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 …


Monday, 7 August 2017

"The warrior princess" - the Welsh rebellion's historical facts in the form of a novel

Thanks to Outlander en Braveheart even we non-British people know the stories of the Scottish rebellions. However to me the Welsh rebellion was totally unknown. A few weeks ago I read a simple romance novel in which the heroine's mother wanted her to be a second Gwenllian. The first Gwenllian was apparently some freedom fighter who was still remembered in the Welsh battlecry. I thought all of that was fiction till all of a sudden the book Netgalley asked me to review was about exactly that Gwenllian. First thing I did was check Wikipedia. Yes she was a historical figure. No do not check before you have read the book as the tale is as historically correct as possible and checking a history book will spoil the suspense of the story!

It is less then 100 years after the Normans under William the Conqueror aka the Bastard have invaded England. But even now they have their claws in the Wales territory and have occupied some of the principalities/kingdoms while others are still free. Princess Gwenllian and her husband prince Gruffydd ap Rhys alias Tarw of Deheubarth had been fighting the English invaders but have disappeared / died a decade before. The sister of the prince is happily married to a Norman knight who holds one of the big English castles in the area, Pembroke.

All seems more or less peaceful but then the English king dies, the son of the steward of Llandeilo is arrested for rebelling against the English and the second man of castle Pembroke has plans of his own. In a few months time the area is knees deep in a civil war.

The book is a fascinating read for people who are interested in history and people who like to read about military campaigns. Because it is done as a novel it reads a lot better than when done as an article.

What surprised me to see was how much European (continental) influence there was in the conquest of Wales. Flemish knights, mercenaries from Saxony and I read somewhere also many Flemish immigrants sent there to colonise Wales. EU migration 1000 years early. It also made me wonder why the Normans rather had foreigners there than trying to conquer the Welsh hearts. I mean England did not have that much of a problem with them unless we have to believe Ivanho.

While we more or less see what happens to all the players in the book from a birds eye perspective, that does prevent a bit to form a strong connection with the individuals. It is more their acts than their thoughts we read about.

When you have finished do go to Wiki and see what happened with the ones who are still alive at the end of the book. The author did explain the historical facts at the end. Maybe he should have also added a little bit of an historical epilogue. I liked the successtory of son Rhys.

Not a book you finish in a day.

Five out of five stars. Really recommend it.

This is what Amazon wrote: 
1135 AD. Wales is a broken land. Many of its true-born rulers are in hiding, or married into noble English families. But, though low and dim, a flame of vengeance still burns…
In the southern kingdom of Deheubarth, Gerald of Windsor governs. Firm but fair, he commands the respect of those he reigns over, and the love of Nesta, his wife.
But then treachery strikes from the heart of the English ranks and peace and stability are quickly forgotten. Nesta, daughter of a long-dead prince, is more than what she seems. And when her family is threatened, she takes drastic action to protect it…
In the mountainous rebel heartland of Cantref Mawr, the Welsh resistance has found a new figurehead: a fearless warrior, born with a sword in her hand, and with vengeance in her heart.
The Warrior Princess is coming. And the English will know fear.