Tuesday, 22 January 2019

A novel dealing with labour migration to Kuwait and the vulnerabilty of women working as maids there

As you might know I sometimes review novels for the Netgalley site. I did one earlier this week and trying to figure out what was the writer's background discovered another novel she wrote. The one I had to review was  certainly not a favourite but this one I bought really was.

I am an immigration lawyer by trade and have read reports about the labour migration from India, Pakistan and other Asian countries to the Gulf. Sometimes you read reports about the vulnerable situation female house personnel is.

According to Amazon Pamela Q. Fernandes was born and raised in Kuwait. She's seen first hand the country's laws and landscape shift after fleeing the First Gulf War with her family and returning to the country in 1996.

This novel "Painting Kuwait Violet" is set a few years after the First Gulf War in Kuwait. The novel is about Indian Violet who gets herself a job as a maid in Kuwait. In that household several maids have fled and one has been killed. The question is who is the murderer. She is warned by others not to mention if she sees a weird thing and even those first days she discovers one of the woman who was in the plane has supposedly killed herself upon arrival.

Does that mean the novel is very anti-Kuwaiti? Not at all. Violet makes friends with a daughter and there is someone who tries to protect here all those years even when she never realises that up till the end.

While I missed the colour locale, the local background in another of miss Fernandes stories, this novel is like an anthropological study of Kuwaiti life around the turn of the millennium. The whole thing of modern day slavery and the lives of rich Kuwaiti. But also the difference in standing of Bedouin Kuwaiti and the others and the lack of prospects for women. 

Here in Europe we are used to residence permits as a status given by the government to an individual but several of my visa clients told me about the fact that in the Gulf and Saudi a residence permit is part of your employment contract and thus you are very dependant on your boss.

The book was a very interesting read and the thriller was entertaining although I came to the same conclusion as Madam. Very well done and the fact it is written by a local is obvious.

AMAZON blurb:

 In 1996, a young graduate, Violet Baretto leaves Goa to work in oil-rich Kuwait as a maid for a wealthy Kuwaiti woman. To her horror, she finds herself accused of theft, her colleagues assaulted, thrown from moving cars or performing 'favors.'

Sabah Dashti, the Kuwaiti matriarch can't tell Violet the truth; nine of Sabah's previous maids have absconded, five of them were found pregnant or that the police think she's running a prostitution ring. Sabah has no idea who's responsible.

Kuwait is still patriarchal and women are second-class citizens. Despite their differences, both Sabah and Violet are hungry for success as it will give them a chance to live life on their own terms. Together they build a thriving business. But a woman-hating, killer has set eyes on them and will not let them succeed at any cost.

Poignant, chilling and honest, Painting Kuwait Violet underlines the reality of women on either side of the country's class divide.
Wonen algemeen

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Free today: "Deep Wave" By David Berens

Off the coast of Key West, a shadow in the water leads to a secret salvage mission. But if Troy Bodean wants to retrieve whatever treasure awaits on the ocean floor, he’ll have to outrun a hurricane — and stay one step ahead of the killers who are chasing him.

"Lifeguard" or "Zomer van verraad" by James Patterson - review

My local library was selling "old" books for 50 cents and I picked up what according to the bookcover had been the "Summerhit of 2006. It was the Dutch translation of this novel "Zomer van verraad" (translated as "the summer of treason") what I think is a better title as the original as only the first pages are about the main character's job as a lifeguard.

Ned Kelly is working as a lifeguard after his career suffered from a scandal. Coming from a crime family he had managed to get himself a university degree but is now biding his time.

His cousin and some friends from Boston ask him to help them steal a couple of valuable paintings. The only thing he has to do is to make sure some burglar alarms across town go off and distract the police.

Around the time the heist is planned he meets a lovely girl on the beach who seems to be wealthy.  They dream of going away together.

But then things all turn to dust and with bodies everywhere he has to prove himself innocent and find out who was behind all this.

It is a typical Patterson. A good thrilling story and easy read. Sometimes you have to reread to see the clues. The chapters switch between Ned which are narrated in the first person and the others whch are narrated in the third person. This creates a closeness to Ned while you still can witness what the others are doing. That results in a gripping death scene.

The only fault I saw was that Ned is very enamoured with Tess but as easily turns his affections elsewhere. Ok he knew Tess only a few days but this seems a bit fast.

5 star thriller

A rather bland Bollywood romance: "Wish upon a Bollywood star" by Pamela Q. Fernandes - review

As I have many Indian clients I picked this book for its Indian setting.

Cultural setting
I was thinking it was written by an Indian writer but looking at the acknowledging at the end of the novel with all the English/American sounding names I wonder if it is not written by someone from Indian decent (she looks "Indian").

