Tag Archives: war

Poppy Flowers at the Front

Review: Poppy Flowers at the Front, by Jon Wilkins

Poppy Flowers at the FrontI accepted a review copy of Jon WilkinsPoppy Flowers at the Front through Damppebble Crime Blog Tours.

About the book1917: with her father in the British secret service and her brother Alfie in the trenches, under-age Poppy Loveday volunteers against her parents’ wishes to drive ambulances in France. We follow her adventures, racing to save wounded men driven to the Casualty Clearing Station, and back to the Base Hospital.

During one battle she finds Élodie Proux, a French nurse, at a roadside clutching a dead soldier. Poppy rescues her. Élodie becomes her dearest girl as they fall in love.

Poppy and Élodie encounter frightening adversaries at the Western Front as well as away from it during the closing weeks of World War One.

Poppy Loveday

Poppy Loveday

Élodie Proux

Élodie Proux

While it’s well known on the continent, I’ll give a quick little FYI for American readers. Poppies are worn on Remembrance Day (much like our Memorial Day) in honor of fallen soldiers. That should help in understanding the title.

There is much to appreciate about Wilkins’ Poppy Flowers at the Front. I very much liked Poppy as a character, Élodie too, though we get to know her far less than Poppy. Their young romance was very sweet and that contrasts well against the travesties of war. Wilkins’ does an excellent job making the pointlessness and devastation of war feel real, without steeping the reader in gore. And I adored Poppy’s relationship with her family.

However, I also felt the book lacked a central theme and/or plot-line. It felt very much like it picked up one random day and the reader follows until the book ends on another random day, and random things happen randomly during that time. I also might quibble with it being categorized as a “crime thriller.” That wouldn’t be the genre I’d put it in. Lastly, the version I read really needed another editing pass. All in all, however, not a bad read and not one I’d hesitate to recommend.

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Follow the rest of the tour here.

Review of A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park

If you’ve not noticed from my recent reviews, I’m trying to read a number of my YA physical books. It’s a tricky way to clear some shelf space. You see, my oldest has now reached the age that she can read some of the younger YA books (those not overtly sexual or overly violent), which means if I get them read I can move them from MY shelf to HER shelf. Ta-da!!

A Long Walk to Water (by Linda Sue Park) is one such book. I’m not sure where it came from though. I like to say in my review posts where I got the book. But this one is a mystery. Probably I bought it, but maybe someone left it in the Little Free Library. I’m fairly sure I didn’t win it.

Description from Goodreads:

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

Review:

Written for a young audience, this story of one of the Lost Boys of the Second Sudanese Civil War is quite accessible. Though, lets be honest, covering 20 years in 115 pages, what you get is an overview more than an engaging story. But it’s enough to introduce a student to the travesties of war, as well as the hopefulness and generosity of humanity. I consider it worth the read.

Review of Between Ghosts, by Garrett Leigh

Between GhostsI received a copy of Garrett Leigh‘s Between Ghosts from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
In 2003, journalist Connor Regan marched through London to add his voice to a million others, decrying the imminent invasion of Iraq. Eight months later, his brother, James, was killed in action in Mosul.

Three years on, Connor finds himself bound for Iraq to embed with an elite SAS team. He sets his boots on the ground looking for closure and solace—anything to ease the pain of his brother’s death. Instead he finds Sergeant Nathan Thompson.

Nat Thompson is a veteran commander, hardened by years of combat and haunted by the loss of his best friend. Being lumbered with a civilian is a hassle Nat doesn’t need, and he vows to do nothing more than keep the hapless hack from harm’s way.

But Connor proves far from hapless, and too compelling to ignore for long. He walks straight through the steel wall Nat’s built around his heart, and when their mission puts him in mortal danger, Nat must lay old ghosts to rest and fight to the death for the only man he’s ever truly loved. 

Review:
I was disappointed with this one. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it but it never really grabbed me. My primary issue was that I never felt the chemistry between Conner and Nat. The romance was basically just insta-lust and while the reader was told many times how meaningful their encounters were, it all felt hollow since it was built on nothing.

My secondary issues was that the war was little more than a setting, not truly part of the plot, as far as I was concerned. Sure, Leigh had some interesting things to say against the violence of war and the meaninglessness of the West’s war in the Middle East (all of which I actually agree with) and the setting was vivid and well drafted, but the vast majority of the book was the two men mooning over each-other in a war torn Iraqi setting, rather than anything really incorporating that environment. Which meant, in the end, when something happened that actually did throw Conner against the people of Iraq, it felt as if the book had taken a departure from the previous 80% or so of the book. This is a romance story before a war story, for sure.

I don’t want to sound negative, because I did like the book even if it’s not making a favorites list. I thought the characters were well drawn. I especially appreciated the easy way that Nat’s bi-sexuality is handled and simply Leigh’s willingness to have a bi character. As I said, the setting was well described. I agreed with it’s politics. There was some humor in it. All good things.

It’s just that books that are predominantly based on ‘this person fills some mysterious missing void in another for no observable reason, therefore every little interaction is described as sooooo important, sooooo meaningful, soooo earth shatteringly better than anything else’ always annoy me a little. And there is a certain writing style that goes along with this that is like sandpaper on my skin.