Friday, 10 January 2020

The Potter's Field (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael Book 17) - murder mysery set in an English medieval monastery

You might be familiar with Brother Cadfael because you saw the tv series. Or because you read other novels in the series about a Welsh crusader who became a monk and now tends the herb gardens of an abbey and solves crimes with the local sheriff in his spare time.

In this 17th novel in the series the abbey is granted the field where a potter used to live and work. That potter has renounced the world and left his wife to become a monk. But when the monks start ploughing the field a woman's body is revealed. Who was she and was she murdered?

I have read many novels in this series and most are very good. What I liked in this one was the historical backdrop and also the question why people would turn to religious life.

You can read all these novels separately but to understand the role of all the secondary returning characters like the ambitious prior and his sidekick but also the person of Cadfael himself you might want to start with book 1.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

"Love in the Valley of the Kings" is like watching an Indiana Jones movie

Love in the Valley of the KingsLove in the Valley of the Kings by Nicola Italia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is the 1920ties and a young female archaeologist accompanies her father on a dig in Egypt joined by the rest of her family and some friends and colleagues of her father. There she meets a fellow archaeologist who is half English half Egyptian. Happily in love she suddenly is in the middle of danger when one of their team is murdered and it seems she is also a target.

It is a nice read but I am sure a normal excavation would take a lot longer but who cares. This is just escapism reading.

For the people who cannot stand sex in novels you best keep your heartbeat evenly and skip this novel as the couple does a lot of coupling.

Review of "Devious lies" by by Parker S. Huntington

For this kind of novel it is actually quite a good one! She is the daughter of someone who was in the middle of a fraud scandal. He was the son of the help. His father died when losing all his savings in that fraud case. Years later they meet again. Both are atoning each for their own reasons. He thinks she knew and was into the fraud. She thinks he is a complete @sshole. But now he is the rich guy and she the one with hardly money to eat. And there is so much they do not know.

While in these kind of novels the man is often a bad person who is a member of the maffia or just a very unpleasant man and only is nice to the woman, the author here gives a way better signal to her younger readers: this guy is a genuine good guy.

And the man modelling on the cover is a hottie.

Oh and the commenting on Disneymovies is hilarious.

Review of a novel set during the French Revolution "The Reign of Love and Chaos" by Nicola Italia

I had learned about the Terror-episode during the French revolution but this novel brings it to life by focussing on a young man and woman coming of age. He is a young man from a middle class background who is elected in the new parliament and she is a foreigner who wants to join a convent as a novice. We witness how the good intentions of the delegates turn into bloodshed. And while it is more or less common knowledge that the nobility died en masse under the guillotine the fact that the religious people were also persecuted was completely unknown to me. I thought the dissolving of the monasteries had been in line with what happened under Henry the Eighth in England.

It seems each century has madmen like Hitler or the Inquisition and normal people would be in grave danger. The writer has a nice style of prose and keeps you invested in the main leads. Unlike the first novel in this series it does have some bedscenes but is not meant as an erotic read. To be honest if I could advice the author I would not link this novel to her Sheikh bestseller as it is a completely different style and also the motivation of the Arabian princess for a life of seclusion sounds a bit strange as in those days the Arabian women were kept out of the public. However her other motivation is that she would like to devote her life to a religious life and convents are not existing under Islam and she has a Christian mother could be a solid motive but the link to the other novel is not that necessary.

It is a shame only 7 other readers reviewed it on Amazon until now as it is a very good novel.

Review of "In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II" - a spy novel by Rhys Bowen set in a Downton Abbey kind of setting

Well this means me getting up at 5 am to get my work done because this novel kept me glued to my kindle.

For those who have seen Downton Abbey picture an estate like that in 1941.

It is the beginning of World War II and America has not joined the war yet. England is desperate and people expect they will be invaded. The son of a local rector and the young adults from two noble families all find a job in the war machine. One becomes a pilot and is captured over Germany and the others ended up in secret jobs they cannot tell anyone about.

But then a spy drops from the sky. Why in that rural area? Who might be a traitor?

I truly enjoyed this novel although the clue is a bit strange all the rest is very entertaining and mixed with enough historical facts. I understand the author wrote mysteries before turning to wartime novels (those I found pretty predictable). This novel however combines a wartime setting with a great mystery that has to be solved. Well done.

Monday, 16 December 2019

A Christmas Tale - Review of "What child is this" by Rhys Bowen

A couple faces Chrismas alone in a bombed out London. A story about the situation during the Second World War: rations, fire bombs, shelters.......  A bit short. As a documentary interesting but the writer might have extended the story a bit or made it a volume of short stories all set during wartime christmasses.

