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

Monday, 3 September 2018

A free novel for you: (today's offer) "Murder at Merisham Lodge: Miss Hart and Miss Hunter Investigate"

A #free copy for you:

In this delightful mystery set in 1930s England, house servants Joan and Verity put on their detective caps after their employer is murdered at her country estate. Can they save an innocent man by catching the real killer?

Review of "The Sadist and the stolen Princess"

Writing a story set in a historical period has one big pitfall : historical incorrectness. When I received this novel as an ARC to write a review about it that was what almost stopped me reading. I have the feeling the author mixed up the Edwardian era with the Victorian one. As far as I know London in 1880 had no electrical lighting nor telephones. Moreover the Duke is addressed in a fashion like in the Middle Ages. But I thought that the author needed a chance and it would be fair when I continued reading.

The thing is that the lovestory that develops is endearing. I have nothing with BDSM so that is a challenge in itself. But here we have a man who only learned that intimacy had to involve pain otherwise it would not arouse him and who regards himself as disfigured and a woman who needs a bit of fear. However it is made clear that hurt should never involve harm. So all what happens is a domineering man who might be rough or bites. But due to the bond they start to share mentally that is not even a prerequisite later on. I smiled when Willow remarked she could not understand 'Pride and Prejudice' and thought "Well it is a matter of what you fancy it seems".

This is again a timetravel romance. An American woman does research in London in the present day and is transported to the late 19th century. More or less right into the arms of the disgraced Duke of Warrick who takes her home. Hiding in his abandoned townhouse they get to know each other better. That part I liked best.

The book is part of a series and that might be the reason why his family history and what happened in India is not that well explained.

So far a 3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Prince Edward's Warrant by Mel Starr - review of a historical mystery novel

When you are a fan of the Cadfael mysteries this might be the book for you as well. We are still in medieval England but a century after the Cadfael settings. Master Hugh is a surgeon who is summoned to the court of the crown prince of England, the man we now know as 'the black prince'. Prince Edward is not feeling well. His intestines are troubling him again and master Hugh has cured him before. However during the first evening meal at court the knight who accompanied Hugh to court drops dead. It is soon clear the man was poisoned. The prince gives master Hugh the task to go and find the murderer.

The murder mystery is not the biggest appeal of this novel but the worldbuilding is. I had the feeling I was watching a movie about 14th century London. The writer weaves all kind of historical, medical and theological details in the story and also uses a lot of contemporary words. You can almost see the houses in a street in London been built over the street and thus blocking the sunlight, the traffic jams on London bridge or the different food people dining in the manor house were given depending on their status and thus seating. I also was surprised of the difference between a surgeon and a physician in those days. It is like reading a history lesson disguised as a well written mystery.

It is part of a series but this novel was the first I read of that series - I was given it as a ARC to write an honest review about it - and it works well as a stand alone story. Though I would advice people to read the series in a chronological order as sometimes older events are mentioned.

a 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

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Our selection of free novels and textbooks of today ( 15th of August, Part 2)

A secret hidden for forty years is about to come out. The man at the centre of this secret discovers from his dying adoptive mother that he has a family he knew nothing about. With nothing to go on, he is determined to find them whatever the cost. However, the more he learns, the more dangerous his quest becomes. But when he finds out the truth it is so shocking and scandalous, it may well cost him his life and the lives of his family.

On the same day that France surrenders to the Nazis, Jack Mooney--a New Yorker, barely out of high school--hitches a ride to Montreal, where he enlists as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. The last thing he says to his little brother before leaving home is, "Don't forget me, kid."

Two years later a telegram arrives: Jack, now a Spitfire pilot flying for the Royal Air Force, is missing in action somewhere in German-occupied Europe.

With only the telegram to guide him, 12-year-old Tommy Mooney arms himself to the hilt: with a sling-shot, a boomerang, a bow and arrow set, and an indomitable sense of youthful optimism. Mounting his Schwinn bicycle, he heads for the Brooklyn Harbor, setting a course for London, England, where he plans to recruit Jack's British fiancée before continuing on to Nazi-occupied Belgium.

Thus begins a journey that one reader calls, "A rattling, high concept, wartime adventure--with a wonderfully quirky and incredibly brave hero-narrator."

