Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The horrible reality of being a slave in America. Review of The Prodigy Slave

In my country the last time slavery was legal the Romans still ruled. So American slavery is something I know only from reading "Uncle Tom's cabin" as a schoolgirl. In this novel The Prodigy Slave it comes as a shock that even when a white master would be sympathetic to his slaves even he would be more or less powerless against the system: a child born out of a slave would be a slave, marrying a free negro would turn that one back into a slave and punish also the white husband, free negroes were not allowed to own land hand out medicine and not only the slave but also the master was punished when the slave were given an education. A complete hopeless existence!

Lily is the daughter of a black slave and her white master but her father feels no love for his child and sells her at a young age. Her new owner and his eldest sons are cruel men but the lady of the house and the youngest son are better persons. The child Lily and the youngest son even develop a close friendship as children but things change for the worse when they turn 16. All she has left is her music. Playing it in secret on the piano in the living room.

At first the story is told from Lily's point of view but later it reverts back to what that son was thinking or doing. And this happens a couple of times more in the story. That makes the pace of storytelling sometimes extremely slow - even too slow - but it makes us feel the tension and insecurity of the people involved.

It seems the story is drawn out over several novels. This is not a stand alone one. I would advice the writer to bundle her novels into one book. The story is too gripping to damage by cliff hangers.

I wonder how historically correct the story is. It is a romance story after all although I think it surpasses that level of storytelling because it is that good. However when I read that James is bedding girls while at university my mind thinks "in the 19th century women did not study and the only women who did run the risk to sleep around were whores as a pregnancy would destroy a woman's reputation."

A lost scroll and secrets on Crete: Review of "The last messenger"

Richard is a British man in I think his thirties who works in intelligence for the British government. Not the James Bond type just manning the Greek desk.. His father disappeared on 9/11 and is assumed to be killed in the World Trade Centre attacks while Richard himself almost died due to a suicide killer in Iraq. In the beginning of the novel he is in the Tube (underground railway in London) when one of the 7/7 suicide bombers blows himself up taking many with him. One of the mortally wounded seems to recognise Richard and gives him something what triggers a quest for answers and a lost item.

The story switches sometimes to World War Two Crete were Richard's own grandfather was helping the Greek fighting the Germans.

The writer manages to give us an intriguing puzzle. Unlike in many adventure novels the people's characters are really three dimensional.

A really good read!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Abelard and Héloïse? Was he not that guy who got castrated?

"Abelard and Héloïse? Was he not that guy who got castrated?" That was the first thing that came to mind. And that they had joined a monastery afterwards summed up all I knew.

The novel is in fact three stories that intertwine:
- The story of Abelard and Héloïse in 12th century France;
- The story of Jewish Rachel and her father the professor in and around Paris during the Second World War;
- The story of the Father Mike, a priest in New York, of Irish decent who meets Rachel in 1950.

This novel is written by a former Catholic priest who has written a couple of non-fiction books about the history and concepts of Christianity and the relationship of the church with the Jews through history. This book however is a novel but prepare yourself to a lot of debate about theology. I am raised as a protestant but even when you do not know a thing about that religion this book will shake up your braincells. It is no easy read. Philosophy / theology: we see Abelard teaching at university or defending his opinion in front of the bishops. What is important: the intention or the result? Can someone do a bad thing out of good intentions? Had a God who is love according to Jesus really sent his son to earth to die a gruesome death? If the Jewish people were God's beloved people how can Christians kill them?

In the meantime we see Father Mike reflect on his job as a priest. He likes his work but he feels alone in the middle of his fellow priests. He also starts to doubt how the church works.
When he meets Rachel who feels very guilty about what happened  during the war, the questions that Abelard put to his students 800 years prior have to be answered by the two of them to make sure they will find inner peace.

Héloïse has the last word in. She did not want to be openly married to Abelard as it would mean the end of his teaching post at the religious institute that university then was. But at the end of her life when she is a famous mother superior of a convent she instructs the nuns to bury her with her wedding ring on her finger for the first time.

The title "The cloister", points to a museum in New York where Rachel and Father Mike meet. It is a convent that was transported from France to the USA by Rockefeller. It is partly a real monastery from the same era in which Abelard and Héloïse lived.

Some original writings by Abelard and Héloïse have survived the centuries. After he was castrated and both lived in their own monastery they kept writing each other letters. In one of them, quoted in the book, she writes that when you have a very close intellectually connection you can be very happy and it will not leave room for other passions. They must have loved each other very much.

(I was given this book for free to read by Netgalley providing I would write a review. Thanks for the opportunity)

Monday, 4 December 2017

"A matter of loyalty" - review of a great detective novel set in post war Britain

What a great book! It reminded me of the tv-series "Foyle's war" and this novel is certainly tv-series material. It is 1954 and the Cold War is on. In the rural English countryside, Hugo Hawksworth, is posted at a backwater office of the British Intelligence Services, when a scientist working for an also hushhush nearby facility for atomic research goes missing. As Hugo is close he is put on the case together with an annoying policeman. But did the scientist go to the Russians? There seems not a hint towards communism in his background.

In the meantime we are treated to interesting characters. Hugo is sharing not an apartment but a whole castle (the war destroyed a lot of houses) with his orphaned niece, an American professor who is the new earl and his daughter and the half-sister of that earl who is a secret writer of detective stories (what is told with glee).

The story is entertaining and shows us normal life in the countryside just after the war. Landed gentry vs modern city dwellers, families still suffering the losses from the war, arty types.

The book is a joy to read. The book is part 3 around Hugo and his friends. I will certainly read part 1 and 2 as well. Unfortunately the writer died so we will never know if he will marry her.

This was a review for Netgalley.

