It is a common notion that Africa has, and indeed ought to have, learned much from the west. This is not wrong; all cultures rightly learn from each other. But less is said of what there is to learn from Africa: from her stories, myths, music, proverbs, insights – and more. Here an acclaimed African scholar steps into the gap by uncovering for us something of the great legacy of African thought and practice in ways that will astonish many. Written with verve and authority and directed above all to students and sixth formers, this book will also delight and often surprise those who know something of Africa as well as those hitherto ignorant. Ruth Finnegan OBE FBA is Emeritus Professor The Open University, Foreign Associate of the Finnish Literature Bureau, and International Fellow of the American Folklore Society. An anthropologist and multi-award author, she has published extensively, chiefly on Africa, musical practice, and English urban life. Recent books include How is Language?, Fiji’s Music: Where Did It Come From?, her edited Entrancement: The Consciousness of Dreaming, Music and The World, and two prize-winning Africa-influenced novels Black Inked Pearl and Voyage of Pearl of the Seas.
The Warramunga’s War follows two friends conducting counterespionage operations during WWII. What was your inspiration for the setup to this riveting story?
My initial inspiration was based on my father’s war diaries. He was involved in the Second World War initially fighting in the Syrian campaign and later in the desert war. After I retired from a 55-year career in the resources industry, working in all parts of the world, for the first time in my life I had time on my hands. I had met and worked with many unique characters in different countries throughout the years and thought it would be fun to write a series of novels starting with the desert war, where most of the characters would be based on those weird and wonderful people I had worked with over the years.
All the different localities in which the action takes place are known to me intimately. I was familiar with the Warramunga aborigines from the early part of my career when I worked in the Tennant Creek area in the central Northern Territory.
Jamie and Jacko are intriguing and well-developed characters. What were some ideas that guided their development throughout the book?
One of the most enduring lessons I learnt, when working in remote or foreign regions, was the value of friendship and teamwork. As they are involved in many different situations, I have attempted to develop the principal characters along these lines. Friendship, teamwork, loyalty and trust are always important. Each of them are based on multiple characters I have worked with around the world.
The historical figures and scenes in the novel were well executed. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?
Apart from my personal knowledge of the localities where the action takes place, my research has included diaries, well-known history, reference books in libraries, and references online. I spent more time on research than I did in writing the novel as I wanted to be sure the historical events were accurate.
What can readers expect in book two, The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War?
I worked for a major resources company in the Philippines during the 1970’s and became aware of some of the tragedies which occurred in the aftermath of war. There were several groups (who I would describe as cockroaches) who were taking advantage of the general chaos created by the war. Fighting had been extremely intense in the Philippines and many people were orphaned, displaced or homeless. There were instances of trafficking of children in the aftermath of war, and my second novel deals with this aspect.
The Warramunga’s War is a sweeping narrative of the friendship that forms between a young Australian army officer, Jamie Munro, and an educated half-caste Warramunga aboriginal NCO, Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien, during the Syrian campaign against the Vichy French in World War II. Jacko rescues a wounded Jamie after which they are conscripted in Cairo by MI6. Here, Jamie and Jacko learn about the seamy side of war in counterespionage as they track down German spies. The principal fictional characters interact with actual historical figures and events throughout the story.
As the desert war escalates to the west of Cairo, the MI6 team confuses the enemy with misleading radio messages using German codes and using local entertainers as undercover agents. On one of his day leaves, Jacko meets a beautiful young Syrian-French girl and a strong romantic bond forms between the two during his time in Cairo.
Following the end of the desert war, Jamie and Jacko are assigned to wartime intelligence work in Southeast Asia. After the end of the Pacific war, they initiate the Darwin operations of the CIS, the Commonwealth Investigation Service. On the trail of two suspected wartime German agents, they discover the agents have formed a dangerous criminal gang with an individual they had known during their time in Cairo. The tracking skills of the Warramunga are needed to finally catch up with the murderous gang in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.
