Sunday, 26 February 2017

A great fantasy saga (2 books) "The reluctant concubine" and "The accidental sorceress"

With a title like this you would not expect a Game of Thrones like story.

At the beginning of the two books Tera is I guess 16 or something. She and her father live on a beach and have fallen into deep poverty since the death of her mother who was a famous healer. She trained as a healer too but apart from administering herbal treatment she is still unable to heal by magic. When she would bed a man before that gift comes to her she probably will never develop it.

Sold into slavery she ends up in a society alien to her. It is a kind of warrior state where women are either concubines or slaves to be used by the warriors. But after a year or so in the service of a cruel household of a local noble the high lord of the country makes her his only concubine without ever touching her.

She does everything to regain her freedom so she can return home but then stumbles on an old secret.

While book 1 read as a romance story with fantasy elements book 2 is a fantasy adventure about a war but with a love aspect.

 Book 2

Tera is now the favourite concubine of the High Lord Batumar and his city is rebuilding after the siege. However her safe home is now threatened by another enemy and Tera feels very insecure about how Batumar feels about her. (And after having read book 1 you know the man is someone you would want to have fall in love with you.) But then Batumar wants to embark on a dangerous journey to forge alliances and takes her with him.

The story does a great job in painting us a vast world and in describing love and loss. Where many books will treat grief as a temporary thing here two things really wound her and are still hurting later on on several occasions like it would in the real world.

We can witness Tera grow into a leader. She is really a character you bond with. Her bodyguard Orz brings tears to one's eye.

Very good book. I will recommend it to my friends.

There were however some thing that kept me wondering: (***** some minor spoilers)
- Why would the High Lord leave his realm to go on such a mission on his own and not send a trusted warrior or diplomat? Because that one is already dead? Is there no other? I mean even with a second in command in place it will leave his country without the highest leader. Even if he maybe thinks he can accomplish it in two weeks or so it is very dangerous;
- Why does Tera not heal Orz with her healing magic? Somewhere she says he would be angry. Why? Because it would kill her as he is so hurt? But now his injuries make him unable to do his job.
- He cannot speak and then suddenly he can? Is that just a way of him getting healed over time?
Many reviewers on Amazon say there will be a third novel but I doubt it. As the last couple of sentences are exactly what Tera has been hoping for.

Worth the money. A 5 out of 5 stars!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Review "Ebb Tide" - A nautical Zombie novel that keeps you hooked

Only 0.99 cents. Totally scary. Death around every corner. I had trouble falling asleep. As English is a foreign language for me and I am all thumbs some of the technical stuff I did not grasp but the story is great. (The writer lives on a yacht in the Pacific just like Matai). The story is set in the near future. A pandemic flu has killed 90% of the world's population. 5% survived and the other 5% turned into a kind of zombies. Matai the female hero lives on the sailing yacht that used to be her parent's. Initially the family survived because they were at sea when the illness struck. The book starts with Matai finding a Chinese cargo ship that ran aground on an atoll. She suspects it to be full of hidden treasures to bring home to the island she and her survivor friends live but she is also scared to death that the dark cargo holds might be full with Typhoid Maries. The story is told partly in flash backs.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Morocco 16th century: Young Berber woman becomes pirate queen -based on historic facts

Hura is only 14 years old when her free childhood as daughter of a Berber prince in 16th century Morocco comes to an end. She is married off to the Andalusian refugee who is now the ruler of the coastal town Tetouan. Her much older husband thinks wives belong in the harem. But young Hura finds a way out and succeeds in convincing her husband to let her assist him. But their little realm is under constant threat: refugees poring in, culture classes between Berbers and Andalusians, Portuguese raids and a Sultan who cannot be trusted.

The story feels like it has been researched and the fact that is is based in a real folk hero guarantees a story that does not fall for platitudes.

The writer has a pleasant style. I enjoyed reading it. What I also found refreshing is that she does not make Hura into a 21st century girl transported into the 16th century. No complaints about arranged marriages.

What I thought interesting was to see that the town her husband rules is quite cosmopolitan: Jews and Christians living there. A gay man totally accepted. While the Berber stronghold she comes from has a ban on Jews and Christians from entering. Also interesting to see is how Rabat and Algiers were more or less rubble (an Tetouan) at first due to bombardment earlier in the century. And I had not expected that men and women would mingle at a court dinner.

