On Writing: Guest Post by C.J. Bentley, author of “The Shield”

I write notes down anywhere and everywhere but mainly whilst traveling, something I do a lot of. Airports are a great source for people watching and for ideas forming; I have always kept a small pad in my handbag for jotting ideas down at random.  I am on to my fifth pad and it is interesting looking back through them to see what I have written in the past.  The idea for ‘The Shield’ was my first jotting in my first note book from many years ago.

I write at home in Dubai, mostly sitting at the table in the dining room, high backed chairs to support my back with my laptop on the table along with a cup of coffee and an occasional snack of banana, or cut up apple.  Sometimes I can write for a good few hours, the time just flies by.  I don’t plan the way a story grows when I write.  I research the period and what happened in that time, a background to the sixties, the music and the news of the period are noted in the book to add substance to the writing.

I look through my research before I start to write but what happens to the main characters evolves from my brain onto the laptop screen via my typing.  When I read it back to myself it is a really exciting process.  I think of each writing session as a journey of discovery, for myself as well as the reader.

I started to write these adventure books for my grandson as I couldn’t find anything to read to him that didn’t feature vampires, zombies and farts, not good bedtime reading but it wasn’t until I found myself living in Doha and for the first time in my life found I had the time to do it.  In Doha I sat at my husband’s desk in his study where his computer was installed.  It has a large screen and after sitting and writing for a few hours I amazed myself when I saw how many thousand words I had written.  My laptop doesn’t have a word count or if it has I haven’t discovered it yet.  The study where my husband’s desk stood was furthest away from the hot sun it was cool which is a bonus in Qatar.

As I write this post I am in France, I have escaped the heat of summer in Dubai as I do each year to briefly live in this beautiful area of France, the Limousine.  It is hot but not uncomfortably so and I am sat at the table outside in the garden with the large lime green, rectangular umbrella casting its shade over me.  A pot of coffee is at my elbow with my favourite mug and a spoon, milk I keep in the fridge so have to travel inside to the kitchen to add to my coffee.  It would curdle if left out in this sunshine.  I sit for hours at this table when in writing mode.  This is my very favourite place to write because of the quiet.  No noise other than the birdsong keeps me company, apart from now when my sister, who is currently watching tennis on the television, is staying with me.   I have a background noise of the ball bouncing on the grass court at Wimbledon and my sister’s exclamations at the amazing tennis rallies.  No idea who is playing but it sounds like a good match.

I try not to eat snacks whilst writing, I have a good breakfast and then sometimes only a bowl of cherries, my most favourite fruit, French cherries are wonderful, I often eat my own weight in them when I arrive each summer.  I then don’t eat until late afternoon, thus consuming only two meals a day, enough when sitting at the table writing not using physical energy only brain energy.

My long suffering husband in Dubai is quite used to me jumping out of bed early morning to write my ideas down in my notebook as they come to me.  I tend to get them in that half-awake time between sleep and being fully awake.  The first time I did this he came plodding after me, half awake, wondering what on earth was the matter was I ill, did I need anything and when he found that it was me having a creative idea he returned to bed grumbling that his wife was slightly potty.

CJBentley_AuthorPhoto2About the author: Originally heralding from the North of England, C.J Bentley has traveled extensively and enjoyed living in a variety of countries across the world from Dubai to Doha, Qatar and now the countryside in the South of France. A background in teaching and childcare she has always enjoyed creating adventure short stories. However, it was when she became a grandma and with her grandchildren growing up that she discovered that books seemed to contain only stories of vampires, zombies and farts that she decided seriously to take matters into her own hands and put pen to paper which today she calls The Finder Series.

Website – https://www.cjbentleyonline.co.uk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CJBentleyAuthor/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/CJBentleyAuthor

The Shield Cover

The Shield

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again.

A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time – to its original owner?

With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his king, the safety of the kingdom, and the life of the daughter of his best friend.

The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife, Philippa, and their son who will later become the Black Prince.

For our review of The Shield go here.

The Shield

The Shield Cover

The Shield by C.J. Bentley (Children/ Historical Fiction/Time Travel)

The Shield is described as a book for children ages 8 to 12, but I believe it will appeal to readers of all ages. The story moves right along, is fun and interesting, and is not at all childish in its content or style. It takes the narrator and the reader back in time to Medieval England, a fascinating period to visit and experience.