Soon enough, hope turns to foreboding--as it begins to look as though Tommy is being deceived by the Gestapo, used in a plot to expose a Resistance network created to help downed airmen. "Bravery," he realizes, "is like teeth plaque. It takes time to build up."

Hearkening back to the Hitchcock film, Saboteur, and the WWII era mysteries of Eric Ambler and Helen MacInnis, Telegram For Mrs. Mooney will introduce you to a truly likable, sometimes irascible, archetypal "everyman" hero. It's a edge-of-your-seat, hair-raising, nail-biter of an adventure. A novel with the power to invoke the fearless child within you.

Introducing: The Business of Inclusion



Revolution not evolution; Introducing : The Business of Inclusion presents a radical and timely challenge to business leaders and HR Professionals who are focussed on the equality and diversity agenda.
This book is not about having a conscience about difference - it’s about being conscious of difference. It’s not about assimilating and homogenizing difference - it’s about valuing difference. It’s not about making people who are different, the same as us. No, it’s about the power that an organisation can derive from deliberately nurturing and integrating heterogeneous groups of people so that we fit together.
The bottom line is that this book is about the bottom line.

About the authors

Linbert Spencer OBE has been enabling organisations and individuals to transform themselves for more than 30 years. He is vastly experienced in the development of diverse talent. His work around this agenda was formerly recognized by being named in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list in 2008.
Author, consultant, trainer and coach, he has facilitated seminars and workshops across the world. He is an innovative, inspirational facilitator with proven experience of effective board level and community interventions, and leadership team development. In 2004 he co-founded The Windsor Fellowship, a national charity that aims to prepare minority ethnic undergraduates for management roles in industry, commerce and the public sector.
Paul Anderson-Walsh has been an L&D practitioner since 1997. He has a vast amount of experience in facilitating high-level strategic change workshops. He has worked with a wide variety of organisations including: Cambridge University Press, Oxford Summer School, The Disney Corporation, The Design Council, Sir Robert McAlpine, Defra, Bank of New York Mellon, NWLH NHS Trust and Rabobank. He is highly regarded for his ability to help management teams work together.
Paul is also the founder and director of The Grace Project – a charity dedicated to working with people to help them discover their identity and resolve issues of self- worth and self-esteem. Paul has written three books on the subject. He is a well- respected commentator who is called upon by the BBC & he is a regular contributor at Premier Radio. Paul is the former CEO of The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

The Centre for Inclusive Leadership
Albert House, 256-260 Old Street, London, EC1V 9DD
+44 (0) 203 871 2740


Something about us...
  1. The Context
  2. Equality Legislation
  3. Why it Matters
  4. The 4 A’s
  5. The Inclusion Hypothesis
  6. The Performance Formula
  7. The Inclusion Framework
  8. The X Factor
  9. Endnotes


Our selection of today's free novels (15/8/18) Part 1

In Passau, Hitler Youth member Emil and his friends stumble upon a shortwave radio, and forbidden BBC broadcasts reveal the truth behind German propaganda. Now they are determined to share their discovery — even if it means risking their lives. Get it here:      ++++++  
On a humid day in June 1806, on the edge of Ohio's Great Black Swamp, seventeen-year-old Susanna Quiner watches from behind a maple tree as a band of Potawatomi Indians kidnaps her four older sisters from their cabin. With both her parents dead from Swamp Fever and all the other settlers out in their fields, Susanna makes the rash decision to pursue them herself. What follows is a young woman's quest to find her sisters, and the parallel story of her sisters' new lives.

Over the course of one summer, the lives of all five women are transformed as they contend with starvation, slavery, betrayal, and love. Fast-paced, richly detailed, this is a riveting novel that demonstrates the true wildness of the wilderness, and the rugged perseverance of those who find themselves there.


 For Megan Montaigne, library director, living in the top floor of the mansion-turned-library is a dream come true. At least it was, before the murders started.

Megan Montaigne has always secretly wanted to be a forensics investigator. The small-town library director has just begun rebuilding her life after tragedy tore it apart less than a year ago, and is happily settling into her new apartment on the top floor of the library by the river. But when a local celebrity turns up dead, the time has come to put her sleuthing fantasies into action. Has she unwittingly invited the murderer into her own home? And will she be able to prove her innocence before she becomes a victim herself?

