Wednesday, 26 December 2018

#free book: "Sub-Sahara"

In this military thriller, a freak storm reveals a city hidden deep under the largest sand dunes of the Sahara.

A silver pyramid at the centre of the city is emitting a strange energy signal.

The race is on to secure the energy source and other treasures of the city.

James Cavill and his team of private Special Forces are charged to get there first and secure the treasure for the benefit of all humanity – little do they know what they’ve just walked into…

A #Free Kindle book in which the Sherlock Holmes story is reversed "Moriarty Meets His Match (The Professor & Mrs. Moriarty Mystery Series Book 1)"

Professor James Moriarty has one desire left in his shattered life... revenge.

All he wants is to shame the man who ruined him and stop the brute from harming anyone else. Then he meets amber-eyed Angelina Gould and his world turns upside down.

An exploding steam engine kills a man at the International Exhibition. While Moriarty examines the wreckage, Sherlock Holmes appears, sent to investigate by Moriarty’s enemy. Holmes finds evidence that points at Moriarty, who realizes he must either solve the crime or swing it for it himself. He soon uncovers evidence of fraud and an unscrupulous company promoter. As he pursues those leads, he bumps into the alluring Angelina at every turn. She’s playing some game, but what’s her goal? And whose side is she on?

Between them, Holmes and Angelina push Moriarty to his limits -- and beyond. He’ll have to lose himself to save his life and win the woman he loves.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Review of Book 1 of the Lady Fan-mysteries series "The gilded shroud" by Elizabeth Bailey

Earlier this week I read part 3 in the Lady Fan -mysteries series as an ARC. That novel was that good I decided to purchase the earlier instalments as well. This novel is the first one in the series. Because I read a later book I know who Ottilia is going to marry and that at least a few people are innocent but the mystery was not spoiled by reading a book later in the series. In this first novel Lord Francis and his mother are better described than in book three probably because the writer assumes we know by then how he looks like. In this first novel the sexual attraction he oozes is a lot more evident. I understand the writer wrote romance novels for ages. I would suggest to keep the tasty dish aspect of Lord Francis more like this first novel than the more background one is the later versions.

So what is this first novel all about?
A young widow has just become the companion of a dowager when the daughter in law of that dowager is murdered. Ottilia and the second son try to solve the mystery. There are many possible suspects and family secrets to unearth.

A good detective story with a nice romantic subplot. I also liked the moments of humour like when two old gossips are questioned.

There was however one thing that made me wonder: how can Ottilia and Francis know the countess had intercourse when she has been in her bed for hours afterwards? Now they have rapekits for that but with hours passing and wrapped in sheets the conclusion that the murdered could see while she was in that bed that she had just been f...ed and not just sleeping evaded me. Smell I could have comprehended but view? Covered by a duvet?

Talking about smell. The novel is nowhere explicit in either sexual things or violence but it is explained quite well that you can smell that someone died due to the loss of bowel control. The first one walking into the scene is oblivious to that due to a headcold that blocked her nose.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Three historical novels by Irina Shapiro

 The Folly

The story begins when the two bodies of the wife and son of a nobleman are dragged from a pond on the estate. Then the story continues in a flashback manner.

A young girl's reputation suffers from a scandal and her father forces her to marry a middle aged baronet. After the wedding she meets his son.

The story is set just after Waterloo and is a great read: mystery, romance, historical details. Very well done.

 Precious Bones

A writer with relationship problems feels a weird connection to a skeleton that is found in an old Tudor house. She decides to buy the house and retreats there to write her next novel. For her next book the characters seem to come to life while she is writing the novel.

Precious Bones is in fact two storylines in one cover: the love affair in the Tudor Era and the life of the writer in today's times.

A nice read that gives you a good idea about the Tudor days.

The Inheritance

An American woman inherits a Scottish castle and finds out about her heritage. She
also hopes to find out what happened to the lady of the castle in the 18th century.
When you know about the Scottish Uprising not much news.
Beautiful cover but the dress in mediaeval instead of 18th century.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The world of Jane Eyre in a detective setting: "The Opium Purge" by Elizabeth Bailey

One morning Lady Ottilia Fanshawe and her husband Lord Francis wake up to a winter wonderland. The garden of his mother's dowerhouse is covered with a thick layer of snow and in the snow an angelic woman is dancing. She seems to be wearing a sparkling dress and a red cape flies around her thus creating the vision of a fairytale princess. When Lady Francis runs downstairs to see who it is she discovered the child inside the house after having broken into it. The young woman is very beautiful but seems a bit strange and childlike.

Not long after that,  the first dead person shows up and Lady Fan, as Ottilia is called by many, helps her husband and her brother with finding the cause of death. When that is clear she uses all her detective skills to find the killer.

The book is situated in the countryside in mostly either the Dower House of the estate of an earl, her brother-in-law, or a three story country house that is the direct neighbour. The era is the end of the 18th century but the only clue to that is a hint to the violence of the French Revolution.