"Aphrodite's tears - a gorgeous setting to a mediocre love story

(This is a review I wrote for Netgalley). The story is set in the 1970-ties on a Greek Island. The book is freshly written but oozes the style of the old fashioned romance novels written in that era. Apart from one thing: here the main characters sleep with each other or pleasure each other manually and in the yellowed paperbacks I inherited the lights just faded. Still, the "I can only sleep with the man who loves me, can I?" idea is still prevailing here. And because at the beginning of the story she looses her virginity exactly with that guy I was wondering why having a good time with him later on is seemingly so complicated. Not that I am so morally loose that I would say jump in the sack with every juicy dish you see but this Oriel was annoying. Even her love interest voices it at a certain time by stating she has to make up her mind as he is not interested in a woman who pushes him away all the time and then just uses him in bed to push him away again.

This girl was so annoying there was only one reason I finished the book: the gorgeous setting. I am sure the writer had a great time once visiting the Greek Isles on a holiday. National holidays,customs, landscapes and sites are lovingly depicted and with a Greek neighbour that kept me reading. In the story Oriel, in the seventies still the rare female senior archaeologist,  goes to Helios to work at the site of an archaeological wreck.

At the end the book picks up speed when the mysteries around deaths in the past are solved.

All in all I think the book has potential but could do with a bit of weeding in the middle section of the romantic developments.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Three novels following a workingclass family living in or near Cordoba in the haydays of the Caliphate when Spain was an Umayad Muslim Kingdom

The three novels follow a workingclass family living in or near Cordoba in the heydays of the Caliphate. Their lives are intermingled with the lives of the ruling family.

The Caliphate of Córdoba  was a state in Islamic Iberia along with a part of North Africa ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. The state, with the capital in Córdoba, existed from 929 to 1031. The region was formerly dominated by the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba (756–929). The period was characterized by an expansion of trade and culture, and saw the construction of masterpieces of al-Andalus architecture. In January 929, Abd-ar-Rahman III proclaimed himself caliph (Arabic: خليفة) of Córdoba in place of his original title, Emir of Córdoba (Arabic: أمير قرطبة 'Amīr Qurṭuba). He was a member of the Umayyad dynasty, which had held the title of Emir of Córdoba since 756. The caliphate disintegrated during a civil war (the Fitna of al-Andalus) between the descendants of the last caliph, Hisham II, and the successors of his hayib (court official), Al-Mansur. In 1031, after years of infighting, the caliphate fractured into a number of independent Muslim taifa (kingdoms). (

The first book "THE SHINING CITY" introduces us to German Isolde whose village is raided by the Vikings and she ends up being sold as a slave in Medina al Sarah, the new capital built by the Caliph a day's journey from Cordoba. While she is being auctioned young Omar, the son of the potter, sees her and falls madly in love with her. His need to see her again and if possible run away with her endangers not only them but his family and friends.
While this girl sold into a harem is a familiar Orientalist theme here I think it is used well because we get to see the Caliphate through the eyes of a stranger to it like us. While at the same time we will see how Omar's family and friends live their day to day lifes. Like his soldier brother - Al Jundi - who goes on a campaign with the son of the Caliph and saves that man's life. As a reward the Caliph makes him personal bodyguard.
That son is I think someone I would have liked to know. A very good general who however was way more interested in his big scientific library and who was gay.

In the second book "THE EYE OF THE FALCON" 11-year old Al-Hashim, the grandson of the Caliph in book 1, wakes up to the news his father al-Hakim has just died. His mother queen Subh sets up a regency with her lover and righthand man (and some others in the beginning) to rule while he is not of age. A time of court intrigues starts and young Al-Hashim is alone and forgotten in the palace in Medina al Zahra while court has returned to Cordoba.
Al Jundi realises how lonely he is and introduces the boy ruler to his own son Ahmad who is training to be a falconer. The boys bond over the birds but then something becomes clear that will separate them.
In flash backs we will get to know more of the past of queen Subh. As a Christian slave she is placed in the harem of the heir of the Caliph. Al Hakim is a nice person but no matter how well the girls dance he only speaks with them out of politeness and then sends them away. The girls do not realise the prince is homosexual. His mother does and he needs an heir so she picks young Subh who looks very boyish and hopes her son can fool himself in believing Subh, who they cloth and rename as a boy, is a man. They hope to arouse him that well that he will be able to get her with child. That project works and to everyone's surprise al-Hakim and Subh become the best of friends.
This is a book around the court intrigues of Al Mansur the regent. As I know about those historical events it was less interesting to me as I knew what was coming.

In the third novel "THE RING OF FLAMES" the falconer Ahmad, his brothers Qasim the doctor and Rafiq the soldier are middle aged men and fathers. Al Hisham the Caliph lives forgotten in his palace. The dictator al Mansur has died and his son is more or less the ruler.
Ahmad's daughter, her Jewish best female friend Rachel and her friend from England, a monk, work together in the big library of Cordoba where they copy books.
Then the city becomes under siege and Ahmad has to save his family and their friends.
Personally I liked this one best. It makes clear how multicultural this society was. Muslims, Jews and Christians and also the Berber immigrants from Morocco. The fact that women went to university and worked. The quite modern hospitals and libraries. But also the shaky security system with dictators and invaders. Where your head could end up on a stake. It was interesting to read how warfare was done in those days. How people survived sieges. I can really recommend the book.

All books can be easily read as stand-alones.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Review of "Imperial lady" - a historical novel about a Chinese woman sent to the Mongols

Without ever been to China but after having done extensive research in the timeperiod and culture an elderly lady wrote two novels. This is book one.

A daughter of a disgraced and exiled Ch'in (Chinese) general spends a wild youth in the North near the wall. Due to her father's downfall she is unmarriagable. Then all of a sudden she and 500 other girls are summoned to the capital.

Story loosely based on a Chin queen who was send to Mongolia to bring peace.

A lot of magic and that makes me decide against giving it 5 stars. But later I discovered that fox(spirits) were in those days in China was we in Europe would know as werewolves. Although a werewolf was an evil creature the foxspirits were powerful beings who could be good or evil.

In the beginning very slow. However I do understand that that is done to build up a character that will be a believable queen.

