Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Review of "The Portrait" by Cassandra Austen - quite entertaining

I spent an enjoyable day reading this novel in which a handicapped English lady and a navy captain befriend each other. Both have some serious secrets from their past they try to hide and had a horrible childhood. And they have to cope with a lot of mystery trying to destroy their lives.

Although the writer wants to be a Jane Austen that she is not. Captain Avebury is depicted as a honourable, loving and gregarious man but I sometimes do not understand what drives Catherine. Maybe the writer wants us to realise it is not parentage or history that defines us but our own actions.

Nevertheless it is a Regency novel with a lot of action and mystery and not a "steamy" one nor a "clean" one. Just a good one :)

4 stars out of 5. It was published on the 31rd of December 2018 and I received an ARC copy but was not obliged to write a review.

Review of "Realm" by Alexandrea Weis - a real Greec tragedy about Alexander the Great

"Realm" is the story of Macedonian king Alexander the Great who conquered Persia, Egypt and the known world all the way to India, seen through the eyes of his Persian-born first wife Roxana.

At first the novel gives the impression of a romance novel but that somehow does not work because I certainly did not like Alexander as he is depicted here. He lets his wife travel in the luggage train of his army and only occasionally visits her to have a night of passion and then leaves her alone for months at the time.

As most of Roxana's life consists on travelling with the army waiting for her husband, that part of the novel might be very historically correct but a bit boring.

The last half of the novel is more of a thriller and quite captivating. Roxana the Persian has to keep her son and the heir to Alexander safe within a turmoil of Greec civil war violence.

In my language "a Greec tragedy" is what is called a story with a lot of death and destruction and heartache and that is certainly the case here.

Wikipedia and the writer do not agree on events later in the book but I can imagine why the writer choose a more consious and thus dramatic event.

Due to the good last part of the novel a 4 starts out of 5.

It will be published May the 14th 2019. Mine was an ARC-copy I received for free and I was not obliged to write a review.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Found #free on Bookbub: "Ice" by Kevin Tinto

By Kevin Tinto

In New Mexico, archaeologist Leah makes an incredible discovery among the remains of an ancient civilization: rare crystals found only in Antarctica. But the answers she unravels may threaten the globe in this page-turning novel with nearly 1,800 five-star Goodreads ratings.
Free! $0.99
Action and Adventure   ICE!
Archaeologist Leah Andrews stumbles upon something inexplicable in southwestern New Mexico: inside a dark cavern lies an undiscovered, Native American cliff dwelling abandoned for 800 years. While twisting through one of the narrow underground passageways, Leah's flashlight illuminates the remains of a violent massacre.

Ancient human remains--all slaughtered in a long-ago massacre--cover the cavern floor, along with a number of brilliantly colored, granite crystals. The rare crystals are native to only one place on earth: a frozen mountain range in central Antarctica.

Could Native Americans have traveled to the frozen continent of Antarctica 800 years prior to the first known human exploration? If so how? And why?

There's only one person who can get Leah to those mountains in Antarctica: her estranged husband and climbing guide Jack Hobson.

At their destination they make a stunning discovery that will change history and science forever. But Leah's team is far from the only interested party.

As her secret makes its way to the highest levels of government, a race to seize the Russian-claimed Antarctic territory brings the world to the brink of nuclear conflict.

Review of 'castle on the rise' by Kirsty Cambron

This novel will attract American readers with Irish ancestry and will also be a good read for people who like to travel in a chair to another country or who are interested in history. People who like to read a romance have to be aware that not all is romance. Have no fear oh prudes: There are no bedscenes and although there is a lot of violence in the book it is never described in gory details. And although it is published by a Christian publisher there is no preaching in it either.

So as I am not an Irish American and also never felt any sympathy for an uprising when your countrymen are fighting in trenches in France and refusing to go and fight the Nazies two decades later because you do not want to fight alongside the English there was a bit of a challenge if this had been a very overly patriotic and heroworshipping novel. Luckily it is not and I enjoyed reading it. I do however have to warn the readers: you might want to keep Wikipedia close as it is full with real historic figures and looking them up will make the book more interesting to read.

The castle on the hill in the title is a ruin outside of Dublin in Ireland. It features in all three of the storylines in this novel. We follow the stories of three women - one during the Irish Rebellion in 1798, one during the Easter Rising in 1916 and one in the present. It is also the story of the bond between two families over the ages. And in all of the three storylines someone is willing to pay with his life to help others.