Due to the links to Barbados and mad women in the attic it had a strong Jane Eyre-influence.

The use of laudanum and the effect of opium are a key element in the story. Slavery is discussed as well.

Although several deaths occur none is described in a very violent manner and there are no bedscenes to worry the prudish readers. It is a classic style detective novel.

What I noticed was the higher level of English used in the book. A lot or contemporary, now a bit archaic, words but also just words I had to look up in my Kindle Dictionary. My excuse is that English is not my native language but I can imagine some American readers complaining. I did find it making the story more believable and thought provoking.

I was very impressed and as this was book 3 I think in a series and I had not read the other ones I ordered the first one in the series immediately after. Ok I will know she will marry the lord but the who-done-it in the earlier novels is not spoiled by flashbacks in this one.


Review of "Her Desert Doctor" by Marie Tuhart

The heroine travels to a desert country because her best friend is about to marry the king there. She has been a nurse but went back to college to become a hospital administrator. Upon arriving in the country she is welcomed by the brother of the king who is himself a trained doctor and the country's Minister of Health. Sparks fly.

This romance novel was like a box of candy of all kind of different romance genres: A royal family, an exotic country, a nurse and doctor storyline and a kink titbit. I wonder why is contemporary romance writers feel the need to introduce floggers and clubs.

The story has no weird cultural mistakes and is not that bad. If you are into light reads and like to be able to finish a novel in a few hours this might be something for you.

As you guys know I like to review books for Netgalley a site that provides me with free copies to do just that.

This one is a 3 out of 5 stars. Not bad but also not memorable.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Free today: Botticelli's Muse

A provocative historical fiction about Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, his conflicts with the Medici family of Florence, and the woman at the heart of his paintings.

In 1477, Botticelli is suddenly fired by his prestigious patron and friend Lorenzo de’ Medici. In the villa of his irritating new patron, the artist’s creative well runs dry—until the day he sees Floriana, a Jewish weaver imprisoned in his sister’s convent.

But events threaten to keep his unlikely muse out of reach. So begins a tale of one of the art world’s most beloved paintings, La Primavera, as Sandro, a confirmed bachelor, and Floriana, a headstrong artist in her own right, enter into a turbulent relationship.

Free book: "Spanish Lavender", a love story set during the Spanish civil war

FREE BOOK: Elizabeth is visiting her parents in Málaga when the Spanish Civil War breaks out. All foreigners are told they must evacuate - the Nationalist soldiers are coming and no-one is safe. But Elizabeth’s ambition is to be a photo-journalist and she decides she will stay, despite her parents’ objections.
Alone in the devastated city of Málaga, she begins to regret her hasty decision until she meets two young men, Juan, an idealistic Spaniard and Alex, a pragmatic Englishman. Amongst the death and carnage she falls in love with Juan, but as they try to make their escape along the Carretera del Muerte, the highway of death, they become separated.
Not knowing if her lover is alive or dead she must choose between staying and risking death at the hands of the Nationalists or fleeing back to England with Alex.

'Tragic, uplifting and beautiful, Spanish Lavender doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, but neither does it concentrate on them. It is vital to remember that Spanish Lavender is a story of love. A riveting read.’

Da Vinci code meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.: Free today the novel "Keys of Life: Uriel's Justice"

A London Museum tour guide points to an angel with no halo in Da Vinci’s painting, Virgin on the Rocks, whose name is Uriel. Archangel Uriel fights for justice against an ancient evil. Two people discover their important pieces to a great puzzle along their journey to possess the Keys of Life. Da Vinci code meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.

 Cordy McDermott isn't your typical veterinarian - unless your veterinarian also happens to have a black belt in karate. After rescuing an Egyptian princess from being sold as a sex slave, Cordy finds herself in the crosshairs of death, tangled in a harrowing battle dating to Biblical times.

Across the world, a young, brawny archeologist stumbles upon an ancient relic at the Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel after a mysterious dream. On the run, Ash and Cordy team up in a thrilling race against time to keep balance from falling in favor of an enemy bent on vengeance and absolute control.

Monday, 19 November 2018

#Free detective novel about a #barrister at the court of Elisabeth I of England: "Murder by Misrule"

Brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss -- and in danger.

Bacon must put down his books and investigate the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray's Inn in order to regain the queen's favor. He recruits his unwanted protégé, Thomas Clarady, to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a wealthy privateer, Tom will gladly do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder.

The first clues point to a Catholic conspirator, but other motives for murder quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the victim's legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets.

Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even Bacon is at a loss -- and in danger -- until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

One of Kirkus Reviews' Best Indie Books of 2014.

Don't dally: jump right into the first book in this award-winning mystery series!
(Source: Amazon)

Review to follow shortly.