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A selection of novel/stories that are #FREE today (14th of August)

The first one I have read myself and it is a great novel. The rest are new to me too. Just click on the bookcover and you will be directed to Amazon and more information Today they are all free.


Anna Kronberg lives in Victorian London’s worst rookery, offering medical treatment to prostitutes, vagrants, and criminals. To her, plugging holes and mopping up blood is normal. Stitching the slashed face of a young prostitute is not. Witnesses refuse to talk. The police can’t be bothered with yet another injured whore. But whispers are spreading about a man who pays well for a few harmless knife marks. No one dares reveal the man’s identity. Only Garret O’Hare - a thief Anna barely knows - reluctantly agrees to help her investigate the assault. But when the injured girl disappears, a veil of silence descends upon the slum. And Anna learns that she is no longer the hunter, but the hunted. Warning: medical procedures, poverty, and prostitution are depicted without apology. If you enjoyed The Alienist by Caleb Carr, and dark mysteries and thrillers by David Penny, Anne Perry, Louise Penny, Jo Nesbo, Alex Grecian, Nelson DeMille, Daniel Silva, Lee Child, and Ken Follett, odds are you’ll enjoy my mystery & thriller series as well.


Elizabeth Lara built a perfect life as San Francisco’s top divorce attorney, but when she loses her great-aunt Mags, the woman who raised her, she boards a plane and leaves it all behind.

The Irish shores welcome her as she learns a shocking truth, kept secret for thirty-five years. Devastated and now alone in the world, Beth tries to find peace in a beautiful cottage by Lough Rhiannon, but peace isn’t what fate had in mind. Almost as soon as she arrives, Beth’s solitary retreat into the magic wilds of Ireland is interrupted by Connor Bannon. A man with light brown hair, ice blue eyes and a secret of his own. He’s gorgeous, grieving, and completely unexpected.

With the help of Mags’ letters, the colorful townspeople of Dingle, and Connor, Elizabeth might just find a way back to the girl she lost long ago and become the woman she always wanted to be.


#1 Bestseller in Fantasy Anthologies and Dark Fantasy Seventeen magical stories from NY Times and USA Today bestsellers and award-winning authors that will entice you to the darker side of faerie tales. More Grimm than Disney, in this collection you’ll find twists on Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Snow Queen, Cinderella, The Pied Piper, Alice in Wonderland, and Red Riding Hood, plus new tales paying homage to the old traditions.

A bit of Post-Apocalyps: The Ending Series

 A nice read but not much worldbuilding

Two childhood friends survive a pandemic and try to reunite.
A smooth story but not very descriptive. What is the level of intelligence of the crazies? Why not build a fortified city? Why not put out sentries?
Part of a series but luckily all on Kindle Unlimited.

3 stars out of 5

The story continues

After being reunited the group faces the Colony and finds out about the origin of
the virus while trying to escape.
Good story.

4 stars out of 5

There are more sequels but I moved to something else.

Historic novel with folklore elements "The sultan, the vampyr and the soothsayer"

The timeperiod is just before the conquests of Constantinople by the Ottomans. The main characters telling the story are Sultan Murat, heir Mehmet, a consort, a visir, Vlad Dracula, his father and some religious men.

The multiple person account makes it hard to identify with one character. And with all Greece philosophy, folk superstition and such it is a difficult read. What remains is the thought what a nasty madman Mehmet the Conqueror was. But when you look in a real history book that is all the more clear: he liked young boys. Not only the brother of Vlad the Impaler but also the son of a Byzantine Duke who he ordered to give him the child and when the father refused he murdered/ enslaved the whole family and carted the boy off to his bed anyways. However in those days young girls were treated similarly. Different times indeed.

AMAZON blurb:
" 1442: When Vlad Dracula arrives at the court of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, his life is turned upside down. His father Dracul cannot protect him; he must battle his demons alone. And when the Sultan calls for the services of a soothsayer, even the shrewd teller of fortunes is unprepared for what he learns.

Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks are advancing through the Balkans with Vienna in their sights and Constantinople, the Orthodox Greek capital, within their grasp. As Eastern Europe struggles against the tide of a Muslim advance it cannot counter, Western Christendom needs only one prize to overthrow its enemies."

Not a ghost story but a ghost's story: review of "A vain and indecent woman" by Colin Falconer

I have read many of the historical books of this writer. He also writes contemporary action novels but I like to read about historic events. This new novel reads as if you are reading a romance novel and I only realised in the end which important historical figures the story was about (I am not from the UK). So let me start with a short history lesson first as that will enhance your reading pleasure I think.

Have you ever seen the movie "Braveheart"? For those who did and remember: still remember that gay crown prince? That one stirred quite some commotion in medieval England as he had a couple of male favourites who used their influence to gain power. In the end the king is dethroned by his wife and young son. After a putsch the son regains power from mum and her lover and becomes a famous king and the father of 'The Black Prince' who was a powerful general during the Hundred Years War. During those times Joan of Kent was regarded as one of the most beautiful women of Europe. (end of history lesson)

The novel starts with the half-brother of the gay king mentioned above leaving his castle to go to parliament. Before he realises it he is sentenced and executed. His ghost refuses to leave to heaven and he stands guard for his beloved daughter irritated by the fact that he cannot do a thing.

The story of Joan's life is told by the ghost of her father hoovering around her. I think it is a brilliant trick to tell a story like that. It makes us all-seeing witnesses. Like I said the novel reads as smooth as a romance novel although it has believable character developments and interesting historical facts explained like jousting only a small part of tournaments, the merchant republics in Belgium in those days, royal arranged marriages that developed into loving relationships and the like. You certainly would not want to be a woman in 14th century England! Even the very wealthy girls were just ordered around.

I can certainly recommend this book. I got a copy of the manuscript from the writer so I could help with fishing typos and mistakes out but had no time to do that so I just read it after it was published.

And guess what: next book I picked up was a detective and who were witnesses of the murder there? Joan and  Eduard!

A princess falls in love with a handsome knight; the stuff of fairy tales, but not very remarkable, even in an age where love was hardly a prerequisite for marriage.
It is the princess, Joan of Kent, who is remarkable. Forbidden by the king to marry, she does it anyway, in secret. When the King discovers what she has done, he is furious. He has more pressing concerns than love and forces her to bigamy.
But still she will not give up.
Who is this young woman, who would dare defy her family, and even her king, for ten long years just to win the man she loves? Will she succeed – and what will happen if she does?
She was known in her time as ‘a vain and indecent woman.’ This is her true story, told by the one man who knew her best, - though she did not remember him at all."

ARC review of "Side effect" - a medical romance novel with a bit different set up

If you like a romantic story with a lot of bedsport and no huge twists this is the novel for you. I was given and ARC so I could read an review it.

Unlike most of the "rich tycoon"-novels here the man is not a powerful alpha male but an insecure man suffering from agoraphobia after being shot by someone. (Nevertheless he is still super handsome and wealthy). His mother asks the intern of her psychiatrist to try and treat him as he does not cooperate with that psychiatrist and has not left his apartment for six months. When mum also puts a lot of money in Kendall's account and suggests to sleep with him in case that will help, the young student starts to worry that this will be seen as grooming of a vulnerable patients and have her kicked out of university and banned to practise. All the while there is the threat of the shooter who is still on the loose.

I discovered four timeline mistakes in the novel. No big messing up ones but like for instance when Kendall meets Zander it is mentioned as the first time she meets Zander but in fact she has met him before.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

"Smuggler's bounty" - a romance with a lot of fondling that might be interesting for young people

When I was in my teens my (male) cousins and I watched a movie adaptation of "Frenchman's creek" by Daphne du Maurier about an English noblewoman who falls during the Restoration for a French pirate who is hunted all over Cornwall. I hoped this novel would be as good.

"Smuggler's bounty", I reviewed for Netgalley, is a bit similar. A young English noblewoman moves to family on the coast and encounters a dashing smuggler.

My teens are long long in the past so maybe that is why this novel does not impress me so much. There is a lot of fondling going on and a bit of smuggling but I think this book is more for teenage virgins than for middle aged lawyers.