Like I said: good reading material. For people with Moroccan roots, people who visited there, people who like to read about history or people who have Moroccan clients they want to impress.

Hura, a young Berber woman, defies the confining tradition of her first husband's harem to become the ruler of his fiefdom. Set in early Sixteenth century Morocco and based on fact, this biographical novel is the first to chronicle her heartbreaking challenges and dazzling achievements. (AMAZON)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Nine parts of desire - the hidden world of Islamic women - book review

As a prizewinning foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Geraldine Brooks spent six years covering the Middle East through wars, insurrection, and the volcanic upheaval of resurgent fundamentalism. Yet for her, headline events were only the backdrop to a less obvious but more enduring drama: the daily life of Muslim women.Nine Parts of Desire is the story of Brooks' intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives.(

The book is written in 1996 many years prior to the Taliban, 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. It is an interesting book and easy to read. The chapters are all around one theme  and cover many themes and a couple of countries: the wives of the Prophet, polygamy on the West bank, the widow and daughter of Ayatollah Khomeiny, temporary marriages in Iran etc.

Some things make you smile as when she barges into a bedroom of a fellow attendant to a women's conference who she has only seen in chador to meet a woman clad in a see through negligee with bleached blonde hair and at first think she made a mistake with the roomnumber. I remember a bit of the same experience that happened to me at an asylumseeker centrum where one lady was always sternly covered in a scarf but once in her room had changed into a classic French chic woman.

Sometimes one wonders if the outsider look of the writer did draw the correct conclusion. Like when she discovers her fellow conference attendee is a vamp under all her covers and the lady explains that the Iranian women make themselves beautiful for their husband and the writer thinks back on meeting mrs Khomeiny after her husband's death and discovers the grandmother in her seventies is hiding a load of carrot red dyed curls under her chador that show grey roots because she has not dyed them after her husband's death. One of my friends died young and his mother and wife did not dye their hair not because he could not see it anymore but as a sign of mourning.

Nevertheless: interesting book - 5 stars out of 5

Oh and this is what the title means:  "God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one part to men."

You can buy in in Holland at or worldwide at Amazon. Advertising buttons will appear below. Bol is slow.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Epic story where a fantasy Roman empire meets a fantasy Persian desert sultanate

When you like Games of Thrones this might be a book for you.

Althea is the daughter of the Emperor of Ronan, a lush farming country that reminds us of the Roman empire. One day she sneaks out of the palace to see the normal life in the empire but ends up caught and sold as a slave into the mysterious neighbouring desert sultanate.

I did not like book 1 and you can read book 2 as a stand alone. It might even make it even more a puzzle. It had a captivating story with loads of mystery and intrigue. And you think you can predict the story and then it goes again into a different direction.

WARNING there might be some slight spoilers ahead although I tried to make them unrecognisable for the people who have not read the book yet.

Only thing I missed was knowing how Althea felt when someone who had seemed a friend died. Would you not grieve or miss someone after been together that often or consider yourself been played?

I also wondered how you can stay sane when on the one hand you are best friends with someone and on the other am a traitor.

I liked the solid way personalities were constructed in a psychological way. Did he really want her or was it just a powerplay to use her? The trustissues. The inherited harshness. When you think back you realise his best friend telling her that he could tell one thing and you would think he means it in a certain way but then do something unexpected because that was what he had in mind.

Book one (free) 2 stars out of 5
Book two (99 cents) 5 stars out of 5

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Review of "Lost Lady of Laramie" - A woman is captured by Indians and is surviving in a society alien to her own.

The writer has written many books each set in a different part of the history of the United States. This one is set in the days when the Wild West was opening up and wagon trains started to cross into Indian territories.

The book is the story of a young officer's wife who is captured by Indians, her low life husband and a nasty warchief. What balances the story are all the realistic and complex minor roles. The Indians seem a lot more sympathetic then the whites. I liked to read about all the cultural things. Good book. And a cheap buy.

"Scandalous Lady" - a romance novel set in historic Istanbul with a good story that managed to get the location right

Written by a lady who married someone in Turkey and lived and worked there for years this story is coloured with a lot of the real landmarks in and around Istanbul. The story is set in 1811.

