Review: Sergeant Salinger, by Jerome Charyn

21 Oct 2021 | 9780857304711 | Format: Paperback Original | £9.99

Grounded in biographical fact and reimagined as only Charyn could, Sergeant Salinger is an astonishing portrait of a devastated young man on his way to becoming the mythical figure behind a novel that has marked generations.

2021 marks the 70th anniversary of the first publication of The Catcher in the Rye.

J.D. Salinger, mysterious author of The Catcher in the Rye, is remembered today as a reclusive misanthrope. Jerome Charyn’s Salinger is a young American WWII draftee assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, a band of secret soldiers who trained with the British. A rifleman and an interrogator, he witnessed all the horrors of the war – from the landing on D-Day to the relentless hand-to-hand combat in the hedgerows of Normandy, to the Battle of the Bulge, and finally to the first Allied entry into a Bavarian death camp, where corpses were piled like cordwood. After the war, interned in a Nuremberg psychiatric clinic, Salinger became enchanted with a suspected Nazi informant. They married, but not long after he brought her home to New York, the marriage collapsed. Maladjusted to
civilian life, he lived like a ‘spook,’ with invisible stripes on his shoulder, the ghosts of the murdered inside his head, and stories to tell.

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Novella Review: The Wolf Skinned, by Jack Johnson

The Wolf Skinned (The Wolf Skinned Saga Book 1) by [Jack Johnson]
The Wolf Skinned is the first book in a series which chronicles the saga of Ulf The Wolf Skinned, a blood hungry Viking Berserker. Ulf is one of Odin’s sacred warriors known as a Ulfhednar; clothed in a wolf’s skin, he leaves a trail of death and pain wherever he goes. At the tender age of 17 he already has a fearsome reputation as his adopted father Eric Bloodaxe’s deadly hound of war. And by the end of the year 915 AD, every Saxon will know and fear the name, Ulf The Wolf Skinned. Link Here

My Review

I quite like historical fantasy, and historical fiction, especially stuff from the Anglo-Saxon period. It’s even better if some of the main characters were real, but unknown generally and going on an adventure. In this novella, Lady Ælfwynn of Mercia, daughter of Æthelflæd of Mercia and her husband Æthelred, has an adventure among the Vikings, and meets Ulf, a berserker.

Set in 915, five years after Æthelred’s death, when Edward of Wessex and Æthelflæd of Mercia continued to fight the Vikings as their father Alfred the Great, of Wessex, had done. In history, Æthelflæd died in 918, just before the Vikings of York were to kneel to her, and Ælfwynn took control of Mercia, but only for a few months. Before the end of the year she had been taken to Wessex by her uncle Edward and he took control of Mercia. His son became the first King of the English. No one knows what happened to Lady Ælfwynn. I personally think she was locked up in a nunnery so no one could object to her uncle’s theft of her throne. It wasn’t unheard of for a royal woman to become a nun, and it was unusual for a woman to rule alone.

Jack Johnson gives Lady Ælfwynn an adventure to rival the real adventures of her mother.

Lady Ælfwynn is doomed to marry a man of Northumbria that she doesn’t like, until the Vikings arrive to rescue the Berserker Ulf from captivity in Durham. Ulf and Ælfwynn run away from the fighting and head to York to join up with Ulf’s adopted father, Eric Bloodaxe. On their journey, they get to know each other and fall in love. In York, the Vikings are concerned about having Edward of Wessex’s niece in their halls as a ‘hostage’.

When the Lady of Mercia arrives with her brother and prospective son-in-law at the gates of York, it seems a battle is inevitable. Eric Bloodaxe tries to discuss terms with the Lady, but things don’t go well.

There is a battle. There is treachery. It’s very exciting.

And I want to know what happens next.

Luckily I know the author, so I’ll get to read the next instalment before it’s published. I got to read this one in an earlier stage.

I thought the descriptive writing was excellent and the little bits of magical reality add an enchanted element to the narrative. The Gods are certainly playing with people’s lives. It’s hinted at, subtly, that Odin is abroad in England.

One-eye’d trouble-making git.

I enjoyed the characterisation of Ælfwynn and Ulf, and the development of their relationship. Their relationship is loving and based on friendship and shared difficulties, before it becomes physical, which I liked.

The battles are very invigorating and exciting to read. They are written with a dreamlike reality. This is because the author sees them in his mind and writes what he sees.

If you like Bernard Cornwall’s Uhtred of Bebbenburg books or the TV series based on them, or the TV series Vikings, this novella is for you.

ARC TBR Pile Review: She Who Became The Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan

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Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 22nd 2021 by Mantle 
ISBN1529043395 (ISBN13: 9781529043396)


She’ll change the world to survive her fate . . .

In Mongol-occupied imperial China, a peasant girl refuses her fate of an early death. Stealing her dead brother’s identity to survive, she rises from monk to soldier, then to rebel commander. Zhu’s pursuing the destiny her brother somehow failed to attain: greatness. But all the while, she feels Heaven is watching.

Can anyone fool Heaven indefinitely, escaping what’s written in the stars? Or can Zhu claim her own future, burn all the rules and rise as high as she can dream?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is a re-imagining of the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu was the peasant rebel who expelled the Mongols, unified China under native rule, and became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. 

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Review: The Walls of Rome, by Robert M Kidd

The Walls of Rome

218 BC. Sphax is seventeen and haunted by the brutal murder of his parents at the hands of Rome. After ten years of miserable slavery he will make his last bid for freedom and go in search of Hannibal’s army and his birthright. He will have his revenge on the stinking cesspit that is Rome!

Destiny will see him taken under the wing of Maharbal, Hannibal’s brilliant general, and groomed to lead the finest horsemen in the world – the feared Numidian cavalry that would become the scourge of Rome.