I very  much missed the 'coleur locale' (the local setting) in the book. It could easily have been situated in Hollywood. Yes there are some remarks towards India mostly in food and cloths. Other things are mentioned like the Shaadi trap without explanation. With a global pool of readers in mind a bit of background would certainly improve things. Like is a marriage between someone from Kerala (what has a big ethnic Christian population) and someone from the north be like a Norwegian marrying an Italian? Caste is mentioned once. What are the implications of that in this day and age?
I also wondered about the religion of the hero and heroine. The heroine has a first name that is here a Muslim name. But she is from Christian Kerala. What is Vir? I imagine Hindu as Punjab was devided in 1948.

I also remember the uproar of a few years ago when Richard Gere kissed a Bollywood actress. In this novel there is a lot of public signs of affection. Has things changed or is this American influence of the writer?

The plot starts off totally silly (not that unusual in romances). Vir makes a remark about women being only good for the bedroom and the heroine wants to put him in his place and puts an announcement in the newspaper he is engaged. Ok so far. But why use her own name? And not realising what effect that can have on her reputation while she is in pr, educated and 26? I mean that is rather stupid. What makes the book sound like one of those completely unrealistic 1970-ties romances.

Another down grade is that the novel has moments that it is utterly boring and repetitive. I cannot feel any attraction between those two than wanting to go hankypanky with each other. Yes a lot of romances are only about bedsport and that can be entertaining read but this writer is Christian and wants to write a "clean" novel and the only mention is that they are "melting" and that he touches her "peaks and valleys". No a romance story does not need bedsports. The whole attraction can be mentally. We all swoon over Pride and Prejudice do we not? But this is boring. The man is not a nice person and he is also not a pleasure if you know what I mean.

There is also a bit of a strange storyline about a friend. Is he a total jerk or has he repented? Why letting him in when the last time he almost forced himself on you?

This kind of romances I tend to give a 3 star as in "nothing special" but due to the many flaws it is a 2 star. However some changes might help to bring it on a higher level.  It might have been a one off and I saw the writer has another novel about Kuwait that sounds promising so I am borrowing that on Kindle Unlimited to have a more general idea about her writing-style.

  • File Size: 379 KB
  • Print Length: 146 pages
  • Publisher: Inkspell Publishing (December 10, 2018)
  • Publication Date: December 10, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
ARC read via Netgalley.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Review of a cross between a detective and a romance story: "Last duke standing" by Cheryl Bolen

This lovely new book is a cross between a detective story and a romance novel.

When one morning the Duke of Fordham is found dead in his bed, his brother who was a third son inherits the title and the money. The fiancĂ©e of the recently departed Freddie,  Lady Georgiana Fenton, does not believe in a family curse but proves to Alex the new Duke that his brother was smothered. Both set out to find the murderer but can Georgiana rule Alex himself out? He had a lot to gain did he not?

The detective part is well done. The romance part as well with a hero who intrigued with someone so unlike his former love interests and a heroine who has to deal with a brother who resembles her dead fiancé but is a total different person.

The writer paints a society where conservative and reformists split parliament and families and where actresses are kept by wealthy men who pass them on just like we give a cat to a friend. The reformist and the Whig party triggered me in wanting to read up on that.

There is one flaw in the storyline however although it does no harm to the story: Georgiana has read a lot of medical books while trying to nurse her mother back to health after she had suffered from what we call a stoke. That knowledge she uses to determine that Freddie is murdered. She does that by opening the lid of the eye of the corpse. Later on in the book she is said to faint upon seeing blood and has trouble helping dress wounds. Ehhh... I think that opening a dead eye and gazing into a bloodfilled eyeball would make me faint. So I think this is a mistake by the writer. Easily remedied by asking the brother to check the colour of the eyeball for her.

Publishing date: 15th of January 2019

5 stars out of 5 for a novel in this genre.

The Deathly Portent (A Lady Fan Mystery, #2) > Review

This is the second instalment in the Lady Fan detective series. The freshly married Lady Ottilia and her husband Lord Francis are travelling towards his country estate when their carriage breaks down and is in need of repairs by a blacksmith. But in the nearest village the blacksmith has been just murdered and the villages are intend on blaming the local witch, a young woman. Waiting for the new part for their carriage Lady Fan tries to save the witch and solve the crime.

The setting is a small, rural village and a select group of villages are the suspects.

As I do not believe in people having a second sight that was not the most intriguing thing to me.

It is a detective story that reminded me of the old pocketbooks from the fifties and sixties.

I am more a fan of book 1 and book 3 of this series.

Free preview below.