Legend of the Storm Hawks by L.H. Leonard is a culmination of fantasy, prophesy and politics. It’s a story filled with intrigue as the characters embark on a journey backed by prophecy and tinged with uncertainty. The characters are rich and well crafted. Nigel is a politician holding so many strings that it is almost inevitable when it all unravels. Sethlyan has been told he and his brothers, Aengus and Gaven have significant roles to play when the time comes but really, his gifted wife Isobel and their impossible family is his main focus. All these men have interests to protect and for each noble intent, there exists a force intent on blocking its fruition. Politicians, religious leaders, and clan leaders are each looking out for their own interests and although there are attempts at alliances, not many interests align. Before there are any resolutions there is betrayal and there is war. There is also what looks like the fulfillment of prophecy. Men thought dead are still alive, babies are being borne of women who should not be fertile and one religious zealot has managed to find broad-based support for his cause. Still, the cycle has to continue. No one knows how it will all play out, despite the supernatural gifts some of them possess.
I enjoyed everything about Legend of the Storm Hawks. The setting was unique and captivating and breathed life into the characters as well as their station in life and their heritage. The themes of family, politics, and xenophobia are presented interestingly considering the time period is closer to medieval than modern. The point is that anyone can relate to the different struggles the characters go through to protect themselves and their families.
The story is consistently engaging as each event led seamlessly, and sometimes surprisingly, into the other. The plot is complex, and one can appreciate how the author fits it all together, but not so complex that I couldn’t follow it; the depth of Game of Thrones without the overwhelming complexity.
My only concern would be the wait for the next installment since the anticipation of seeing what happens next is not about to wane. The characters really grow on you and you want to see what happens next, even if everything seems to be at a standstill, for now. Legend of the Storm Hawks will effortlessly suck you into it’s world and leave you wanting more.
Pages: 562 | ASIN: B0826XRYCY
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I enjoyed the illustrations throughout the The Haunting of Smock Hill. What was the art collaboration like for this novel?
I have an ongoing creative relationship with, I believe, one of the greatest artists ever. She goes by Ergoshwampy and we have collaborated on my last six books. When I get an idea for a drawing I relay to her what I am thinking and leave the complete design up to her. She never disappoints when it comes to the artwork. She also designs the covers for the books as well and again, I let her know what I am thinking of for the cover and she wastes no time in coming up with a fantastic cover.
The plot and it’s twists were really engaging. What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this story?
The challenges were trying to make sure I had the historical information as close to accurate as I could get. The coal industry in the late 19th and earyl 20th century did not have a lot of information. I managed to get a lot from the Smock Historical Society. As I started out writing about a haunting I had an idea as to what it would be like if someone was using modern technology for their own reward and how that same technology could be their downfall. The ending I left open in case I want to continue the story.
Do you plan to write more stories about the town of Smock Hill?
Yes, I do plan on writing more. This was my third storyline that takes place in Smock. My first was a four part series on an old Tai Chi instructor who mentors a young boy back to health using Tai Chi and Qigong along with other Chinese health practices.
A Dark Spirit has apparently returned to the former mining town of Smock, Pennsylvania, terrorizing the residents. Julia and her cousin Edward try to find out why it has come back and how to defeat it before the residents flee. What is this Dark Energy? What sinister reason does it have for returning?
The Cruel Romance is a historical romance novel following the lives of Serafima and Vitya during WWII. What prompted you to write this emotional novel?
There are many books written about great battles and great generals. Much less about the dreadful effects of war and occupation on the lives of civilians. The stories of European women in their fight against the German invaders have become broadly familiar. The idea that ordinary Russian women who had to endure four years of Nazi invasion deserve the same prompted me to write The Cruel Romance.
Telling stories of unsung heroines is my humble tribute to the women who worked on the home front producing armaments, like Serafima from The Cruel Romance, or who were fighters on the front or partisans, like my heroine Lyuba from How Dare the Birds Sing, another book of mine.
Serafima and Vitya are intriguing and well-developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?
It was important for me to show not only good personality traits but also evil ones in my characters. So, Serafima, despite the horrible circumstances, developed into a kind and passionate person becoming stronger with every unfortunate turn in her life. But not like Victor, who developed—or maybe the dark parts of his character were hidden only to be revealed in critical situations—into a cruel person consumed with hate, ruining the lives of the innocent people because of some deeply personal feelings and, besides, using his position in the society to get a desired post.
