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Touching The Wire – Book Review

A poignant and well-crafted emotional thriller,

…and another well deserved five stars… 

5Starscropped

rebecca4Touching The Wire by Rebecca Bryn is the first book I’ve read by this author, and a first class one at that. Rebecca Bryn is another member of and an active contributor to our Indie Author Fb support group and IASD website, as well as contributing to several other online writing groups. In addition to her current three  novels, she has also recently contributed one of her short stories to Ian D. Moor’s You’re Not Alone anthology of short stories by Indie authors from around the world, the proceeds of which are all being donated to Macmillan, a charity that provides help and support to those affected by cancer. She is a UK based writer currently living in St. Davids in South West Wales, along with her husband, a rescue dog, and in her own words, twenty very talented sheep….

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Click on thumbnails for website and Amazon links to the above:

 

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Further links to Rebecca Bryn’s writing can be found at:

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Rebecca Bryn’s Amazon Author page:

www.rebeccabrynandsarahstuart-novels.co.uk

www.independentauthornetwork.com/rebecca-bryn

www.facebook.com/rebecca.bryn.novels

www.twitter.com/rebeccabryn1

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

Amazon Blurb…

“He had no way to tell her he had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope.”
A story of every man and woman interred in Nazi death camps throughout the Second World War, this novel is based on real events.

Part One – In the Shadow of the Wolf

In a death camp in 1940’s Poland, a young doctor and one of his nurses struggle to save lives and relieve the suffering of hundreds of women. As their relationship blossoms, amid the death and deprivation, they join the camp resistance and, despite the danger of betrayal, he steals damning evidence of war-crimes. Afraid of repercussions, and for the sake of his post-war family, he hides the evidence but hard truths and terrible choices haunt him, as does an unkept promise to his lost love.

Part Two – Though the Heavens should Fall

In present-day England, his granddaughter seeks to answer the questions posed by her grandfather’s enigmatic carving. Her own relationship in tatters, she meets a modern historian who, intrigued by the carving, agrees to help her discover its purpose. As her grandfather’s past seeps into the present, she betrays the man she loves and is forced to confront her own guilt in order to be able to forgive the unforgivable and keep her grandfather’s promise.

“A young woman bent to retrieve her possessions. An SS officer strode past. ‘Leave. Luggage afterwards.’
She stood wide-eyed like a startled deer, one arm cradling a baby. Beside her an elderly woman clutched a battered suitcase. The girl’s eyes darted from soldier to painted signboard and back. ‘What are we doing here, grandmother? Why have they brought us here?’

The wind teased at her cheerful red shawl, revealing and lifting long black hair. She straightened and attempted a smile. ‘It’ll be all right, Grandmother. God has protected us on our journey.’
Voices rasped, whips cracked, dogs barked… An SS officer pushed towards a woman of about fifty. ‘How old?’ She didn’t respond so the officer shouted.

He edged closer. As a doctor he held a privileged postion, but he’d also discovered he had a gift for languages. He translated the German to stilted Hungarian, adding quietly. ‘Say you’re under forty-five. Say you are well. Stand here with the younger women.’ He moved from woman to woman, intercepting those he could.‘Say you are well. Say your daughter is sixteen. Say you can work or have a skill. Say you aren’t pregnant.’

Miriam’s eyes glistened. ‘May He rescue us from every foe.’ She touched her grandmother’s cheek, a gentle lingering movement, and placed a tender kiss on her baby’s forehead. She moved to stand where he pointed.
Miriam’s eyes met his. He had no way to tell her had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope. ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.’ “

Words readers have used to describe this story – ‘astonishing – compelling – relentlessly engaging – important – complex and brilliant.’ Readers’ feedback, via reviews, is hugely appreciated.

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Touching The Wire 

By Rebecca Bryn

(Available from Amazon in both eBook & paperback formats)

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rebecca3There are many adjectives I could use in my review of this book: powerful, moving, emotional, heart-breaking, and heart-warming in places to name but a few. It would be easy to say this book is about the holocaust, but in truth that aspect of the book is more of a vehicle and backdrop to the real story – of courage, the struggle to survive against impossible odds, and later in the story, a search for the truth and long buried secrets of the past. The strength and emotion of the writing gives the book a ‘true story’ feel to it, like you’re a witness to a heart rending tragedy unfolding before you and yet behind the fiction there exists the uncomfortable knowledge that such tragedies were all too real at the time.  This work of historical fiction is both a thriller and a detective story, as well as one of impossible and enduring love and sacrifice. Imagine yourself as someone whose profession and calling is to do whatever they can to save people’s lives and alleviate their suffering, and then having to witness and be a party to unimaginable cruelty and sadism, to live amongst it every day knowing the slightest overt criticism or resistance to it could mean your instant death; in short, a concentration camp doctor is emotionally torn apart by the horror of his surrounding and work. He does what he can to minimise his patients’ suffering, often having to commit the most appalling acts for a greater good. And then he falls in love with just such a patient. Having to see her suffering makes his position even more intolerable and at the same time, urgent. He promises that the true horror of the concentration camps will one day be known, and from that promise a generations spanning story of cleverly crafted detective work, family secrets, and the horrors of the past emerge.

