5 WWI Novels That Influenced M.K. Tod's Writing

UNRAVELLED: Two Wars. Two Affairs. One Marriage.

5 WWI Novels That Influenced M.K. Tod's Writing

If you have an addiction to historical fiction and an appreciation for Canadian authors well then, I have a treat for you! M.K. Tod has released her debut novel that spans two wars and involves two affairs that rattle an already war-torn marriage. UNRAVELLED weaves fibers of sights and sounds to unveil a unique tapestry that depicts both the horror of war and the healing power of the human heart.

I asked M.K. Tod to share 5 WWI novels that impacted her writing and she is gracious enough to share them with us along with a book giveaway so read on for more details!

Five WWI Novels that Influenced My Writing

By M.K. Tod

I write about WWI. A woman who hated history in high school, studied math and computer science and worked in business for thirty years. Go figure! Nonetheless, here I am busily engaged in a second career writing historical fiction in WWI settings.

A huge leap is required to turn your life upside down and do something completely different and I had a lot to learn about war. Beyond the usual internet sources and history books about those times, five novels stand out for the beauty of their writing, their evocation of sights and sounds and the tidbits of historical detail that are seamlessly woven into the stories. I’ve read these five, reread them, unlined sections and even marked particularly interesting pages with little yellow stickies. They are my go-to source whenever I need an injection of WWI atmosphere to spark my writing.

Anne Perry’s WWI SERIES: I read AT SOME DISPUTED BARRICADE before realizing it was the fourth book about the Reavley family and a shocking conspiracy at the highest levels of British government. Now, I’ve read them all and not only are the story and its central mystery page turning, but the author brings the war to life from different angles: nurse, war chaplain, soldiers, politicians, those in the secret service.

“Every now and then star shells went up, lighting the landscape, with its jagged tree stumps, erratic gouges out of the clay now filled with mud and water. There were wrecked vehicles by the side of the road and here and there carcasses of horses, even sometimes helmets to mark where men had died. Broken gun carriages and burned-out tanks showed up in the glare, and once the barrel of a great cannon sticking up out of a crater, angled at the sky.”

REGENERATION by Pat Barker: I began with Pat Barker’s LIFE CLASS and then read REGENERATION, a novel that has won awards for its powerful writing and exploration of war’s effect on the mind and soul. It is based on real experiences of British officers like Vidal Sassoon who suffered from shell-shock and were treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital. The REGENERATION TRILOGY includes two other novels: THE EYE IN THE DOOR and THE GHOST ROAD.

“Sometimes, in the trenches, you get the sense of something, ancient. One trench we held, it had skulls in the side, embedded, like mushrooms. It was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough's army, than to think they'd been alive a year ago. It was as if all the other wars had distilled themselves into this war, and that made it something you almost can't challenge. It's like a very deep voice, saying; 'Run along, little man, be glad you've survived.”

BIRDSONG by Sebastian Faulks: I’ve rarely been in a conversation about WWI without someone mentioning BIRDSONG. Its renown has reached almost mythical proportions. The novel begins in 1910 with a young Englishman who arrives in Amiens for work. A clandestine love affair tears apart the family with whom he lives and sets the stage for his war experiences. A compelling tale of the human spirit and a condemnation of war.

“He was awed by the sound the guns were making; so many of them in rolling sequence on a line of sixteen miles, the heaviest providing the continuous rumble like a sustained roll of timpani, and the lighter adding unpredictable pattern and emphasis. Within an hour the whole line was pouring out shells, filling the night with a dense traffic of metal. The noise like thunder breaking in uninterrupted waves.”

THREE DAY ROAD by Joseph Boyden: This haunting story combines the experiences of two Cree snipers in the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme with the journey one of them takes to get home after the war. Joseph Boyden is a celebrated Canadian author whose writing deserves words like powerful, passionate, extraordinary and inspiring.

“You hear the thunk of a mortar land close to you, know you can run away from it if you’re quick. It’s the only bomb you can do that with. The big shells you can hear coming from a long way off and just pray that they aren’t heading for you. Now listen careful, boys, it’s the smaller shells, the whiz-bangs, that are the most damaging, the ones that sound like a mosquito whining in the distance. You hear them coming and you dive flat into the earth and bury your nose deep as you can into the mud.”

THE FIRST CASUALTY by Ben Elton: Elton gives us a story about a man who investigates a murder amidst the Third Battle of Ypres. It explores some fundamental questions: What is murder? What is justice in the face of unimaginable daily slaughter? And where is the honour in saving a man from the gallows if he is only to be returned to die in suicidal battle?