A great murder mystery set at the court of Queen Elisabeth I - review of "Let slip the Dogs" by Anna Castle

"It’s Midsummer at Richmond Palace and love is in the air -- along with the usual political courtships and covert alliances. Secret trysts, daring dalliances, and a pair of famous French hounds keep Francis Bacon and his gallant team busy while trying to catch one devilishly daring murderer."

I really like this novel. It is set at the court of Queen Elisabeth I of England and filled with real historical figures who are depicted true to their real personality. You might think that that narrows down the search for the murderer but the fact that we know a certain person died of old age does not mean he or she was innocent does it?

Sir Francis Bacon, who is a real historical figure and one of the best legal minds of his times, and his two young sidekicks try to solve the murder of the man found dead in an orchard but in the meantime they all fall in love. Trumpet and Tom have to blind-side her new husband and Sir Francis has to keep his homosexual affair hidden because the queen loathes scandals. But they are not the only couples. Thus creating very humorous scenes where every haystack and shed is "occupied" when the lovers seeks a quite place. The fact that one of the leading roles is gay is something my gay friend will appreciate. He always complains that in mean stream novels hardly any homosexual people take the lead.

The fact that the story is so well researched historically (I am reading the biography of Sir Walter Ralegh at the moment as well) offers us glimpses iof court life. The wigs of the queen, the hard working lives of the ladies-in-waiting, the fact that the queen could order nobles to marry each other etc.

This is book 5 in a series and I had not read the prior ones but that is not a problem. However it was such a joy to read it I ordered the first one in the series as well. And that one is FREE.


Review of "The Liberty Bride" by MaryLu Tyndall, set during the War of 1812

The publisher of this novel asked me to read and review this book. It was a bit different than what I thought it would be.

Let me start with some explanation. I am from Europe, the Netherlands, where religion is a very private thing unless you are a militant Muslim or a Jehova's witness. A lot of people do believe in God or Allah but most will not go public about that. Due to my European roots American patriotism in novels can sometimes grind a bit when it is overdone. Maybe I am more on the English "side" ;-)

Now back to the novel:

First of all romance novels are nowadays often filled with a lot of sex. This one is not! More than a kiss does not happen.  For a short love story the novel does try to be layered and not be shallow. Both parties have trouble reconciling their political beliefs with the fact that they are falling in love with a traitor. After a bit of a slow start a lot of action takes place and to the credit of the writer the lines between the parties get blurred because people respect or befriend people on the other side as well. This writer uses her romance novels also as a way to bring people to Jesus by talking about salvation. It brings depth to the story but for readers from cultures where you do not shout your religion from the rooftops the open referring to God over and over again can be a bit much. Maybe also because in my very strict religious upbringing it can border with blasphemy to preach on every corner of the street as Jesus warns in the New Testament.  I guess it is a difference between American and Dutch culture (I have played wargames online where American players posted daily bible quotes in between "ok we go and kill the purple group" and "Are your armies ready?").

Secondly for people who are not American (or English) the setting of this novel might be a bit confusing. I thought "Americans fighting the British'? Oh it is set during the American revolution. I did not get the traitor thing in a certain scene and then a president Madison was mentioned and I had to open Google. So no American Revolution but the War of 1812 (never heard of to my shame as I am an avid amateur historian). Apparently after the American Independence the British kept supporting the Indians and so a part of the US wanted a war over Canada. After a couple of cities were attacked by the Brits who did not want a war with problems with Napoleon at home and the Americans not gaining what they wanted, a peace treaty was signed and the USA was in isolationists politics for the next century. So the book was an interesting history lesson as well.

I think this novel is a good read for people who likes their stories "clean". Also for people who like to read something in a real historic setting especially Americans who might like to read about the events that let to the composing of their national anthem. For all the foreigners in a second edition it might be handy to include a short introduction explaining the historical setting like "It is ... years after the war of independence and now..."

What makes me wonder: is the period one of the persons is under cover not overly long?

Friday, 2 November 2018

#free #book: Book 2 of the multi-award-winning epic Historical Fiction series The Troubadours Quartet

1151: the Holy Land, where one book is worth more than a man's life
Estela, the troubadour, is following the destiny of her beautiful voice. Dragonetz, her passionate knight, has a dangerous mission to fulfill. Divided by the times they love in, they fight to be together.
Imprisoned in Damascus, Dragonetz suffers the mind games inflicted by his anonymous enemies, as he is forced to remember the traumatic events of the crusade, two years earlier. His military prowess is as valuable and dangerous to the balance of power as the priceless Torah he has to deliver to Jerusalem, and the key players want Dragonetz riding with them - or dead.
Instead of remaining safely at home, Estela is desperate to rescue Dragonetz at all costs. She sets out for the Holy Land, never realising that the person she thinks will be her knight's saviour might actually be his doom. Can Estela get him out alive, despite Nur-ad-Din, the Muslim Atabeg; Mélisende, the Queen of Jerusalem; and an avenger from the past? Will she still want to, when she knows what they've done to him?
Once more, 'the master of historical intrigue' whirls the reader off into medieval mayhem. Jean Gill's details of crusading strategy and riding a camel are as convincing as the pangs of medieval childbirth. She brought medieval France to life in Song at Dawn; now she adds 12th century Damascus and Jerusalem with equal aplomb.