It is obvious that the storyline about the Easter Rising is the backbone of the novel. Lady Isobel - Issy - is a member of the Anglo-Irish upperclass. Her brother is away fighting in the trenches and her younger brother and her friends have joined a group of Irish nationalists. Issy is a keen photographer and a fan of a lady who is a war photographer in France. When the rebellion starts she wants to document it with pictures so people will remember the true events. This part of the novel made me realise the independence movement was not a strictly catholic thing. Issy is a protestant and rebelleaders mentioned were for instance socialists or catholics or suffragettes. What also became clear by reading the book and checking Wikipedia was that the Easter Rising was not that much supported by the Irish people but that the English cruelty and the wave of death sentences and executions afterwards swayed the people.

The story of Meave is set in 1798-1799. She is an English lady whose family owns the manor near the ruined castle and also an estate in Berkshire in England. Her parents tried to be very good towards their Irish tenants giving them food and shelter and kindness. But then her brother the heir was found killed on the Dublin road assumedly by Irish rebels. Her mother went ill with grief and illness and died. Her other brother left for England. Now Meave has to cope with a father who is drowning his enormous grief and pain in a bottle and is unfit to govern the estate. She feels lost and alone. And then they are even attacked and her father's price stallion is stolen. Searching the area for the thief and the horse Meave finds what she thinks must be the bandit laying severely wounded on the road. She saves this stranger but he saves her as well. I found their story very moving. That man is so honourable and kind. Someone who is not a weak sissy but who purposely decides to love. This part of the book also depicts the cruelty of the English (read British) against the Irish. It seems Britain managed to loose the USA and Ireland because of the callous behaviour towards its own subjects there. Something we have to remember when treating other people. And although the Easter Rising part of the novel is very pro-revolutionaries in this part of the story also the cruelty of burning down estates with English owners in it is mentioned and frowned upon and made clear that certain people would make use of the situation to do their own evil under a flag of revolution.

The present day story is about two cousins who apparently featured in an earlier novel as well. One I did not read and also did not miss. It is about broken hearts and about cancer. Maybe because I had cancer the shaving of the hair etc. did not leave that much of an impression although I have to admit that the scene where the news is told had me freshly in tears. This part of the novel is more a discovering of the mysteries of the past and showing a now peaceful Ireland then a full story to me.

I liked the book. It is well written and also well researched. It is a good way to get to introduced to Irish history.

Published the 5th of February 2019

Monday, 4 February 2019

Review of "By Light of Hidden Candles" by Daniella Levy - Jewish soulsearching and a quest to discover the past

In a mud hut in the Jewish Quarter of 16th-century Fez, a dying woman hands her granddaughter a heavy gold ring—and an even heavier secret. Five hundred years later, Alma Ben-Ami journeys to Madrid to fulfill her ancestor’s final wish. She has recruited an unlikely research partner: Manuel Aguilar, a young Catholic Spaniard whose beloved priest always warned him about getting too friendly with Jews (Amazon)

It has been quite some time ago that I was given this novel to review. I started reading and then completely forgot about it. One of the good things of a phone dying on you is that when you have to set up the new one you discover a book you still have to read :)

The title "By the light of Hidden Candles" refers to how converso's (Jews who had converted to Catholicism) for generation and generations maintained their religion in secret.

The book tells two separate stories but it is easy to understand that somewhere those tales will come together.

It starts with old grandmother Miriam telling a story to her granddaughter in Morocco. She was a Jewish girl living in Spain in the 15th century. The Inquisition was bearing down on the converso's and the Jews who helped them and they were already driven from their original town. Her life and that of her father become in even more danger.

The other story is a contemporary one.  Alma, an orthodox Jewish American student, and Manuel, an catholic immigrant from Spain, who wants to become a priest, both follow a course about Spanish heritage in college. They are offered the opportunity to do research in Spain as a kind of summer project. Alma wants to find the descendant of the owner of the gold ring that has passed down 26 generations of Jewish women and which according to family lore belonged to the Christian man who saved their ancestor. Manuel wants to find his own ancestors as his father who died very young always claimed they came from nobility.

You can see the plot coming can you not?