The narrator is a spunky ten-year-old girl who changes her name regularly and is called Peggy when the story begins in 1962. Before meeting her, however, we meet Sir Kay of Percefleet back in 1340 A.D., a knight who is about to lose his shield. Six hundred years later, while playing in a brook, “Peggy” and her friends find the shield, and the fun begins. Time travel, knights and kings, and a missing ten-year-old girl locked in a dungeon will keep the reader’s interest.

The author is British, and I enjoyed the British-isms in her writing. However, I have two complaints: the presence of run-on sentences throughout and dialogue that seems stilted and unrealistic for kids. British phrases aside, current-day speakers in England use contractions, but too often the dialogue labored under the weight of precise wording that might have been a distinctive pattern for the Medieval period but felt unnatural for the 1960s. Overall, however, the author’s style kept me reading, and I enjoyed this book.

Bella gives The Shield four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour.

For a guest post from author C.J. Bentley, please go here.

 

Payback

Payback

Payback by Michael FitzGerald (Alternative History Thriller)

What if the Mafia and FBI joined forces to assassinate Hitler in 1938? Could it have succeeded? Could it have prevented World War II? Could it have changed the world?

Michael FitzGerald has written a mesmerizing alternative history thriller that partners American gangster Bugsy Seigel with an FBI sharpshooter, Luigi Carmona, in a daring plot to assassinate Hitler. The volatile and unpredictable Seigel, a Jew who hates Hitler but has a hard time keeping himself under control, and Carmona, a Jewish Italian expatriate working for the U.S. government, travel to Rome together in 1938 when Hitler is meeting with Mussolini to cement their countries’ alliance in support of fascism and Germany’s quest to expand its borders. With the help of local Mafiosi, Seigel and Carmona plan to assassinate Hitler during a welcoming parade and then quickly escape the country.

FitzGerald writes well and obviously knows his stuff. He successfully combines the reality of historical characters and events with a clear vision of what might have been to produce a story that rings true with possibility. By taking us into the minds of all the characters, including Hitler, Mussolini, and their closest compatriots as well as the warring Mafia Dons and the honest Roman police lieutenant seeking to meet his commitment to uphold the law, we get a close-up look at the action from multiple points of view. That action never stops, and, because of the subject matter, at times the reader is torn over whom to root for.  The result is a book that kept this reader engaged right up to the end and one we recommend for fans of alternative history fiction.

Grandma gives Payback five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost Order

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The Lost Order by Steve Berry (Thriller)

The Lost Order is the latest in the Cotton Malone adventure series, and what an adventure it is. Incorporating the Civil War-era secret society known as Knights of the Golden Circle and the present-day halls and back rooms of the Smithsonian Institution, this is a book full of political intrigue, ruthless treasure hunters, and steadfast individuals devoted to protecting a legacy most of us know nothing about.

Fact: In mid-nineteenth century United States, a clandestine organization of southerners known as The Knights of the Golden Circle wanted to annex territory in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean for the purpose of forming a southern empire, creating a “golden circle” of slave-holding states with its hub in Havana, Cuba. They amassed a fortune in gold and silver to finance the venture, but when the Civil War interfered, they buried their fortune in remote locations in the hopes that their plans might be resurrected someday. They left clues in the woods for those who knew how to recognize them and vested Individuals known as sentinels with the responsibility of protecting the hidden caches from treasure hunters. Confederate records, including those of the Knights, disappeared during the Civil War, and the full extent of the secret society’s reach and fortune is unknown.

Fiction: Two present-day factions of the Knights are close to finding a major vault of Confederate gold hidden in the Southwest. One faction plans to use it for nefarious purposes, the other wants to preserve it for posterity. Cotton Malone, former Justice Department agent, is called back into service because his ancestor was a Confederate spy who may be the final link to locating the vault before the Knights do. He and a former president of the United States are the last hopes for stopping a major disruption to Congress and for bringing cold-blooded killers to justice.