Review of "The Soldier's Girl" by Sharon Maas: WWII in the Alsace

Advertised as a tragic love affair this novel turns out as something rather different. You expect her to fall in love with a German while her childhood friend is in the resistance and she is send back to the Alsace as a spy. And then I wondered when that was happening.

What you can distil from this novel is the love of the writer for the area where she herself also spend many happy years. The part of the novel situated before the outbreak of war, where a child Sybil lives on a wine château, is the best part of the novel.

It was also interesting to read what effect the annexation had on the region, I knew it was swabbed between Germany and France several times but never would have imagined not only the renaming of streets but even of people. A name is so much part of your individuality!

I did know that there had been heavy fighting in the Ardennes but did not know about the Vosges and Alsace region.

But that love affair? No chemistry between her and the resistance fighter. He is described as dirty and stinking, That is all.

And the German officer? At first he is just annoying , unattractive and his mates are ridiculous. Then suddenly he shows a different side. Suddenly Sybil is in love. Right? But will you do what she does to him when you are in love? I do not think so. What happens had my stomach revolting. In her case I think I would have gone mad with guilt and horror. That guilt is mentioned but it is all done so clinical so distant so short. Apart from the fact that I felt very sorry for the man in the end the book seemed a love affair for a region but as a lovestory it failed.

The story left me completely cold apart from the heartbreaking scene towards the end which hunted me even in my dreams.

Unusual regency novel: Review of "A gentleman's promise" by Penny Hampson

The beautiful gentleman on the cover of this book I could get an ARC of to review, caught my attention. It is a regency novel, or a kitchen maid literature as they call them here: a romance novel set in the 19th century in the better classes. But this one turned out to be slightly different. For one there is a strong gay element in it, there is no sex in it, the pace is slow and the main characters are developed into three dimensional people

Richard inherited an estate from a distant cousin but the evening he arrives there the lost heir, a teenager, and his sister arrive as well after they have travelled all the way from Greece. Someone tried several attempts to kill Richard since he was declared the new viscount and now Emma and Richard start wondering if the deaths of the other heirs were accidents after all. They hope to solve the mystery.

Richard is pictured as a man who is very orderly and really wants to avoid adventure (illustrated by his behaviour with sorting his cloths and rearranging the figurines on the mantle piece) . He likes Emma but thinks she is very unsuitable as a bride. Way too adventurous.
Emma seems to have an too modern take on independence for women to seem fitting for the time period. But the writer comes up with a solid reason and also the fact that she had to survive such a dangerous trip will have shaped her.
At first the story seemed too slow for me but that turned out well after all as it was all building up to certain character developments.

Richard's sister and brother-in-law, Emma's grandmother they all serve a shaping role in the characters of the main characters. The war in Portugal against Napoleon, the Elgin marbles, molly houses they all picture a time period.

I do agree with earlier reviewers that the interaction with the main villain is strange.

4 stars out of 5

No not set on an alien planet but in Egypt and Sudan in 200 BC

Rasha is abducted from her home in Raheem. She manages to escape and flees. Her beloved Bassam is coming back from a trade expedition  when he hears that she is abducted and sets off to rescue her and bring her safely home.

This novel reads like a science fiction/fantasy story and only by some details can you deduct when and where Rasha and Bassam are. But often you are at a loss. Only because I have been in Petra I wondered if Raheem was Nabatean Petra (now Jordan) and saw it confirmed only at the end of the story. You can only deduct by the mentioning of what we know as the Stone of Rosetta that the story is set 200 BC. The Nile river is mentioned as the Nilus and towns like Elefantine and the Pyramids but a lot of the animal life is using local words. Oh we are talking about hippo's?This intensifies the feeling of being on an alien planet.

- You learn new things about Egypt like the fact there are so many more pyramids and to realise that in 200 BC they were already relics from a distant past.
- The feeling of being submerged in the past with no knowlegde from the 21st century.
- That also in those days people travelled to far away places to trade and interacted with different cultures.

- It is impossible to connect the ancient names to real places. I often wondered if they were in Sudan or even more south.
- The whole story is more or less two groups journeying. That can make the story a bit slow and you as a reader needing a break and reading another novel in the meantime.

3 stars out of 5

This was a free ARC provided by Netgalley

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Review of "Servant of the Crown" by Paul J Bennett, a great medieval fantasy novel and only 99 dollar cents!