When Olivia travels to Turkey to join her historian brother in the days of Napoleon, there is not much left in England to return to: victim of a huge scandal and her soon to be sister in law insisting she will not live in the family manor. While in Troy she is saved from an attack by a viper by a mysterious man. She sees him again in Constantinople sometimes looking like a Turkish noble sometimes as an European. Olivia feels strongly fascinated by this stranger.

The novel is a good story in which a lot happens and where logical decisions are made even when some might be very modern for a lady in those days. It is also nice to read when you have been in Istanbul.

While a lot of the romance novels set in Ottoman time even manage to have deserts around Istanbul the things described in this book are easily recognisable for one like me who spent weeks there for a course. The cysterns, the boating on the Bosporus, the view from the high cliffs near the Black Sea, the paradise of the Princes Isles (although now the sea is quite polluted.).

The one thing I do not understand is the need to make the hero part French. It is a habit seen in old romances like The Sheikh. As if a European woman and a Muslim non-European could not fall in love. I am sure it would not have been socially acceptable in early 19th century Britain but at that time the Turkish Sultan mother was rumoured to be a captured French woman and cousin of Napoleon's wife. And many haremgirls were. In this book the Sultan mother is mentioned but not her European roots. What I mean is if the writer wanted to make the lovematch not to have to cross too many cultural gaps she could have given Selim a Western slave as a mother or grandmother. The Sultan, the leader of the believers, marrying his sister to a Christian French nobleman sounds too far fetched to me.

I also doubt nobility living in France under Napoleon. Did the ones who survived the revolution not flee abroad and return after Napoleon lost? But jf they stayed working against France would be treason and Selim seems too honourable for that.

And I thought Constantinople as a name for the town ceased when the Ottomans conquered the Byzantine capital and renamed it Istanbul? Or kept the English using the old name?

So although the geographical backdrop is correct to the dot I have doubts about the historical accuracy.

But aside from those historical things the book is interesting, fast paced, shows a lot of cultural colour and has a hero you would like to have yourself : witty caring, smart, strong but vulnerable and good-looking.

5 stars out of 5

This is how Amazon describes it:

 Turkey, 1811

All in the name of love…

For as long as Richard Hartford can remember he has wanted to see Turkey, and explore the antiquities of the once mighty Ottoman Empire.

Now, he is fulfilling that dream alongside his sister, Olivia.

Since their parents died in a carriage accident when she was 16, the siblings have been very close. Now 23, Olivia is a strong woman who knows her own mind.

Before Richard left their family estate for Turkey, he sent Olivia to London for the season, hoping she would find herself a husband. But scandal erupted when Lord Craybook, a gambler with huge debts who knew he could not win her hand any other way, set out to compromise her, keeping Olivia away from home overnight.

Olivia’s aunt, who she was staying with in London, insists she marry Lord Craybrook, but Olivia refuses and is shipped off to Turkey to avoid the inevitable scandal.

Yet Olivia soon falls in love with the magical land of Turkey and she soon meets a number of interesting people, like Lady Hester Stanhope, niece of the prime minister of England, and intrepid world traveller.

And then there is the handsome Selim, cousin to the Sultan.

Selim works as an ambassador for the Sultan and Olivia quickly falls irrevocably in love with him. Things are looking quite promising for Olivia, until Lord Crayrook shows up, determined to win her hand.

Is Olivia destined to live a life of solitude and regret?

Or will her past stay buried long enough for her to have her happy ending?

Filled with the rich detail of the sunset of the Ottoman Empire, Scandalous Lady is a love story that crosses cultures and boundaries, showing what is possible when love is at stake.

Review "Bloodmoon over Zanzibar" - I was disappointed as it seems just the beginning of a story and that is the case

AMAZON: "Lachlan McKenzie never found out why his family lived as virtual exiles in a lonely bay on the Slave Coast of Africa, far from the other British traders on the Cape.

No one will talk about it.

The past is best left buried, his father tells him.

But the past is never dead; one day an armed frigate appears in the bay. As its mysterious commander rolls out the cannon the young Hamish prepares to defend all he knows and loves.

There are unspeakable tragedies ahead; and perhaps, at the end of it, a life of love and glory, on the other side of the world.
But first he must survive …"

My review: Normally I am a big fan of this author. But his new book disappointed. It reads as a novel that stops halfway into the story. Unlike other heroes in his books the ones here fail to let me bond with them apart from the moment the boy wakes up on the beach and realises he is all alone.

2 stars out of 5