I felt that the history and Russian culture and backdrop were well utilized. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?
Aside the fact that I’m Russian and the setting within which my characters acted is natural to me, every new work requires extensive research. The authenticity comes from many details. In my case, it came not only from books. I am greatly indebted to my parents who as children endured the German bombing, the hunger and fear and who shared their experience with me.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book, the second one in the Love and Fate series titled Too Many Wolves In The Local Woods goes live on May 5, 2020 as a part of the Road to Liberation boxset comprising ten books from USA Today, international bestselling and award-winning authors dedicated to celebrating the end of WWII.
On October 1941, in a small village outside Moscow, Serafima bids farewell to Vitya, a Soviet officer going to the front. With only moments left together, she places a cross around her beloveds neck and reluctantly releases him into a cruel world where nothing is certain, especially whether she will ever see him again.
Days later, Germans invade her village and take over her tiny house. Serafima and her mother must comply with orders, endure abuse, and stay put, or their village will be annihilated.
As World War II intertwines Serafimas and Vityas life with that of a young German violinist and a Russian intellectual, their destinies are irrevocably altered. Can they rise to the challenge of agonizing moral choices and learn to forgive and love again?
The Warramunga’s War is a book that follows the Australian Army’s advances in the Middle East and Egypt. The main character, Jamie, is saved by an officer Jacko, who’s half aborigine warramunga. The book leads the reader through an adventure with Jamie and Jacko in the forefront, as they conduct counterespionage and work with real historical figures. They form a close friendship and work together to solve various missions. During their stay in Cairo, Jack and Jamie manage to work against German spies and continue the war effort onto their home turf after their job is done in Egypt. Jacko’s skills come into play near the final leg of the duo’s journey, needing to track down two wartime German Agents in West Australia.
The author describes events in vivid detail throughout the book. Greg Kater ensures the reader is taken through an action filled adventure full of twists, turns, and suspense with lighthearted moments throughout to provide moments of respite. One of these moments was at the beginning, where Jamie was unconscious and had a humorous moment with Jacko and a French nurse. The author also shows ample character development with our duo, showing how they evolve both in strength of friendship and their synergy with each other. They grow as friends and evolve to become better soldiers as well, and this evolution was something that was consistently interesting to me. I felt the part where Jamie develops a romance with someone added depth and emotion to an already well developed character. They seem to gain some level of experience from who they work with as well. Speaking of those people, the author’s level of dedication to research shows as well, with many areas being accurately described. The people he represents in the book are true to their original character and accomplishments.
While I enjoyed the narrative and the characters, I felt that the pacing, was inconsistent and sometimes abrupt. There is a part in the book where we’re zoomed into the future, which threw me off. Other than that small issue, The Warramunga’s War is an amazing read which shows a lot of spirit and has a unique take on old events.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B07NJZFVJX
Cecilia House by Simon Gandossi is a heart-wrenching retelling of a girl’s stolen adolescence. From the very first page, the author creates a gripping air of suspense and it sparks a desire to understand what happened in the past leading up to the initial scene. We are introduced to Ruth, who is going through her recently deceased mother’s belongings and comes across a revelation that has her reeling. Her mother, after suffering the loss of her entire family, ended up in an orphanage that did nothing to help her heal from her trauma but instead made it all worse. The only consolation is that from the perspective given, you know her mother survived. However, while she goes through the trauma, it is all consuming.
The best thing about the book is that the author created such a compelling main character that it was easy to be captivated by her and sympathize with her plight. I was able to go through all of her changing emotions with her and even grow with her as the years progressed.
At times, the language of the novel was somewhat simplistic but this seemed to be more of a reflection of the character at the time. The characters were well developed and as dramatic as the events were in the book, it was all very realistic. At the same time, the subject matter was presented with a certain level of detachment that kept me continuously engaged as opposed to being overwhelmed by the events. The themes of family and friendship were prominent throughout the novel. The concept of chosen families also played a significant undercurrent role.
I like that the author didn’t strive to portray any unrealistic future whether unrealistically positive or unrealistically negative. Overall, Cecilia House was an extraordinary read, with a gripping ending.
Pages: 322 | ASIN: B07YNH1VXT