What a captivating novel! A sergeant, a veteran in his end 30ties who served his king for 20 years and has lost his family in the wars with a neighbouring country, is invalided during an uprising in the capital and blamed for the disaster and the great loss of lives his commanding officer caused.

Saved by his former commander and friend from execution as a scapegoat, he is banished to a far away and forgotten royal palace to work there as the groundsman. Trying to bring the gardens back from being a jungle he meets a lonely young girl of around 6. The two of them become friends and he gets to know her secret. But can he protect her?

It is a lovely book. You can feel the love of the limping lonely man for this equally lonely girl. The village near the castle and the castle itself are populated by a whole rainbow of people.  The world is a fantasy world but resembles a 13/14th century Medieval society. There are only a few hints to non-human persons or magic but it is mostly a pseudo England with rebels (Scots?) invading it.

I really enjoyed reading it. It is part of a series and book 2 is about a warrior maiden mentioned in this book but I think the three books will bring the saga to a close or so I hope. Looking forward to read the other novels in this series.

Review of "Hypertension, Blood Sugar? Depression?: How I Cured Them" All by Dr Leonid Altshuler

As one of the members of NetGalley I received an ARC of this book. It is written by a psychiatrist whose origins are in the Soviet Union. I do not know if he still lives there but his book is written in a very "American selfhelp book"-style.

Apparently doctor Altshuler himself suffered from all kind of ailments and he blames that to a too high insulin level in his blood. Since he switched to an all meat/fish diet he feels a lot better. I have no idea if this is solid medical advise or just mumbo-jumbo. He might feel a lot better with no sugar and no carbs but what about vitamins from vegetables and fruits? I always thought they are essential to fight things like cancer?

However in the second part of this short book the writer turns towards his own expertise: mental health. Here I could recognise his knowledge. He was explaining about neurotransmitters and serotonin and dopamine and I recognised the treatment a familymember received for depression. He also explained how getting out of your comfort zone is also very healthy for your mental well-being because it increases your energy levels. The function of alphawaves in your brain etcetera. That part of the book I liked a lot more, I would not have minded if he had focussed on his experience in psychiatry. That part was now a bit short.

A 3 stars out of five

#Free novel: The Dante Connection (Book 2) (Genevieve Lenard)

Art theft. Coded messages. A high-level threat.

Despite her initial disbelief, Doctor Genevieve Lenard discovers that she is the key that connects stolen works of art, ciphers and sinister threats.

Betrayed by the people who called themselves her friends, Genevieve throws herself into her insurance investigation job with autistic single-mindedness. When hacker Francine appears beaten and bloodied on her doorstep, begging for her help, Genevieve is forced to get past the hurt of her friends' abandonment and team up with them to find the perpetrators.

Little does she know that it will take her on a journey through not one, but two twisted minds to discover the true target of their mysterious messages. It will take all her personal strength and knowledge as a nonverbal communications expert to overcome fears that could cost not only her life, but the lives of many others.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Review of "Holding Pattern" by Nesta Tueomey (love is in the air)

Set in Ireland and Sri Lanka in the seventies and early eighties this novel starts with the crash of a passengers jet in the jungle of Ceylon. Airhostess Kay believes her lover married pilot Graham dead and marries a friend. However he is held hostage for years by a local mercenary group and returns to Ireland after a few years to find his wife remarried and his lover married with a baby.

The book has a bit of an "old fashioned" feel. Maybe because it is set in the seventies and maybe because the voice over way of telling the story. It feels like your mother is telling you what happened to her co workers during her youth.

I liked the many details. The book his filled with dozens and dozens of characters and seems to be based of real people in the writer's working life as an air-hostess. For someone born in 1968 it was also a revisiting of things of my past: the watching a video of a wedding with a whole group in pre Facebook days, the renting of a video in a shop, the discrimination of married women on the job, child custody given to one parent after a divorce, the not attending a wedding due to being in mourning.. It is also the days before AIDS with pilots and crew merrily frolicking during layovers in New York.

In my line of work I saw the last Tamil refugees-waves applying for asylum. It was interesting to read about the start of that conflict.

I really did not like Kay. She seemed to be a calculating opportunist but maybe she was just a shy uncertain person. But she seems to let Graham down on at least one occasion in my opinion and I also did not like how she behaved at the grave, Her daughter Dervla is supposed to be a girl everybody loves but she felt to me a bit as an attention seeking child. It seems unnatural how she is getting spoiled by people. I also missed a view into the motivations of Ranjan. So after what happened when he is in his teens what is his opinion on the situation in Sri Lanka? Did his family just ignore all that?

Saturday, 20 October 2018

ARC review of "A marriage in four seasons" situated in hotelrooms in Istanbul, Tunisia, New York and Granada and dealing with the aftermath of the loss of a child

After the stillbirth of their son  Americans Joy and Richard are devastated and unable to cope with it.