“Kingsley was now only a hundred yards from the front but the going was very slow. First he had to traverse along the reserve trench in order to reach a communication trench that would take him up to the support line. The trenches were fashioned in a zigzag pattern resembling a series of cogs: viewed from the air, they would appear like a battlement stretched out across the ground. This design was to minimize the effect of the blast from a shell landing directly in a trench and exploding out along it, or of the enemy getting in and setting up a machine gun which could then rake along the line.”

I could continue quoting from these novels to show how they illuminate the sights, sounds, smells and conditions of war as well as everyday matters such as how to assemble a rifle, walk along duckboards, make tea in the midst of filth, comfort a wounded soldier, reinforce a trench, heft a sandbag, don a gasmask, lay wire for signaling purposes and on and on. These aren’t the only novels about WWI that I’ve read but they have inspired my writing and will continue to do so.


M.K. Tod had a successful business career until a move to Hong Kong prompted an unexpected hiatus. Using that time to research her family history ultimately resulted in UNRAVELLED and a new career as a writer. Beyond her debut novel, Mary has written two other novels with WWI settings. She blogs at A Writer of History and is a book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. In 2012, Mary conducted a unique international reader survey on the topic of historical fiction.

UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon (USCanada and elsewhere), NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes.

You can check out what readers are saying about UNRAVELLED and read an excerpt with chapters 1 and 2.

You can connect with Mary on Twitter: @MKTodAuthorFacebook, and GoodReads.


A book launch event for UNRAVELLED will be held on Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 starting at 7 p.m. at the Duke of York at 39 Prince Arthur Avenue in Toronto, ON, Canada.


We have a copy of UNRAVELLED to give away to a lucky Bookalicious reader! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment in the "Click Here To Spill It" bubble below. You have until October 28th, 2013 to enter. You must be a YMC member, and please be sure you've registered your email address in our commenting system so we can contact you if you win. 

Yummy Rules and Regulations: You must be a member to win. Click here to sign up. It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until October 18th, 2013. Contest open to Canadian residents (excluding Quebec). Winners will be picked using www.random.orgSee full contest rules.

For more details on upcoming Bookalicious news, reviews, and interviews sign up for the Bookalicious Newsletter!

Relish reading,

Wanda Lynne Young




The Children's Book Bank Calls On Book Clubs

To Pay It Forward By Giving The Gift Of Reading

The Children's Book Bank Calls On Book Clubs

For the past four years I've had the pleasure of hosting a virtual book club on Twitter. As far back as I can remember, reading has always been a huge part of my life. I really can't imagine my childhood without books. My boys are growing up appreciating books as well. But the real truth is many children in high needs areas do not have access to reading material and this is just not acceptable. 

Edelman Canada is having their annual CSR initiative known as The Little Give which is a program that aims to give back to non-profit organizations. One team is working to foster awareness and raise funds for The Children’s Book Bank. Read on to find out what we can do to help some underprivileged children experience the world of books.


Book clubs are an increasingly popular way to enjoy stories and create memorable reading experiences. Sadly book clubs, or even books in general, are beyond the means of many. 

The Children’s Book Bank is a fantastic charity that provides free books and literacy support to children in deprived areas of Toronto. It boasts Canada’s first storefront “book bank,” collecting gently used children’s books and distributing them free of charge to children who can’t afford to build their own collections. It is a truly inspiring facility and we want to support them in bringing the benefits of reading and literacy to children in deprived areas of Toronto. 

How? We want to harness the good will and community spirit of Canada’s book clubs.

The charity needs two things;

1. A continuous supply of books to replenish its inventory (it goes through 10,000 books a month!).

2. A consistent source of funds to support its great work. 

We want Canada’s book clubs to share their love of books and ‘pay it forward’ by committing to take part in a new book club movement.

Specifically, we want book clubs to commit to the following:

1. Coordinate book drops among members (and friends) — these can be books from their own (or their children’s) collections, or books they purchase along with each club selection, to deliver to the book bank.

2. Collect contributions from members at each meeting, or pledge monthly donation on The Children’s Book Bank website as a club ‘membership fee.’

3. Spread the word!

Please support this great initiative. The new norm; give the gift of reading with every book you read.

Watch this video to see how The Children's Book Bank helps children.

Please consider giving books to this worthwhile cause and donating to The Children's Book Bank on

Follow the @BookBankCanada on Twitter, like The Children's Book Bank on Facebook, and check out The Children's Book Bank YouTube Channel.