There are some obvious comparisons with Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark here, i.e. someone working with and for the Nazi regime, doing what he can at great personal risk to help those suffering at its hands but who isn’t without his own flaws and guilt, having at times to make impossible choices that will determine who lives and who dies.  The stark imagery and cold reality, and indeed brutality at times, emphasise the horror of the period and place in which much of the story takes place. The author doesn’t try to sensationalise or exaggerate the descriptive elements relating to the concentration camp and the atrocities being committed on a daily basis but simply recounts them as essential elements to the story without venturng into melodrama.  The sheer scale of suffering and the numbers involved can often be hard to take in or comprehend, much like the astronomical numbers and distances when considering time and space, but the personal tragedy and individual stories of the characters here does more to bring home the appalling truth of those times than many a factual account ever could.

The blend of German mythology and analogy interwoven into the narrative and those parts of the story told in flashback give the story an added dimention that works well, perfectly in sync with the younger characters and their part in the overall story. I would say also this last element, while not exactly traditional fairy tale stuff itself, does provide the reader a respite from the harrowing reality of past events, and time to pause and consider what they’re reading. The scene transistions betweeen the past and present are skilfully handled and the subtle and occasional use of German dialogue adds to the authenticity of the writing, but without confusing non-German speaking readers given the obvious meaning and context when it is used.

Although a work of fiction this is a well-researched and vivid account of an horrific and shameful period of what many would still consider to be relatively recent or modern history. This isn’t a book that can be read lightly or as pure entertainment despite the intriguing and expertly crafted storyline. I must admit the historical elements, the mythology, and the central character’s past had more impact for me than the present day aspects of the book, but every element of this story was superbly told and related well to all the others. I could easily visualise this book as a major film on a par with the likes of Schindler’s List…

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 Rebecca Bryn’s Books: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links

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Skin Cage – Book Review

nico3My easiest five star review of the year.  5Starscropped

Another amazing author from the Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group, Nico Laeser is one of our most talented and prolific contributors. As well as being an excellent writer, Nico Laeser is also an extremely talented artist and graphic designer, who along with Eric Lahti, was responsible for the redesign of the IASD Fb & Website Banner.

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Click on Banner for website link

Skin Cage is one of two books by the author, and he is near to completing a third at the time of this review. In addition to his two novels, he has also had short stories featured in two of the IASD anthologies, Ian D. Moore’s You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology – an international collection of authors supporting the cancer charity Macmillan nurses, and Eric Lahti’s Holes: An Indie Author Anthology – promoting the work of Indie authors…

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Holes: An indie Author Anthology  – You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology

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Further links to Nico Laeser and his writing can be found at:

Nico Laeser’s Amazon Author page:

Nico’s Facebook Author page

 Twitter – Nico @nicolaeser

Nico Laeser on Tumblr

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

Amazon blurb for Skin Cage:

Daniel Stockholm was fifteen years old when a parasite hijacked his brain, rendering him paralyzed and reliant on machines that run day and night to keep him alive.
For nine years, Danny has been confined within a biological prison with only two small windows, through which to view the world around him; a silent witness to the selfless compassion of some and the selfish contrivance of others.
When the malicious actions of care worker, Marcus Salt, threaten to push Danny farther from the ones he loves, and deeper into the dark recesses of his skin cage, he is left with only one option. He must find a way out.

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Skin Cage

By Nico Lasaer

(Available from Amazon in both eBook and print formats)

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nico1A clever, skilfully told, and highly original story, bringing together subtle elements of science fiction, horror, and the paranormal, but in no way overly veering into any single genre. Initially the story explores what it’s like to be trapped in your own body, aware but unable to move or communicate in any way, a veritable living nightmare as it were. The story is narrated from a first person perspective, some of which is told via flashback, which considering the story is told very much from the mind and thoughts of Daniel the principal character, is to be expected and works exceptionally well for a full length novel. Daniel’s life is at times well worth living while at others it is made almost unbearable by those whose job it is to care for him … which of these particular states depends just on who is doing the caring at the time.