The story is told over four periods in their lives and when they are in hotelrooms: Hotelrooms in Grenada, New York, Istanbul and in Tunisia. The story is laced with historic and geographical facts. Somewhere in the book life is compared to being in a hotelroom. You are only there for a short while and best make the best of what you get.

I found the book interesting in how it describes how people react different to experiencing huge personal grief. How speaking very briskly about things can give someone the feeling the other does not care, how someone can feel the need for someone to just love him, how the world can be a different place afterwards. It definitely is a book with depth. And I can recommend it for people who are in a situation like this to use as a tool to discuss things. Also a good one for a book club.

I did have trouble with the reasoning by Belinda to take a certain step (that I will not mention due to spoilers danger). It sounded unbelievable to me that someone would plan to do something like that.

I liked the setting in the different countries. I have spend a summer in Istanbul and two holidays in Tunisia so it felt like a feast of rediscovery as we say here in Holland. I saw another reviewer say the historic references were too elaborate. I do not agree. History is hardly mentioned and the colour locale is a nice background for the story.

However in the Turkish part I did encounter some errors. The Bosporus is not a river: it is a seastrait: salt water and ocean liners going from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and vice versa and all. It is also mentioned that Roxelana the favourite wife of sultan Suleyman killed her oldest child so Selim could be sultan. Prince Mustafa was killed by orders of his father and it remains unclear if his wife had a role in that but most importantly it is not her son but the son of the first kadin of Suleyman from the days before he fell in love with Roxelana. It is said that her third son killed himself out of grief when his half brother was strangled. It is true a son of Roxelana was killed: Beyazit but that was after her death and also by orders of the sultan.

I received a free copy to write an honest review. The book will be out on the 20th of November 201.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Review of "The Ghost of Hearts-Hope: A Ghostly Story of Love and Loss"

Once in awhile you read a book that leaves a lasting impression. That is what this book does. At first it seems like a Victorian romance novel but then it turns into a mystery novel that also deals a lot with loss and coming of age.

Anna is an orphan who lost her parents when she was 10 in an accident. She now lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin in quite well to do London circles: her aunt hosts soirées where aristocracy and artist mingle. Anna has a bit of money of her own  but is no heiress and envisions herself as a governess or ladies companion (she has reddish hair and freckles what was not that popular then and no dowry). Her slightly younger beautiful cousin has a lot of admirers and is dreaming about marriage. One evening that cousin takes Anna to a clairvoyant what scares the hell out of her.

But then a rich widower, Lord Hope (his grandfather bought the title otherwise he would have been to far above Anne socially although his mother is like the dowager duchess in Downton Abbey), asks for her hand in marriage and he takes her to his neo-gothic castle in Cornwall.  I have never been in Cornwall but the landscape is described as rugged as I remember the place I stayed on Kintire in Scotland, You can picture the castle overlooking the ever changing scene of the sea.

Lord Hope - Reece - is a tall chestnut haired calm man with intriguing grey eyes. But in the book he stays a bit like a shadow. A huge man Anne likes to cuddle up with in bed. Who embodies safety for her. Who is very good in sex. But is hardly ever home so Anna who is still a very young woman has to manage all by herself: running the huge household with all the servants, trying win over her 10 years old stepdaughter, keeping an eye on a cousin who is also tutored in the castle and last but not least deal with Simeon the brother of Reece who is his opposite in colouring but also in character.

Then weird things start to happen and Anne who has had the Sight all her life starts wondering if her predecessor Natasha is really dead or still alive. Are the servants correct that the castle us haunted or is it foul play by a human evil? Or is Anne loosing her mind over a great loss? Is the writer going to give us a ghoststory and will the book be fantasy or will it be a murder mystery?

I had several theories and when we find out what is going on it was one of those. And it does not come out of thin air. You can deduct it. Although I had to read the end again to see it all.

The writer does a very good job. Maybe it is what I would have liked myself: a castle with a seaview, a handsome hunk for a husband and dogs and children but somehow the writer made me identify with Anna what made the story a real page turner. She is also very good in worldbuilding: you can see the landscape and all the different persons around and in the castle: Simeon her brother in law and her stepdaughter are really well fleshed out. The devastation of a personal loss is also well described.

I was a really good read! I can certainly recommend it and I hope to read more of her.

Review of "Obesessions of a djinni"

A ghost in the lamp? No it is not an Aladdin story. A djinni is imprisoned in an urn by an evil sorcerer and he hopes to regain his freedom by finding the reincarnation of his old love. But when he finds her the woman is already married so he tries to move her archaeologist husband out of the way.

A beautiful cover, a promising beginning but it was not the book for me. The two male characters: the husband and the djninni irritated me to bits. They are not the type of men a woman will dream of. Somehow I did not "feel" the love of Yassir for his long lost love. No sparks at all. Also sometimes a bit unclear what happens. Sex is so not described that at certain points I wondered if that just happened or not.