Bespaar continu

"AZTEC: the most extraordinary love story never told" - the Spanish conquest of Middle America

Many of us will know the story of the Spaniard Cortes who with a very small army conquered the Aztec Empire in Mexico. Some of you will know that he had a mistress who translated for him

This is mainly the story of her although we get to know Cortes, the emperor and a Mayan girl and her Spanish master / lover as well.

Even when you know the history of the conquest by Cortes I like the way the writer tries to explain why the Aztects lost against such a small army:
- They had never seen horses;
-  According to a religious story one of the gods would come back from over the sea (I was thinking "earlier explorer, probably Christian" as according to legend he was against the human sacrifices) so people thought Cortes might be that god;
-  The extreme hatred the Aztec invaders had forged with the other tribes who happily joined the Spanish;
- An emperor who is too hesitant to act.

Cortes his Indian lover really hates the Aztecs (seems we have the name wrong. They were called Mexica. In the book her father was killed by the Aztecs and she as a princess was sold by her mother as a slave to the Mayans. She sees Cortes for most of the story as a God but starts to have doubts at the end.

Some things in the book seem a bit free with the historical truth like when the emperor dies. But well that kept it interesting for someone who knew the general story. Although I am now wondering if I am mixing things up with the conquest of the Inca's.

Some of the secondary people are interesting too. The man who lived for many years as a slave amongst the Mayans and has troubles adjusting to his own Spanish countryman. The Mayan friends of Dona Maria who is given to another Spanish conqueror who really falls in love with her.

One thing I think is a glitch. How can a Mayan girl survive during a siege amidst people whose language she does not speak and who will know she was with the invaders?

All in all an interesting read for the historical side of the story. I somehow did not get a connection with Dona Maria nor with Cortes.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Free today: Natural Remedies: How To Use The Power Of Mother Nature To Heal And Protect Yourself (Natural Recipes)

Peppermint oil to soothe a sore throat, baking soda to calm a heartburn attack, and garlic for a bee sting, these are just a few examples of the many helpful natural remedies you’ll find in “Natural Remedies How To Use The Power Of Mother Nature To Heal And Protect Yourself.”

In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, we tend to rely heavily on the quick fix of over the counter medicines and prescription drugs without giving what’s in them a second thought. It’s almost as if we, as a society, have had it ingrained in our minds that these typical “medicines” are what we have to choose in order for us to get over whatever is ailing us.
Rarely do we question the antibiotic that may be doing more harm than good, or the drugstore antacid that has artificial flavorings and colors. And so it becomes a habit, making these traditional “cures” our form of go to for mostly everything.

Alternative Medicines

However, there are alternatives to these chemically manufactured drugs…go the natural remedy route. There’s already so much in nature offering a more organic and less harsh way of healing. Now more than ever is the time to switch to a more natural way of dealing with life’s everyday ailments from a cough and cold to arthritis and muscle aches

Free on the 2rd of December: ICEQUAKE

Residing in a station known as Shackleton, they are studying the seismic activity of the region. An eruption of the nearby volcano, Mount Erebus, soon sends quakes throughout the continent with devastating results.

All radio communication has been disabled by the breakdown of the magnetic field. Evacuation is unlikely. No one knows whether they survived the icequake, and their station is now moving 2 kilometres north each day with the strong aftershocks. They are on their own, with limited food and resources.

Do they stay put and risk being caught in the next series of icequakes and avalanches? Or do they pack up and trek over dangerous territories to the neighbouring station?

Icequake is a gripping and prophetic sci-fi disaster novel, full of excitement and danger in every chapter.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Murder in the imperial palace - review of "Murder in the Forbidden City (Qing Dynasty Mysteries Book 1")

China: A Manchu lady and a lower born Han police inspector try to solve the murder of her sister in law in 19th century Peking. She was murdered in the imperial palace. To find the murderer they have to get admittance in the palace.

Good detective with lots of interesting cultural and historical aspects.

Waiting for the next instalment in the series. In the book the first chapter is included but that book is not for sale yet.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A believable "billionaire falls in love with a poor girl" - story

Sometimes you just want something easy to read so I opted for a romance novel to review for Netgalley. At first it seemed the standard "billionaire unpleasant man beds poor girl in 20 positions and suddenly falls in love" kind of story. What can be good escapist reading but what always sounds very unlikely to me. Who wants to have a relationship with an egoistic nasty person?

So I was surprised to see that in this story things are different.

Yes Greyson is a very overbearing dominant man and he would have me a nervous wreck because I would feel like a prisoner but it becomes clear that it is done with good intentions. His love interest does react different to his behaviour than I would have done. She just let it happen and seems to like it. What made me wonder.

Unlike many of this kind of novels the writer gives a solid explanation of both the persons behaviour: He has lost people dear to him because he did not protect them, she has a past in which she lacked any protection.So they are a good fit. It turned out to be a believable lovestory and had a lot of humor elements as well.

The title incapable in my opinion points to how they are damaged by their personal history.

Sold by Amazon:

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

"Emirates Diaries: From Sheikhs to Shakespeare" - a review

The writer worked for the British council in the Emirates around the time of the First Gulf war. It is definitely still a diary so very fragmental. Not a memoir.

The Arabic names have many similarities. Which Sakr? Which Mohammed? What is difficult.

Still interesting to read.

Too my surprise saw someone mentioned I actually met myself once.

For sale with Amazon. You can download the Kindle App on your phone or your pc.

A very good detective story by someone who normally does research into that era "Searcher in the Dawn"

Early 17th century: In a small English village the lady of the manor dies shortly after having given birth to an heir. Eleanor is the daughter of the late village doctor and what you would now call the pathologist. She sees symptoms that seem odd.

What makes this book more than the standard detective is the unfamiliar historical background and the rich setting of village life. Eleanor is at a crossroad in her life. We see her having to decide what road to take. A recurring theme is missing out on a chance to find love. Grace, Grace's father, Elisabeth, Will and Eleanor all see life thwarting a romantic interest. Some will find happiness with another others won't. Some find happiness in work or the love of a child others turn bitter.