This book is enjoyable on many levels – as a thriller with the code-breaking aspects of The DaVinci Code, as a fascinating account of a dangerous secret society in American history, and as an insider’s romp through the back rooms, tunnels, and hidden places in the Smithsonian Institution.

Author Steve Berry is a history buff and preservationist, as well as a seasoned writer, and he also serves on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board. This heavily researched work is packed with authentic information that illuminates as well as entertains, leaving the reader with the satisfying sense of having learned something while enjoying the action that never stops. Whether it’s the workings of Congress, the existence of hidden caches of gold and silver buried across the U.S., or the fascinating history of the Smithsonian itself, Berry keeps it interesting and relevant while providing a complicated plot with plenty of dangerous players and harrowing situations.

Grandma gives The Lost Order five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost Order will be released on April 4, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

 

The Orphan’s Tale

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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff (Historical Fiction)

The Orphan’s Tale is a story of survival during World War II from the point of view of two women: one a German trapeze artist hiding from the Nazis because she is Jewish, the other a Dutch teenager who has rescued a Jewish baby from a boxcar full of babies bound for a concentration camp. Each has found refuge in a traveling German circus whose owner is quietly doing his best to save whomever he can.

Both women narrate the story in first person, alternating chapters, and we get to know them well. Each has painful secrets she keeps from the other for reasons of self-preservation, and at times they clash more than they get along. But their survival depends on the teenager, Noa, becoming a passable aerialist to justify her presence in the circus and to give Astrid, the professional, a partner for her act.  Forced into cooperation, they eventually become fast friends, tying their survival and their futures together, although the road to friendship is a bumpy one.

The author has done a good job of conveying a sense of circus life as it applies to the story, including the difficulties of life on the road complicated by the shortages of war, the dangers of traveling through occupied France, and the financial decline of the circus itself. Her characters are believable, flawed individuals who make mistakes, hold grudges, and distrust others, yet long to connect for they know they cannot go it alone, either through this war or through life. Nothing about this book was predictable, and the ending was a complete surprise, yet plausible. Jenoff kept my interest throughout, the teaser in her prologue driving me to read late into the night to find out what that was all about.

Grandma gives The Orphan’s Tale five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Orphan’s Tale will be released on February 21, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

A Bridge Across the Ocean

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A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner (Historical Fiction)

During World War II, the luxury oceanliner Queen Mary was commandeered for transporting troops, and in 1946 it became the vessel carrying European war brides across the ocean to their American G. I. husbands in the U.S. Among those brides are Annaliese Kurtz and Simone Robinson. One is a German ballerina traveling under an assumed identity and one is the daughter and sister of French Résistance fighters. Each seeks to leave the horrors of the war years behind and start a new life.

In present time, Brette Caslake is a young woman struggling with the effects of having “the Sight,” an inherited ability to see and communicate with the ghosts of people caught between this world and the next. It’s a gift she prefers to downplay and ignore but cannot always control. When prevailed upon by an old friend to help his young daughter cope with the recent death of her mother, Brette visits the Queen Mary, now docked in Los Angeles as a floating hotel and tourist attraction. The oceanliner has a history of ghost sightings, and the child felt her mother’s presence there. But when Brette visits, the presence she feels is that of another who connects with her and wants her to solve the decades-old death of a war bride while traveling on the Queen Mary in 1946.

This fascinating tale is told from the points of view of four entities: Brette, Annaliese, Simone, and the unnamed presence on the ship that communicates with Brette. The result is a story that kept me reading when I should have been doing other things, like sleeping. The fate of each character became important to me, including that of the unknown on the ship. The very intense stories of Annaliese and Simone during World War II were vividly portrayed, providing a level of depth and understanding that made the conclusion completely believable. Brette’s fears and concerns and how they are resolved send a strong message about our need to do something meaningful with what life gives us rather than striving to control that which we cannot.

As happens with the best of historical fiction, Susan Meissner’s rich portrayal of disparate characters living in very different environments and times was an education as well as entertainment, leaving me with the satisfying sense of having spent my time wisely, even if I lost sleep.

Grandma gives A Bridge Across the Ocean five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book will be released by Penguin Group (USA) in March, 2017, and is available for pre-order.