At 70% I more or less had enough. The story droned on. So I skipped till 90% to find out the story was not ending but just a part 1. I hate that!

Not a badly written book but just not the book for me. Too fantastic? Or just characters I could not identify with?

I got this book as an ARC to write a review about it.

Review of "The Sheikh’s American Fiancée"

This is the kind of book I like to read when I am tired and I do not have all day. It is a fast read with a happy ending. This kind of romances are often completely unrealistic and this is one of them. I mean imagine an Arabic country with champagne and gala like in a Sisi  movie? But if you forget about that the story is not that unlogical. The female heroine travels to a far away country when she finds out her sister is adopted and originally hails from that country hoping a family member will be alive to be a kidney transplant for her niece. In the meantime in that country the king has hinted he has a girlfriend. While making up the story he describes that girlfriend as American. When the heroine and the king meet he offers his help finding the grandmother of her niece but asks her to pretend she is that American woman for two weeks.. While most of this kind of stories are overdoing the bedscenes this one has a story and hardly any sex.
So if you like some light reading and a happy ending this is one for you.

I think these kind of romances could improve with a little bit of real world cultural input. Drinking champagne, walking around in a tanktop being culturally sensitive because she is not in shorts, covering shoulders (but not head)?

I was given a Free ARC by Netgalley and this is an honest review

3 stars out of 5

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

#Free book (today) #thriller "Storm Sail - A Connie Barrera Thriller"

I just downloaded it myself so there is no personal review yet.

What's the worst that can happen when a sailing yacht sets out to cross 1,600 miles of open ocean?
Connie Barrera and her fiancé, Paul Russo, were in high spirits when they left Annapolis. All their friends would be in Martinique to celebrate their arrival. Their marriage there would be a fitting end for Diamantista II's first offshore passage.
Their voyage takes a dangerous turn when Hurricane Ian springs to life in their path. Being caught in an unpredicted hurricane tests their seamanship, but there are worse things to come.
In mid-ocean with no way to communicate their plight, they're on their own when the real trouble begins.
What could be worse than a storm at sea? Read Storm Sail, the fourth Connie Barrera Thriller, and find out.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Review of "The bird king" by American Muslim writer G. Willow Wilson - A mix of history, mythology and fantasy,

This novel begins as a historical novel but before you know it you are in the middle of a fantasy story. But it is not fantasy fantasy but the mythical elements of the Arab, Jewish and Christian traditions of the era the story is set in. I will come back to that later. Let me start with giving you a glimpse of the novel.

Fatima is the concubine of the sultan of Ibero-Arab Granada. The Muslims conquered what is now Spain in the 8th century but in the 15th century the combined Christian kingdoms are on the verge of even conquering the last Muslim town on the peninsula. This ere is called the Reconquista (re- conquering). It is just before Columbus will go and discover America. It is also the time that the Catholic church was very harsh against everybody who seemed not to believe mainstream Catholicism and its secret police and judges, the Inquisition, persecuted those people.

Fatima is 18 years old and born and raised in the harem of the palace. A very silent harem as it contains only the Sultan's family and her because due to the siege everyone else is evacuated to /fled to Morocco. Her best friend since early childhood is Hassan the cartographer. They are allowed to fraternise because everyone knows he is a homosexual (and pretends not to know). When a Spanish emissary enters the harem lonely Fatima longs to be her friend

At the beginning Fatima is still a very naive girl. She has never left the palace and knows nothing about the world behind the walls. One can notice it because she does not realise that her mistress, the sultan-mother, does love her. The sultan is a very handsome man who is kind to her (she is even allowed to call him by his given name and not his title during orgasm - oh my) but who only sees her as an object to have sex with. When he takes her to his bed when she is 15 she blurts out she loves him and he just laughs. However during the last days of the siege there grows a deeper connection between them. Fatima realises that she could have loved him very much if he only had allowed her the freedom to initiate or refuse her affection instead of deciding when he wanted it. When she then embraces him in reflex, for the first time he allows her to take the lead and they start to make love. Only to be interrupted by a messenger.

When Fatima realises her friend Hassan is in mortal danger she runs off to save him and they have to leave all that is familiar behind.

Like I said there are a lot of mythical elements in this novel what makes it a fantasy story. Some I did recognise with my Christian background like the splinter in the eye and the Leviathan and I know what Arab jinns are supposed to be but that was it. A lot of the other things were a complete mystery to me and I only found out about their origin when I googled myself silly after I finished the book and I wondered if there was more to it then I thought. I did not know that the story Fatima and Hassan tell each other "the conference of the birds" is a Persian poem in which all kind of birds who represent human flaws go to look for the king of the birds. Nor did I know that the legend of the Christian bishops fleeing before the Muslim invaders to the island Antillia was a story told in the 15th century and maybe found its origin in pre-Columbian discoveries of America. I am sure I still missed other references. Like the bones and the boot? That what is regarded Satan in myths?