I thought while reading the book that it was a great detective story but that it was highly unbelievable to have a woman in this kind of profession in those times. Then to my utter surprise the writer explained at the end that she is working at a university and did research on that time frame and based the women in the book on the historical persons she had read about for her research. And when you google you indeed find her scientific publications as well.

A real 5 out of 5 stars.

Amazon description:

 It is 1623, and the young Lady Grace Upton has died, days after the birth of her son.

This is not particularly unusual, but when Eleanor Goodchild, local apothecary and niece of the midwife who delivered the child, sees the body, she begins to suspect that Grace's death may not have been natural. As the local searcher, Eleanor must report the death formally, and so begins her bid to discover the truth behind the young woman's death…

Was Grace's husband involved, or the mysterious and haughty French woman who has taken up residence in their home? Or does the truth lie further back, rooted in Grace's former life as the daughter of a village printer?

Meanwhile, Eleanor has her own life to manage. Her relationship with her brother Tom, with whom she has lived since the traumatic death of their parents some time ago, is strained and in the absence of a husband, Eleanor's future seems uncertain.

Searcher in the Dawn is an intriguing blend of murder-mystery and historical romance, and paints a fascinating portrait of village life and relationships in seventeenth-century England. A compelling story with a striking twist, it will appeal to lovers of crime novels and historical tales alike.

Lucinda Becker has spent many years researching and writing about Renaissance women and their ways of living and dying. She has produced a variety of books for university and college students and was once a newspaper feature writer. She lives in the countryside with her family and this is her first work of fiction

An amazing novel: Gods and Monsters

A book that reminded me of 19th century novels like those written by Jane Austen. Two girls are of marriageable age and live with an elderly father. Dad has a candidate in mind for his younger one but the young man rather likes the older daughter. At first we get to know them as a very serious naive girl and a jealous flirty one. It is obvious that in those days girls of a good background could only wait for a good candidate to come and ask for their hand in marriage. Gossips could destroy one's prospects altogether. So we see the two girls grow up and deal with challenges. A father who is sinking into Alzheimer's, blackmail, poverty. Some things are spelled out, some things you have to read between the lines with our own more worldly knowledge.

It was amusing to read that in those days you were regarded old when a man was past 30. Or that when a man became a widower he was expected to marry soon again to keep his urges at bay.

No sexscenes and things only hinted at. Somehow that enhances the story.

Can really recommend buying it. A 6 stars out of 5 when you like a complicated story that displays real feelings and that needs intellect. The Gods and Monsters must be the men in the women's lives.

Amazon description:

As a widower, Nathanial Durham has the monumental responsibility of finding suitable husbands for his two daughters. Flirtatious and changeable Bethany might have nearly anyone, but she seems determined to toss her suitors away almost the moment they arrive. Laynie, on the other hand, far behind her sister in looks and charm, is of especial concern to her father. And so, when Harold Vaughn returns home to inherit, it seems the problem, at least for one of his daughters, is solved. Only which daughter will it be?

Even his girls cannot quite decide, and so, to cool the rivalry, the sisters are sent to an aunt’s, where they are thrown into the path of other young and eligible gentlemen—and a new rivalry begins.

Meanwhile, Mr. Durham, lonely for intelligent companionship, hires a gentleman to read to him several nights a week, but Mr. Holbrook is off limits to his coquettish girls. With varying degrees of reluctance, they honor the agreement. At least Beth does for herself, but if its possible Mr. Holbrook might provide a distraction for her sister while she decides which gentleman she prefers for herself, well...what harm can there be?

Some, it seems. When Laynie, accident prone and determined to get herself into any fix that comes her way, falls from a horse, it sets in motion a series of events that expose Mr. Holbrook as a man of questionable integrity. Is it possible Mr. Durham’s hired companion is capable of the wrongs laid at his door? Is it possible Laynie has been mistaken in esteeming him as a man of character?

Is it possible to know anyone truly?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

A slow historical romance - not impressed "Cry of the peacock"

One of thirteen in a dozen. The author explains in a foreword that this is her first book but while she was writing it she decided on writing the more dark and serious "Moths and butterflies." That one I had read first and that one is marvellous. This one is for the people who like regency / victorian romances light and predictable. Nevertheless it gives a look into and England changing from agriculture to industrial times.

Amazon description: An illustrious marriage, a fortune, a position of wealth and influence. These are the dreams and ambitions of any Victorian woman of sense. Or are they?

Perhaps not for Arabella Gray.

The death of Abbie’s father, the overseer of a large country estate, leaves her without means or resources, without, even, a place to live. Her landlords, in an extraordinary display of charity, invite her to live at Holdaway Hall. But the invitation is as puzzling as it is generous. Why are the Crawfords, who have never paid her any notice before, so concerned with her wellbeing now?

It’s a question the younger Crawford brothers would like to have answered as well. Certainly Miss Gray is a mercenary upstart. Certainly their brother is mad for fancying himself in love with her. Such a union would make them a laughing stock. They mean to put a stop to it, but when they learn that her past is closely—even disturbingly—connected with their own, they are brought up short, forced to ask themselves some very hard questions.

As Abbie herself soon learns, there is a great mystery at the heart of her landlords’ extraordinary offer. Everything she has ever dreamt of might be hers for the taking, but is the price worth it? More than her happiness alone rests upon her decision. If she refuses Ruskin Crawford’s offer of marriage, will she be able to live with the consequences? If she does, will she be able to live with herself?

In the end, all must ask themselves some very hard questions. What does it mean to be a man or woman of honor and integrity? What does it mean, after all, to be a gentleman? And what, exactly, is the price of a woman’s heart?

Marvellous good story: "Of moths and butterflies"

Not a regency romance but a story of two families with a lot of secrets that haunt them.

A young woman who feels so soiled she cannot imagine herself worthy is just one of them.

Many are gravely hurt.

The secrets will come out though.