From the crossing of the great Rhodanus River, Sphax’s epic journey takes him through the lands of the Gaul to the highest pass in the Alps. This is the story of the most famous march in history. A march against impossible odds, against savage mountain Gauls, a brutal winter and Sphax’s own demons.

This is more than a struggle for empire. This is the last great war to save the beauty of the old world, the civilized world of Carthage, Greece and Gaul. The world of art and philosophy – before it is ground into dust by the upstart barbarity of Rome.

Purchase Links

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Giveaway to Win the A Hostage of Rome (Book 3) to be dedicated to the winner, & a signed dedicated copy too (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Review: A Book of Secrets, by Kate Morrison

Jacaranda | 25 March 2021
Paperback| Historical Fiction| £8.99
ISBN: 9781913090678| eISBN: 9781909762701

About the Book
A Book of Secrets tells the story of a West African girl hunting for her lost brother through an Elizabethan underworld of spies, plots and secret Catholic printing presses.

Susan Charlewood is taken from Ghana (then known as Guinea) as a baby. Brought to England, she grows up as maidservant in a wealthy Catholic household. Living under a Protestant Queen in late 16th Century England, the family risk imprisonment or death unless they keep their faith hidden.

When her mistress dies Susan is married off to a London printer who is deeply involved in the Catholic resistance. She finds herself embroiled in political and religious intrigue, all while trying to find her lost brother and discover the truth about her origins.

The book explores the perils of voicing dissent in a state that demands outward conformity, at a time when England is taking its first steps into the long shadow of transatlantic slavery and old certainties about the shape of the universe itself are crumbling.

A Book of Secrets gives a striking new perspective on the era and lets one of the thousands of lost Elizabethan voices, speak out loud.

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Review: Space Taxis, by A & H Frosh

Space Taxis

“A perfect blend of science fiction and alternate history”

He’s abducted by aliens to the planet Vost.

He’s saving up for his fare home.

But he’s got the small matter of a planetary apocalypse to deal with first…

In 1977 a New York Cab driver Mike Redolfo is abducted by aliens after being mistaken for a renegade scientist. Meanwhile, back in 1944 a mysterious man and his Jewish fiancée are fleeing across Nazi-occupied Europe.

Redolfo tries to keep a low profile on his new world whilst earning his fare home, but unwittingly gets involved with a shady gang of alien criminals, inadvertently bringing the planet to the brink of catastrophe.

As the link between the timelines becomes clear, Redolfo must discover secrets from the past that may hold the key to saving the planet.

If you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, and Frank Herbert’s Dune, you’ll love this gripping and entertaining sci-fi mystery thriller.

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Review: Circles of Deceit, by Paul CW Beatty

Circles of Deceit

Murder, conspiracy, radicalism, poverty, riot, violence, capitalism, technology: everything is up for grabs in the early part of Victoria’s reign.

Radical politicians, constitutional activists and trade unionists are being professionally assassinated. When Josiah Ainscough of the Stockport Police thwarts an attempt on the life of the Chartist leader, Feargus O’Connor, he receives public praise, but earns the enmity of the assassin, who vows to kill him.

‘Circles of Deceit’, the second of Paul CW Beatty’s Constable Josiah Ainscough’s historical murder mysteries, gives a superb and electric picture of what it was to live in 1840s England. The novel is set in one of the most turbulent political periods in British history, 1842-1843, when liberties and constitutional change were at the top of the political agenda, pursued using methods fair or foul.

Purchase Links

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TBR Pile Review: The Story of Silence, by Alex Myers

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published July 9th 2020 by Harper Voyager
ISBN:0008352682 (ISBN13: 9780008352684)

I have this edition, gifted by Harper Voyager in a Twitter giveaway to Queer people. It’s very pink,

A knightly fairy tale of royalty and dragons, of midwives with secrets and dashing strangers in dark inns. Taking the original French legend as his starting point, The Story of Silence is a rich, multilayered new story for today’s world – sure to delight fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale.

There was once, long ago, a foolish king who decreed that women should not, and would not, inherit. Thus when a girl-child was born to Lord Cador – Merlin-enchanted fighter of dragons and Earl of Cornwall – he secreted her away: to be raised a boy so that the family land and honour would remain intact.

That child’s name was Silence.

Silence must find their own place in a medieval world that is determined to place the many restrictions of gender and class upon them. With dreams of knighthood and a lonely heart to answer, Silence sets out to define themselves.

Soon their silence will be ended.

What follows is a tale of knights and dragons, of bards, legends and dashing strangers with hidden secrets. Taking the original French legend as his starting point, The Story of Silence is a rich, multilayered new story for today’s world – sure to delight fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale.

I also have this edition! I completely forgot that it was a Goldsboro Books SFF Fellowship book until both arrived!
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Review: Shades of Deception, by Jacqueline Jacques

Price: £8.99

Walthamstow, 1902: Archie and his police sergeant pal Frank Tyrell investigate the disappearance of teenager Lilian and the discovery of a corpse in the River Lea – Eleanor ‘Nell’ Redfern.

Did her father’s ambitious plans to marry her to a rail magnate cause her to run away to her watery doom? And what about Lilian Steggles, a star swimmer with her eye on the 1908 Olympics – what prompted her to disappear from home and where is she now?

Archie uses his artistic skills to identify Nell and thence to track down her story and that of the other victims of a dastardly scheme to exploit young girls for the benefit of lascivious older men.

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Review: The Quickening, by Rhiannon Ward

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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published: February 6th 2020 by Trapeze
ISBN13: 9781409192176
Edition Language: English

Feminist gothic fiction set between the late 19th century and the early 20th century – an era of burgeoning spiritualism and the suffragette movement – that couldn’t be more relevant today.

England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.

She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening. When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.

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