I won’t go into too much detail about the story itself as it would be all too easy to give too much away but what I can say is that it is both heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure, and full of surprises and unexprected turns. Some of the issues raised in Skin Cage are both emotive and thought provoking, which along with its page turning quality, compel the reader to take in every line and word as they imagine themselves in Daniel’s shoes; it’s impossible not to empathise with his lack of privacy, dependancy on others, the inevitably limited outlet for his emotions, and then hope for some miracle that might change Daniel’s life. In a way that miracle happens but not in any way the reader might have forseen. In retrospect it does take a leap of the imagination to accept the changes in Daniel’s world and surroundings as the story progresses but at the time of reading, the story flows quite seemlessly from one scene to the next. The story that follows is one that will stay in the mind for a very long time of those fortunate enough to discover this book.

Not only did the story itself hugely impress me but also the articulation and eloquence of the writing. Quite often a very good story or idea is let down by the latter but in this case the sheer quality of the writing propels the story into something quite phenomenal; the reader isn’t just a party to Daniel’s thoughts and emotions courtesy of the first person perspective,  but is immersed entirely in his world – his senstations, what he’s hearing, feeling, seeing and even tasting. Science fiction, the paranormal, and horror are not usually themes I would equate with what might be called literary fiction but in this instance the comparison would be well deserved.

I’ve read across many different genres over the past year so it’s hard to make comparions but this is probably my favourite book of the year, and probably the best written too. This is the first of Nico Laeser’s novels I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last…

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Nico Laeser’s books: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links
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Authors helping authors…

As some of you may have noticed that apart from my recent review of a short story, I’ve been somewhat quiet on the reviewing and blogging front. Without going into specifics, some health concerns have diverted my attention elsewhere over the past few months but am happy to say I’ll now be returning more of my attention and efforts to one of my enjoyable pastimes, namely that of writing and reviewing.

Book reviews, particularly for the Indie and self-published author are the lifeblood of such writers, but for the relatively unknown or debut author, such reviews can be frustratingly elusive. As we all know, there are already numerous review exchange groups on Fb, many of which list their numbers in the thousands, but with such numbers posts are often consigned to history as minutes later endless more requests and posts are made before they can be responded to.

I know many authors who are only too happy to read and review other’s work, and with this in mind I’ve recently created a second WordPress blog, http://www.indieauthorreviewexchange.com and an accompanying Fb group of the same name. Where I hope to be more effective than some of the other online equivalents, is by deliberately keeping the two smaller in membership, and with the accompanying wordpress blog there will be no reason for book links to be lost amid a plethora of subsequent Fb posts, enabling members to browse at their leisure other member’s books listed on the different ‘Genre’ Pages on the Wp site and if they wish, they can contact them via the accompanying Fb group.

I will still continue to post book reviews and the occasional short story, articles, and other miscellaneous posts and reblogs here on echoesofthepen, but I’ve quoted below from the About page my other new blog some further explanation as to why I’ve created these additional sites… I hope some of you will find them useful…

 

I’ve created the Indie Author Review Exchange WordPress site and its sister Facebook group of the same name (see links at bottom of page) to promote mutual support among independent writers and authors by way of reading and providing honest and informative reviews of each other’s books. It’s all too easy to assume that a great book will be widely read and reviewed on it’s merits alone, but unfortunately, being a good writer doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with being a good marketeer, promoter, or publicist, and for that reason, I believe a lot of very good books aren’t getting the attention and readership they deserve. My hope is that as the number of members grows, that each member will read and review other members’ books, as well as passing on recommendations for other independently published books they may have read.

If as a member of the accompanying Fb group, you feel your book doesn’t fit into any of the genres listed, please email me with a suggestion for a new category for it to be included in (email listed in pinned post in Fb group). Likewise to other authors who blog on wordpress and elsewhere, feel free to take a look at our Fb group to see if you’d be interested in joining for inclusion on this site too.

In addition, there will be links and reblogs of many other Wp bloggers, book reviewers, and shortlyn in the near future, a Resources for Writers page (listed under Categories on right hand side) with links to various other sites, blogs, and posts that might be of use to aspiring writers and authors, and secondly, another page with links to various publishing sites that may prove useful…

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Book Reviews

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/exchangereviews/

Reviewexchange

WordPress: http://www.indieauthorreviewexchange.com

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