The uncle is an intriguing fellow. Is he bad or someone who tried to do his best?

What is shocking is how powerless English women were around 150 years ago. They could still be married off when they were still not of age.

The writer tells us at the end that she was busy writing her first novel when this darker story came up due to her personal experiences. Rape is a recurring theme.

No explicit sex scenes and even the violations are only hinted at in a way that is totally in sinc with the time period.

AMAZON description:

 Archer Hamilton is a collector of rare and beautiful insects. Gina Shaw is a servant in his uncle’s house. Clearly out of place in the position in which she has been discovered, she becomes a source of fascination . . . and curiosity.

A girl with a blighted past and a fortune she deems a curse, Gina has lowered herself in order to find escape from her family and their scheming designs. But when she is found, the stakes suddenly become dire.

All Gina wants is the freedom to live her life as she would wish. All her aunts want is the money that comes with her. But there is more than one way to trap an insect. An arranged marriage might turn out profitable for more parties than one.

Mr. Hamilton is about to make the acquisition of a lifetime. But will the price be worth it? Can a woman captured and acquired learn to love the man who has bought her?

A lot of sex and history: review of "The Dark Knight's Captive Bride"

The daughter of the Prince of Wales (the real Welsh one) meets an English knight as a teenager and develops quite a crush. Years later she is married off to a feared English marches lord, an Earl who happens to be the same man.

He does like her but his father was killed by her father so that is not that easy.

Very well written, enough real history involved (Go Google it)  and a complicated story. You really keep reading.

The naked chest on the cover and the title of the novel hints at all the bedsport involved but there is enough story in between.

AMAZON description:

Richard de Claiborne, the dark earl of Dunsmore, serves King Edward Plantagenet well. Sworn to obey his king’s every order, he nevertheless chafes at the command he wed the daughter of his enemy--a man who slew his father in cold blood.

But King Edward wants peace in his lands, and he will stop at nothing to get it. If he has to order his most powerful Marcher lord to marry a Welsh princess, he considers it a small price to pay.

Princess Gwenllian is a political pawn. When she’s forced to marry the evil Black Hawk de Claiborne, she quakes at his fierceness and brutality. But she does her duty to her father and her people, knowing she will never surrender to her enemy.

In the halls of Black Hawk’s great keep, Gwen glimpses a man who can be tender and passionate—and who teaches her about breathtaking sensuality and a desire so great it threatens every vow she ever made to keep her heart locked tight.

As war once more looms between Wales and England, Gwen realizes a terrible truth: she’s in love with the enemy. When long-buried secrets threaten to destroy her fragile happiness, she must make a terrible choice—or watch the man she loves sacrifice his life to save hers…

Monday, 23 October 2017

Married to a homosexual king in medieval England. Review of "Isabella, braveheart of France" by Colin Falconer

The daughter of the French king is given in marriage to the English one. But he has a boyfriend.

It must have been confusing in those days to be married off to a homosexual king as she must have not known what it was. And a mistress was just bed sport in those days when women were just a procession but a male lover who was given titles and holdings could wield real power and was seen as a danger by the nobles.

The reason mr Falconer gives at the end for the king's behaviour sounds crazy to me. Oh and mr Falconer Dordrecht is in Holland not Flanders :)
Interesting book!


When I read a book based on historical facts I always do a google search. According to popular belief the king was killed by a hot iron is his anus. Mr Falconer chooses strangling. Both methods however leave telltale evidence on the body and according to history no cause could be identified. So maybe poison or was it just the stress?

Mr Falconer lets the queen agree to the killing. That seems unlikely when you consider that 1) Her son kills Mortimer but not her. Those days were not very tolerant so if she had killed his father he would at least have locked her in a convent. Although one could argue that execution was to display power so no one would try again 2) Isabella had a very good relationship with her son and grandchildren and the daughter of Mortimer by his wife and who would let his kids socialise with a killer? 3) When she died 30 years after her husband she insisted to be buried in her cloak she wore when she came to England as Edward's wife and with Edward's heart in that box. That sounds to me as she wanted to see him in heaven. Such sign of love does not point to murder.


She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.
When Princess Isabella is offered as bride to King Edward of England, for her it’s love at first sight. But her dashing husband has a secret, one that threatens to tear their marriage—and England—apart. As Isabella navigates the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, her cleverness and grace allow her to subvert Edward’s ill-advised plans and gain influence. But soon the young queen is faced with an impossible choice, taking a breathtaking gamble that will forever change the course of history.
In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, Isabella is the story of a queen who took control of her destiny—and the throne.

Ook te koop bij

Friday, 20 October 2017

Review of "Disappeared" - a novel about the dark days in Argentina. Written by Colin Falconer

As our then crown prince married a daughter from a minister during the Argentinian junta days I think we in The Netherlands know a lot more about that dark episode than for instance people from Poland. She became a respected and very popular queen by the way. The sins of the fathers should not be blamed on the children and at least dad was not welcome at the wedding.

The day before I started to read the book I got as a present from the writer, I met someone who was a refugee from Syria. A nice hardworking young man who told me he had saved up during 10 years working in the Emirates, had come back home, bought a home and 2 shops and started a family. And then the civil war came and all was lost.

When I started to read "Disappeared" life is similar for two friends from university in Buenos Aires in the early seventies. They find jobs, fall in love, marry and one of them, Reuben, becomes the father of twin daughters. Then the shadows start to creep into view. Communists create havoc and the military answers in kind. No one knows how to be safe anymore. At first it is people who did something subversive that are targetted but more and more it is just devilish evil coming out in the dark.

One night one of the wives is taken by the secret police. The neighbours and her husband are shocked. But things get even worse.

Years later both children and the father have never seen each other again. Evil has just changed names.

It is that shedding of civilisation that was shocking and so well described by the writer. The real bad guys do not see themselves as bad. They did torture less than their colleagues they both think. But also the men in the street forget their morals.

In the book the people are never safe. Even 20 years later.

