it was very realistic. Many people would have lost touch almost immediately.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received