3 stars out of 5

Review of "The victory garden" by Rhys Bowen

Set during World War I this novel is about Emily Bryce, an (almost) 21 year old daughter of a judge who falls in love with an Australian airman. Pregnant and pretending to be a warwidow she joins the Land Army of women doing agricultural work when the men are away fighting. While billeted near an estate she finds an old diary full with recipes for herbal remedies.

Unfortunately the Amazon blurb almost told the whole plot! That deducted one star.

The book is quite predictable and I kept wondering if the concept of the Land Army and a Victory Garden was not more a WW2 concept.

Ok read. 3 stars out of 5.

Review of "The Tuscan Child" by Rhys Bowen

An English pilot is shot down over Tuscany during World War II and a local woman nurses him back to health.
Thirty years later his daughter finds a letter mentioning a "beautiful boy" when she is clearing his house after he had died. She wonders if her father sired a child when he was in Italy during the war. She travels to the little village to try to find out more about his past and comes to enjoy the life in rural Tuscany.

In the beginning the two storylines were a bit irritating but later on they became more entwined and I started to like the novel a lot more.

There are some big plotholes:
1) If the death duties on an estate were over a million pound would you ever be able to buy the building 30 years later for a couple of hundred thousands?
2) If you were an arthistorian and in desperate need of money and had a house full of paintings would you not get them appraised so you could sell them?

I also have the feeling the people in general fall very fast in love and taking very big leaps. You would expect more soulsearching first.

4 stars out of 5

Monday, 9 December 2019

Review of "The Duke's bride" by Joanne Wadsworth - now FREE on Amazon

This novel has the usual ingredients for a regency romance: a lady from the ton is in love with a duke, a lot of teadrinking ladies in a drawing room, a ball, riding in the park.

Lady Ellie has been smitten with her brother's friend her whole life but after a tragedy he seems determined to live as a recluse and never to marry. What to do?

If you like period drama's and regency romances this is the book for you. It is a situation that is not unfamiliar. Someone who definitely likes you but who is not taking a step towards a relationship. Do not expect a very layered story. I also stumbled upon some things that I thought to be unlikely in the timeperiod. Like when riding in a side saddle you cannot squeeze your legs around a horse and I think after an afternoon of horseriding people would change out of their riding clothes before dinner as to not stink of horses and stables. And being out for seven seasons? I think one was expected to marry in one or two and otherwise doomed to live as a spinster.

For the people who insist on a very "clean" book, this is no series of romping story but the people are young and do think about sex and hands stray. You can survive that I think. At the end a marriage is consummated. If that is not your cup of tea you can just skip the HEA after the wedding.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Review of "The Book Ghost" by Lorna Gray - Britain just after WW2. A young widow has to find roots again

There are many novels written that are set during WWII but this one is in the period just after the war ended: 1946 and that is a first one for me. Let me start by saying I am very interested in history.

A lot is still rationed and men slowly get demobilised and send home. Lucy who worked during the war in Bristol during the bombings loses her job to the returning men and goes home to her elderly aunt and uncle who raised her. But there she discovers the couple has taken in a lodger who is also working as an editor for her uncles publishing company. Lucy, widowed and childless, can only get a secretarial menial job and sleep in the room above the office. Her gloomy daily life is depressing and she is only 26! I thought her family was heartless but we find out why they did what they did.

We slowly discover how other people are still trying to cope with the war. The man who spent five years in a prisoner of war camp, the man who had quite a nice posting and is jealous of the people who are seen as heroes, the old people who cannot cope without their children.

And mrs. P who realises she is just young Lucy and who still attracts men. And that she still lives.

In the story is a mystery. A young girl who grew up in a mansion and who seems to have disappeared 50 years ago and who is mentioned by one of the authors. Lucy feels the urge to find out what happened. And that is definitely inspired by her own childhood..

The readers who hoped it is a romance novel. Sorry. It is more a period drama. And there is a light touch of spirit talk in it. What I think could have easily ditched.

I liked the view into the era. I also liked the psychological aspects. Not a big fan of the ghosts.

Publishing date December 14th 2019

4 stars out of 5

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The end of the world as we know it - After it Happened Boxset by Devon C. Ford

One morning a former soldier who turned policeman wakes up to see that 99% of mankind has succumbed to a kind of pneumonia. I somehow pictured this Dan as in his fifties but later on you find out he is halfway into his thirties. In the next hours he meets Neil someone who is very technical handy and also former army but a bit older. Neil his wife an children dies. Dan's did too but they live apart. They also stumble upon a 12 year old girl Leah.