Very good book. A stark reminder why human rights are so important. Our liberal party leader hates the fact that human rights treaties prevent the Netherlands from doing things and wants to get out of the treaties. You should never want to be without a human rights anchor to prevent the ship that is your state to float away and flounder on the rocks killing its passengers.


Buenos Aires, 1976. The generals take control and for rich Jewish financiers like Reuben Altman the world is coming to an end, just as it should be beginning. He has a beautiful wife who has just given him two twin baby daughters, Diana and Simone.

But the night the death squads come to his apartment, he is not there, he is with his mistress. It is a sin he will pay for, over and over again.

The man who tortures and murders his wife also takes one of his baby daughters as his own. But what happened to Diana?

Many years later, after the junta are overthrown, Reuben Altman returns to Argentine to try and unravel the secrets.

A deeply religious country with a dark and violent past, Argentine has always treated its generals with as much reverence as its priests. So it does not surprise him when his search leads him to Rome and the headquarters of the Catholic Church. In uncovering the truth he threatens men with powerful links to the international arms business and the Vatican bank itself.

But Reuben is a man looking for redemption and will stop at nothing to bring his daughters back together and uncover the most terrible secret any father can ever keep.

Colin Falconer is the international best selling author of ANASTASIA and VENOM and over two dozen other best selling novels. His books have been translated into 23 languages

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Review of "Miss Phryne Fisher: dead man's chest" -- even better than the series on tv

Miss Phryne Fisher, the 1920-ties female detective in her fast car and her flapper dress with a sleek bobcut  hairdo and a sigarette. I liked the series (was in those days here in Holland only available on internet sites - what for us Dutchies was not illegal to watch). The book is even better because of all the humour and subtle jokes. I was astonished to see point blank in a detective novel that felt very old style mentioned miss Fischer was sick of her dry spell of a week and masturbated. What will the American prudes have a shock :) (It took me to read it twice to grasp what was suggested there).

While Phryne's townhouse in Melbourne is redecorated she moves her companion and her adopted daughters to a seashore resort (in the making, it is interesting to see how "trippers" in those days vacationed) where they are allowed to borrow the house of a anthropologist who is away on an expedition. To their surprise however the housekeeper and cook couple is not present and it looks like the house is looted for food while the valuables are still there and even the housekeeper's dog shows up. Phryne and her merry band wonder what this is all about but make do with one daughter cooking all kind of fancy dishes (instructions included in the book after the story) and the other focussed on science.

In the meantime they meet the neighbours: the ghastly old hag who spies on everybody, the always drunk mother of a teenage boy who with his two friends bullies the local kids and some weirdo surrealists. Then there is the filmcrew shooting a movie about a local pirate and his never recovered treasure hoard, a snapper who cuts off the braids of young girls and smugglers and maybe a murder.

The book is a pleasure to read. After having seen a series it is always a gamble if the original book will be as much fun but it was even better. The author is a very accomplished writer. Not just the plot but also the how.

AMAZON writes:
It's high summer in Melbourne—the ideal time, Phryne Fisher thinks, to pack up the Hispano-Suiza and withdraw to the quiet vacation town of Queenscliff, at the mouth of the Bay. And yet, there is mystery and intrigue almost from the moment of her arrival. The Johnsons, who staff the holiday house, are nowhere to be found… along with much of the home's contents. When their bedraggled dog shows up days later, the Johnsons’ absence begins to look like something more sinister. Between the missing staff, coastal smugglers, daft surrealists and a pigtail thief, Phryne’s vacation is proving to be anything but.

Dead Man’s Chest, set in the Australia of 1929, is the 18th of Kerry Greenwoods much-loved Phryne Fisher mysteries.

When you like Indiana Jones this is the book for you

Sean, the husband of  Isabel, is an archaeologist. At the beginning of the novel Isabel, who works for the intelligence service normally, has travelled to Egypt because her husband has gone missing there. Egypt is in a turmoil with the army taking power and the Muslim Brotherhood going for presidency again. While Isabel is trying to find a trace of her husband another archaeologist with backup of a powerful businessman insists there is a hidden area in the pyramid of Cheops. He invites her for the opening of that hidden room.

The story is intriguing and many current affairs of nowadays Egypt intertwine within the story. You keep on reading. However do not expect deep psychological analysis.Although the mourning is well written.  In the end I had the feeling the story was rushed. On the other hand the fact that some people appear in Isabel's life and then after a short time die instead of developing in a love interest or a mysterious nomad makes the story more realistic and less "constructed".

Written as a review for Netgalley


From the award winning bestselling author of The Istanbul Puzzle. For those who want to understand where the latest, real headline-grabbing revelations from the Great Pyramid of Giza will lead us. Read as a stand alone or start the series with The Istanbul Puzzle.

Henry warned her. “If you go to Cairo, you'll get yourself killed.”

But what choice does Isabel have? She has to find Sean, her missing husband, and she's discovered that a hospital in Cairo treated an American patient recently, flown to Cairo from Germany for some unexplained reason. But she's arrived at the wrong moment. A mass uprising is being crushed in Tahrir Square. The next day, an Egyptian billionaire announces a discovery at the Great Pyramid of Giza. Isabel decides to talk to him. He might help her find Sean.

She ends up deep in the desert, at a camp run by the Muslim Brotherhood. They murder her driver in front of her, then ask her to carry one simple task. They will lead her to Sean if she agrees. But what they are asking goes against everything she believes in. And time is running out.

The Great Pyramid of Giza provides the final piece of the puzzle, which Isabel and Sean first encountered in Istanbul. In a fabled hall, assumed by most to be an ancient myth, Isabel finds out what happened to her husband. She also discovers what lies beneath the Great Pyramid, based on real, ground penetrating archaeology, which will undermine what millions cherish as the truth.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Review of "Adored: the harem diaries" - ok story without background research

The romance story is interesting but when you situated a novel in a real country and your readers might know that country themselves,  there is the danger of errors distracting. For instance: Fez and Casablanca are situated in a farming area with the desert way further to the South. I wonder if Casablanca even existed then. Churchbells in a Muslim country? A son of the Moroccan sultan is not a caliph because that is like the pope and was a title of the Turkish sultan and I wonder if the titles of the harem officials would be Turkish ones. Naming not Marrakesh as a major city etc.etc.