Exactly that fact that some legends are a bit familiar made me wonder while I was reading the novel what it was really about. Hence the Google session afterwards. Those who have read Umberto Eco "The Island of the Day Before" might recognise that feeling. I also wondered if like the play by Jean-Paul Sartre the people were really in hell or a kind of afterlife.

Like Umberto Eco books some parts of this novel is a bit slow. But the prose is beautiful. This rang a bell with me as an immigration lawyer: "The real struggle on this earth is not between those who want peace and those who want war. It's between those who want peace and those who want justice. If justice is what you want, then you may often be right, but you will rarely be happy."

I would recommend the writer to write a short introduction to the book explaining the historical setting. I can imagine some of the American readers not even knowing where Spain is let alone Granada (saw a reviewer here write Morocco). And explain that the Inquisition is not the Reconquista (another thing I see here mixed by the reviewers) And maybe a kind of Afterword (what is the proper word in English for that?) explaining the origins of the mythical elements in the book. Because I see a lot of the reviewers on NetGalley get lost and also underestimate the complexity of the story.

The novel will be published in March 2019. I received an ARC from Netgalley providing I would write an honest review.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A regency romance and thriller combined: "The Marquess (Regency Nobles Book 2)" by Patricia Rice

The novel starts with a townhouse burning. The two cousins who live there manage to escape with their lives but the rich cousin is badly burned. The poor one wonders why people wanted something bad to happen with her nice cousin.

This romance novel is longer than the usual regency romance. This one does not stop after the hero and heroine slept with each other and fell in love (yes that seems the way to do it even in Regency romances nowadays). Only halfway down the book they then have to find out who is putting her life and that of her cousin in danger.

Although sometimes a bit slow the writer is good in world building and creating believable characters. I was sorry to see the book ending.

Review of "Isabella of Angouleme" by Erica Lainé

Set in England and medieval English ruled what is now Western France. A few centuries after Normandy nobles conquered England the descendant of William the Conqueror is king of England and has still vast lands in France although Normandy is recently lost by King John (the evil brother of Richard Lionheart known by the general public from Robin Hood movies). Kind John died and his minor son is now King of England and the lands in France. His mother the queen mother arrives in Angouleme to rule her ancestral home in the name of her son.

Unbeknownst to me this novel was the middle part of a trilogy around the historical figure of Isabella of Angouleme and the people around her like her son the English king and her husband a count in what is now Southern France. You can read it without having read part 1 but of course will miss the end of her story when you do not read the last novel.

At the beginning of the novel I expected it to be a story centred around Isabella and we more or less looking out of her eyes. However the story is told as a kind of spider on the wall looking in on other people as well like the young king, his tutor, the French king, the count de Lusignan etcetera. This makes it less a novel and more a history book if you know what I mean. I did not at all identify myself with Isabella.

Because of that I would recommend this novel to people who like to read history books. For people who hope to find a medieval romance or adventure novel this book is not for them. I think the people who want to learn more about the historical facts of this era would enjoy reading the novel.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Review of "The line between", the new novel by Tosca Lee

This one kept me awake as it is very captivating. This novel is more or less two separate stories that connect in Wynter Roth. At the beginning of the novel Wynter is banned from the religious cult she grew up in and in Alaska a hog eats from a defrosted Caribou carcass.

One storyline is Wynter looking back on her life so far. As a young girl her mum took her daughters and joined a religious cult that runs a settlement and sells heirloom seeds. Through the eyes of a child and teenager we see the cracks in the veneer. This part of the novel was the most interesting and the best psychologically developed.

This story is woven into a pandemic disaster story. Some months after Wynter went to live with her late mother's best friend that lady's husband, a doctor, is called to research weird cases of early onset dementia that are popping up. One evening he calls them and warns them to leave the city as he expects a pandemic to happen. While the family sleeps in preparation of an early departure Wynter's sister rings the doorbell and hands Wynter a package related to the disease that was bought by the leader of the cult. From that moment on the story turns into an action thriller with Wynter crossing a country in chaos.

That action part of the story is very entertaining but lacks the depth of the other storyline. For instance I did not feel her grieve. But that might be due to the anti-anxiety medication she is still taking.  But developing a serum is as far as I know quite time-consuming.

What is interesting to see is how the writer puts one religious man who is a prepper (someone who thinks the world will end soon and hordes food and supplies) but who is utterly selfish against another prepper who is religious in his actions (and named something sounding like Peter's son) who is a good person and utterly unselfish. I like it when in books religious people are not painted as all nutcases or people faking goodness.

 I am wondering what the title mean. The fine line between good and bad? Or the line between the two stories? Or the line between the two sisters?

All in all a very entertaining book. A four stars out of five.

This is an ARC. The book will be available for sale in January 2019