Relish reading,

Wanda Lynne Young




Five Books to Help You Attain Success and Happiness

On Your Path To Bliss

Five Books to Help You Attain Success and Happiness

You may or may not be the bookish type, but either way, couldn’t we all use a trip down the self-help isle every once in a while? Autumn tends to be a reflective month. We can gain a fresh new perspective and look at this season as a time for renewal, even if we're not the ones going back to school. For the past 3 years, one event I look forward to each Fall is the BlissDom Canada conference in Toronto. I relish the opportunity to get together with bloggers, meet with brands, and make connections with authors and publishers. I know how important it is for those of us who work in the social media field to have an outlet to network and develop our skills in a friendly and creative atmosphere. The BlissDom Canada conference is a wonderful opportunity for self-discovery. Self-help books can also help you navigate your way to whatever you define as success and attain happiness on your path to bliss. Here are a few books to consider if you're looking for a new purpose and hopefully they will help to lead you in a blissful direction!

The Creativity Cure By Carrie Barron and Alton Barron

Is stress the bane of your existence? Are you a hands-on kind of person? THE CREATIVE CURE could be your answer with its "Do-It-Yourself Prescription for Happiness" and a "Five-Part Plan to Build Happiness and Alleviate Stress". Wife-and-husband physicians Carrie and Alton Barron have channeled creativity to improve the lives of their patients and their own lives. Carrie encourages writing and meditation. Alton emphasized exercise and physical exploration. Developing these skills can lead to long-term happiness and well-being. This book is a wonderful resource for anyone seeking a personal and/or relationship transformation. Aside from this, it might be interesting to note that the word "stressed" is just the word "desserts" spelled backwards, so a temporary fix could be a piece of cake!

Ascent of Woman by Sally Armstrong

If Helen Reddy's lyrics "I am woman, hear me roar!" speak to you, I recommend you check out ASCENT OF WOMEN by Sally Armstrong. Coming from a background in anthropology and ethnographic studies I find this to be a compelling read. Armstrong tackles women's rights all over the globe and suggests that women fight oppression and overcome obstacles by having control over their collective bodies. Armstrong says this is the key to economic justice and the answer to ending violence in developing countries.
 Armstrong travelled to war torn areas to champion the cause for women. ASCENT OF WOMEN shares the journeys from brave and inspiring women and girl activists and revolutionaries from all around the world. Do you remember that Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox song "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves"? It's all about girl power people!

The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections By Norman E. Rosenthal M.D.

Does life have a habit of handing you lemons? Adversity is a fact of life. Bestselling author and noted research psychiatrist, Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, suggests that we learn from all experiences, both positive and negative. He believes that adversity can teacher us life’s most important lessons.

 Rosenthal delivers his message by drawing from his experiences and the lives of his patients and colleagues. He concludes with a take-away maxim on the lesson learned. I suggest reading THE GIFT OF ADVERSITY on a leather chaise lounge and you might save some money on therapy!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

As a child I was described as shy but as an adult I prefer to call myself a high functioning introvert. QUIET is all about the power behind the people seen as observers, thinkers, and listeners. It's not about how to become an extrovert but rather, how to harness and encourage your creativity. Cain gives examples of contributions from Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak, and many more public figures who shaped the world in their own introverted way. Did you know at least one-third of us are introverts? Too bad we tend to work better alone because if we banded together we could take over the world, but in our own quiet way of course!

I Am So The Boss of You By Kathy Buckworth

If you're looking for ways to get your family organized I can suggest I AM SO THE BOSS OF YOU by Kathy Buckworth. This book isn't necessarily found in the self-help section but it is a no-nonsense, give it to your straight guide with tips and tricks on how to run your family like a business. It's just the ticket if you're looking for some advice and a few laughs! To find out more on how Kathy gives moms the business check out this blog post.

I hope these books have given you some food for thought and if you plan to attend BlissDom Canada, do let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear your self-help book recommendations and learn about all the books your looking forward to reading!

Relish reading,

Wanda Lynne Young



For more articles, tips, and tricks to help you get organized and make the most of your blog and business visit our BlissDom Canada 2014: How Do You Find Your Bliss? page.

Membership Has Its Perks!

We’re offering a special discount for BlissDom Canada to our YMC members. Use our special code for 15% off your BlissDom Canada Conference pass. Find out the details here.

Bonus! BlissDom and YMC want to send you to the conference for FREE this year in the #ThisIsBliss Contest. Have you entered yet?