So just read this as a faitytale and enjoy that. For me the factual errors broke the spell.
Also a bit pricey for a Kindle.

 You can buy it here


 This was not the adventure she'd been promised…

The last thing Miss Antonia Freeman anticipated as companion to Duchess of Weatherly on the final leg of their tour in beautiful Morocco was ending up in the Caliph of Fez’s palace. But when presented with an offer to finally see lands she had only ever dreamed of, she eagerly agrees to the journey. Still, nothing could have prepared her for the splendor of the palace and coming face-to-face with the most beautiful man she's ever seen.

Khalil Al-Rasheed, Caliph of Fez, is the ruler of all he surveys. After suffering the heart-rending loss of his wife in childbirth, he finds himself in desperate need of a teacher for his beloved yet mischievous daughter, Cassiopeia. What he does not anticipate is being presented with a disheveled and bedraggled British woman with four young boys in tow.

From the palace's lush gardens to the majestic grandeur of the harem, skepticism gives way to adoration as Khalil sees the wonders Antonia works in his little girl. Amidst intrigue and danger, Khalil and Antonia find themselves exploring a burgeoning passion that is threatened by betrayal. Confronting the truth may tear them apart as Khalil is forced to come to terms with his grief and Antonia questions if she can ever win the heart of a man longing for the love of his past.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Review of "Saved by Sheikh Omar"

Old fashioned style romance story set just after World War I in which the guy is a hero who treats the woman with love and respect. 

Compared to the real old fashioned romance stories of the 1970 and 1980 a lot more explicit.

It is more of a short story. Not long enough to call it a novel.

AMAZON writes:

It is 1923. British lady Mira, fresh out of school, and her brother Charles, a veteran from the Great War, are en route to his new farm in Rhodesia in Southern Africa. Their family fortune is gone and he hopes to start a flying school in the African colony. Their plane however malfunctions over the Sahara desert. Charles is forced to do an emergency landing. He departs to find help, leaving Mira all alone in the middle of the desert.

A few hours to the North, Arabian Sheikh Omar prepares his caravan to return home to his oasis town.

Enjoy this historical romance set in Northern Africa in the 1920ties.

You can download the Kindle App to read Kindle type ebooks on your smartphone or pc

Review "Fletcher's Fortune" - a navy story with a detective aspect

At the end of the 18th century an orphaned bastard  is set to inherit a fortune without knowing it. His half brothers and their mother want him dead. He ends up presses into the navy but it seems his enemies still know how to reach him.
Good story but the ending  is unbelievable.

AMAZON writes:  

Young Jacob Fletcher, whilst unsure of his parentage, did know that as an apprentice he couldn't legally be seized by the press gang.

But this particular gang couldn't actually read the rules. And didn't care anyway.

Which was how he found himself risking life, limb and sea sickness on board His Majesty's frigate Phiandra, about to do battle with what looked like half the French fleet.

Meanwhile at Coignwood Hall, the late Sir Henry lay face-down in his soup as his beautiful but evil widow, Lady Sarah, along with their two loathsome sons, ransacked his papers for the will that would disclose to their horror that the entire family fortune has been left to a previously unknown illegitimate son.

Who would now have to be tracked down and disposed of as a matter of some urgency...

What will become of Fletcher's Fortune?

Fletcher's Fortune is the first in a rollicking series of memoirs that bring the 18th Century back to life in its tawdry glory.

When you wonder how to read a Kindle book from the US? Just download the Kindle App on your phone or pc. And pay attention: compared to Dutch prices you pay like 15%

Thursday, 31 August 2017

REVIEW of novel set in pre-Taliban Afghanistan. Very impressed by this insiders account

When you stop your car at a truckstop so you can read a bit more a book is really interesting!

I am NOT going to tell too much of the story as essential in that story is the past getting revealed bit by bit.

At the beginning of the novel we meet Scottish Miriam married to a doctor in rural Afghanistan. He is her second husband and things are less happy than they seemed at first. Bit by bit we get to know her history and that of her husband.

It is clear the writer knows - later I discovered she indeed has firsthand experience- Afghanistan.

As I met people from Afghanistan in the 90ties when I worked with refugees I was really interested in the cultural background of the story. But the author is a blessed storyteller as well. Miriam really seems real. And you hope nothing bad will happen to her. The mentioning of Dumfries made me smile. Not many people around where I live will know that small Scottish town but I have a friend who lives there and I guess she might even know the writer.

AMAZON writes: "Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather."

Someone else wrote a review on Amazon stating: (and I agree)
" on July 15, 2016

At first, what struck me most about this highly descriptive, lyrically written, “No More Mulberries,” was the author’s ability to completely transport me back to the faraway country of 1990s Afghanistan, not only geographically, but also culturally, and ideologically. It’s a country where ‘saving face’ is the order of the day, where its population is rapidly falling victim to the Taliban, and where primitive beliefs are so pervasive, that a child with leprosy is almost drowned by his father, in order to ‘kill’ the disease. In addition, Smith shows us––through the eyes of the ‘outsider’ widow Miriam from Scotland, her second Afghani husband, and their children––that there’s another side to this land; how the people are so gracious and hospitable that offering one’s home and food to strangers is a given, and not accepting a dinner invitation is tantamount to receiving a slap in the face.

But ultimately, what held me captive was the slow, unwinding mystery being played out of how Miriam’s first husband died, and what brought her to her second husband. Although the clash of cultures is often painful, confusing, and palpable, Smith confirms that in the end, no matter where we’re from, no matter the hardships in where we’ve landed, if we are truly willing to be honest with ourselves, the rest will undoubtedly fall into place. Definitely recommend!"