The 6 books series is all about the remnants of humankind trying to survive this disaster. A disaster that is caused by something that sounds realistic to me. The author does a great job in worldbuilding. We see thugs but also nature loving vegan societies. Dan decides that it is unwise to hand over guns to untrained strangers and trains a few rangers and they set up in a former prisonmansion and start growing food. But danger is always around the corner.

I was thinking the writer made a few mistakes like a car does not wither away in a year and such and a headstone will stand for 40 years. Or that a military man would not do something. But that I found out was a plotpoint. Nevertheless there are a few decisions that sound stupid.

All in all I really liked the 6 novels. Maybe not the most emotional depth but I like the places they go as I have been there too. And the story is very thrilling. And it also makes you think. Like how toxic a tunnel gets when the vents are not working anymore.

There is also a sequel of two other novels but they are more warstories in my opinion.

No zombies, no sex.

Review "The Deceptive Lady Darby" by Adele Clee - feel good women lit with a bit of mystery

A young woman gets lost running away from her father and arriving at a neighbouring estate is mistaken for the new maid. In hiding for her father she discovers that there are mysteries surrounding the place but gets attached to the lord of the manor and his children.

A nice light HEA story that is well written and with heroes you easily bond with.

Typical women's lit you would think until you see the number of guys reading them.....

Review of "A bend in time" by Anne C. Maxwell - quite promissing but needs a bit of work in my opinion

This is one of those books that I find hard to rate. I have the feeling that it can be a lot better as the material is there but sometimes things seem to stutter. I also wonder what the author was aiming at by this structure as if you are reading three separate books. But maybe that is something that will be explained in the later instalments in the series.

Elena was raised in Saudi Arabia as a child of diplomats. Her parents were good friends with a couple. The woman a Saudi national and her husband a Scotsman who converted to Islam and  married her and moved to Saudi. This couple have a son named Omar who is a few years older than Elena and her best childhood friend.

Now we fast forward a few decades and Elena works as a counterterrorism specialist for MI6 in London. As the bank of her childhood  friend comes under suspicion as a place that is used by terrorists to launder money she is send as a spy to see if that is true and how deep the CEO, Omar, is involved. It is no surprise that the two friends immediately strike a cord again even when there are some grown ups problems as him being an over controlling man and now far above her in the picking order.. Elena is afraid she will stumble upon information that gets him in trouble. This part is very realistic written.

Then all of a sudden both Elena and Omar seem to be travelling in time to two different eras.

The result is us reading 3 different novels: a billionaire romance / spy thriller, a tale inspired by The Three Musketeers and a regency romance that reminds me of Jane Eyre.

Why? I have no clue. Maybe that Omar realises that love can also be there when you are the powerless one in a relationship? But what is the use of Elena being in that other era? To realise that men you are not in love with can still be friends? And it kind of interrupts the story arc.

I understand that the author is like me someone who is near native English but not a native. Maybe that explains some of the sometimes special way to phase things. I also found the sex-scenes in the beginning of the novel odd as it feels like suddenly your kindle starts to whirl pink stars and other psychedelic things because from the moment they start having sex the story goes into metaphorical descriptions. Later on that alters.

There is also an all-seeing commenting voice. UGH

Maybe because I got an ARC version but the editing is seriously wrong. Some parts repeat each other. Best check that quickly dear publisher.

So my verdict: I did like the story but maybe would have preferred it as a straightforward novel or three.

Friday, 1 November 2019

FREE: An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, Luxembourg, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.

#FREE #FREEFORADAY Stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance... A museum researcher’s new job leads her on a bizarre journey into shady art world doings and criminal intent in this fast-paced, amateur sleuth thriller set in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Croatia, and Turkey. 
When researcher Zelda Richardson begins working at a local museum, she doesn’t expect to get entangled with an art theft, knocked unconscious by a forger, threatened by the mob, or stalked by drug dealers.

To make matters worse, a Croatian gangster is convinced Zelda knows where a cache of recently pilfered paintings is. She must track down an international gang of art thieves and recover the stolen artwork in order to save those she loves most.

The trouble is, Zelda doesn’t know where to look. Teaming up with art detective Vincent de Graaf may be her only hope at salvation.

The trail of clues leads Zelda and Vincent on a pulse-pounding race across Europe to a dramatic showdown in Turkey that may cost them their lives.

Marked for Revenge was awarded a Chill with a Book Readers' Award in June 2019. It was also chosen as Chill with a Book's June Cover of the Month. Marked for Revenge was a Women Writers, Women’s Books Recommended Reads in June 2019 and is one of Amy's Bookshelf Reviews Top 10 Books of 2019.

Marked for Revenge is the third book in the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series. The novels in this series can be read in any order.