Here for sale at AMAZON:




Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Autobiography of a Scottish woman working in Afghanistan "Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni"

I read her novel about a Scottish woman who married an Afghan. That made me read this book. You can see the truelife inspirations of her novel. Less epic than the novel this book is interesting to read. It gives you a glimpse of life that is not reported in the newspapers.

According to AMAZON:

Drunk Chickens and Burn Macaroni (subtitle) offers a remarkable insight into the lives of Afghan women both before and after Taliban’s rise to power. The reader is caught up in the day-to-day lives of women like Sharifa, Latifa and Marzia, sharing their problems, dramas, the tears and the laughter: whether enjoying a good gossip over tea and fresh nan, dealing with a husband’s desertion, battling to save the life of a one-year-old opium addict or learning how to deliver babies safely.


Review of "A Ruthless Proposition" set in South Africa

No not the usual "rich man beds his secretary in 10 different ways"- novel what it looks like at first.

It turns out to be a moving novel with realistic situations and real emotions. With real people.

We get to know a guy who seems cold at first but turns out to be a man who grew up in a loveless household who has never experienced a loving relationship. So he does not know how to.

The female lead had a mother who only thought of herself and she lived like that herself as well. As a ballerina until an accident forces her to choose another career: office worker. She hates it. She has not come to terms with her life. She slowly realises the people around her deserve her attention and that she will never be the stardancer again but might do something else rewarding that she can enjoy.

Something happens to these two people what forces them to work together. She has to grow up fast and he learns what it is to have people to care for and to be part of a team. Then disaster happens.

I stayed up late to finish it. I am not the teary person but this book does that to you. Can recommend reading it

AMAZON however sums it up like this:

All that glitters may lead right to his heart…
The last thing Cleopatra Knight expects on her business trip to Tokyo is to fall into bed with her arrogant, irresistibly hot boss, Dante Damaso. It’s a mistake—a steamy, mind-blowingly satisfying mistake. But a few nights of passion with the superwealthy bad boy prove to have long-term effects when Cleo’s world is unexpectedly turned upside down.
Dante has cultivated an enviable, jet-setting lifestyle: beautiful women, exotic destinations, and luxury without limits. He’s not looking to be domesticated, and certainly not by his assistant—even though he can’t get her out of his mind. Still, he knows he has both the responsibility and the financial means to help Cleo.
Though Cleo has no interest in Dante’s money, her lack of prospects gives her little choice but to accept his help. But living under the same roof, Dante discovers he wants more, and if Cleo lets down her guard, she just might find what her heart’s wanted all along.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Review of The Seed Woman by Petra Durst-Benning

This is a novel what we call in The Netherlands a "streekroman" - a traditional family chronicle set in a rural area in an era in the past. Not my normal pick in novels. But I was attracted by the cover of the book.

The book is written by a German author and is set mostly in a small village Gönningen in the south of Germany around 1850 but some parts take place in Odessa and in the Dutch bulb growing area. The village is famous for it's seed trading. The men and also many women of the village travel all over Europe to sell vegetable and flower seeds to farmers and estates.

It is a few days before Christmas when a young woman, the daughter of an innkeeper from Neurenberg, arrives in the village. She states that she is pregnant and the father is the son of the richest trader in town. That same son is supposed to marry the townbeauty Seraphine on the 6th of January. Seraphina whose father is missing and who grew up in poverty and who is longing for her fate to be wed to such a catch. Who has been sowing her weddingdress for months.

While at first I was all too sympathetic with Seraphine, having been dumped with heartbreak myself in my own youth, I more and more started to really dislike her. And wished that Helmut and his family grew some balls. Who would want to stand such war and then even in your own house? Why not move away when there are trading opportunities in Russia and America? She is totally obsessed and maybe crazy. What due to the two traumatic events at the start of the novel is not that far fetched..I really doubt if remorse would be able to cure that. It made me wonder if all the other familymembers were daft.

The historical background of the story was interesting. I would like to suggest to the writer to put the historical explanation at the start of the book so the readers will realise all that is more or less correct and no fantasy.

What I found difficult is that the seed woman is Hannah but large parts of the book are about the brothers and others about Seraphine. That makes it harder to identify with one person in the novel.

It was a nice surprise to see the area I live in in Holland suddenly feature in a German book mainly set in Germany. The sandy soil for the bulbs, the "helmgras" (sand reed) on the sanddunes on the seashore.

Original title in German "Die Samenhändlerin" what means the lady who trades in seeds.

On Amazon:
"From bestselling author Petra Durst-Benning comes a sweeping emotional story of courage, triumph, and love against all odds in nineteenth-century Germany.
After a long and trying journey from her home, Hannah arrives at a charming village nestled in the foothills of the Swabian Mountains, eager to find Helmut Kerner, a traveling seed merchant she loved and lost. Enchanted by the glorious wildflowers and thriving harvests stretching as far as the eye can see, Hannah feels less like an outsider with each passing hour, until she meets Seraphine, an ethereally beautiful dreamer engaged to be married to Helmut, the father of Hannah’s unborn child.
Desperate to win back Helmut’s affections, Hannah gets to work and quickly discovers a passion for the seed trade, and with every change of season comes a change of heart. Can Hannah and Seraphine put aside their differences to find a way to work together, or will Hannah and her child be forced to leave this place she has come to love?"

Or you want to read it in its original language?

Die Samenhändlerin

Württemberg im Jahre 1850: Auf der Suche nach dem Mann, der sie geschwängert hat, kommt die junge Hannah Brettschneider in ein Dorf am Fuß der Schwäbischen Alb: Gönningen ist die Heimat der Samenhändler, die seit fast zwei Jahrhunderten vom Geschäft mit Tulpenzwiebeln, mit Blumen- und Gemüsesamen leben. Doch Hannahs Begeisterung für den ungewöhnlichen Ort währt nicht lange: Helmut, dessen Kind sie erwartet, ist mit Seraphine, dem schönsten Mädchen im Dorf, verlobt …