A large part of the book is spend on Alma explaining her Jewish faith and habits to Manuel. He joins her in the synagogue and has sabbath meals with the rabbi and the other local Jews. Manuel is very interested in religion and Alma is not wanting to put any water in the wine so to speak so they have to travel with a whole suitcase with kosher food and pots and pans.

The book certainly gives you a nice introduction into Orthodox Jewish daily life and also a bit into the religion.

However it is very clear that it is written from a Jewish point of view. I got quite sick of Alma's righteousness in the beginning. She definitely sees the Jews as the Chosen Ones and only them. But luckily the Jewish heaven is also open for others.

I am raised as a Christian protestant so am neither Jewish nor Catholic. I can understand the resentment against the Spanish Inquisition and all what came with it.  I hail from a country that also felt the oppression of the Spanish Catholics of those days and also here people got burned at the stake. It was one of the reasons my country fought a war of Independence. But the fact that even in the 21st century religions deems interfaith marriages forbidden and even worse not offering the possibility to convert makes me very uncomfortable. One could choose to raise children in a certain religion could one not? A person is free to choose for himself is he not? But that is my protestant upbringing speaking. However the way Alma and her family look towards non-Jewish lovers almost sounds racist to me. At least Miriam made a choice because she wanted to be able to practise her faith. I was also surprised to see the interreligious marriage ban and the khoser food rules explained as a way to preserve a Jewish people without the risk of complete integration with the rest of society. I always thought it was because it was written down in the Torah .

Not only does Alma not have any interest in the Christian religion of Manuel also the writer is not delving into that.

The plot is not that complex but the book is an interesting view into Orthodox Jewish daily life, gives some glimpses of Spain and is sometimes funny.


I thought the reasoning "Oh I am Jewish by blood so now I will switch faiths" quite shallowly done. Someone where catholic doctrine is ingrained on for decades does not only have to change views on Jesus but also on Catholic things like the Virgin Mary worship and the whole culture around holy women and men - the saints. I understand that the writer is Jewish but Christianity is more then 'do you believe in trinity or not'.

In the book Fes is described as a desert and the Jews live in mud huts. Somewhere else moving to Morocco is also described as a bad option. I wonder if that is influence of the very anti-Arab views one sees nowadays under certain American Jewish circles. I have been in Fes and in the Mellah. Fes is not in the desert and was for long time the capital. Moorish or Arab culture was in the days of Miriam a lot more advanced as the medieval Christian one. Also the Ottoman sultan thanked the Spanish rulers sarcasticly when he offered the Jews and the Moors a place to live when Spain banished them saying Spain was sending him their best people.

Another thing I found odd was that the woman who had Jewish ancestors and lived kosher did not seem to know why while she even lighted sabbath candles. Maybe that was a glitch in the story.

All in all a 5 out of 5 stars

My homework: To read the book "Lichter" by Willia Cortvriendt

My physiotherapist advised me to read this book. It is about how certain food will give you a feeling of fullness and satisfaction while the so called diet products only let you yearn for more things to eat. That resulting in eating more calories.

There is also a chapter about packing weight on in your belly region because your body is creating insulin spikes and how you can try to make that stop. It sounds a lot to me as the Caveman-diet of a few years ago - low on sugar and carbohydrates.

I do not believe there is an English translation but I noticed he wrote several books in English as well.

For those in the English speaking part of the world have a look on Amazon for his other books.

Somehow they all timetravel to Scotland - reviews of the Draig series by Lisa Dawn Wadler

I spent a few days holed up in my home with snow. With my Kindle Unlimited account I stumbled upon a timetravel-series that at first seemed to be another Outlander clone. But while most of the novels were that kind of romance the one that is supposed to be the first chronologically is pure science fiction. Not as good as Outlander and not historically anywhere correct but a set of feel good stories some better than others. I think Draig is Dragon in Gaelic or is supposed to mean that. The Laird has a dragon tattoo, knife and sword and it is his symbol.

The Draig's Choice by Lisa Dawn Wadler

A young woman sees a strange door open and jumps through it to catch her dog
who seems stuck on the other side, to find herself trapped in medieval Scotland. A
bit slow "Highlander"-clone full of marriage bliss.

The Draig's Wife 

Good story with some historical mistakes. Another time travel novel. With quite a good plot BUT 1) potatoes before Columbus? 2) Scots drinking Irish Whiskey? 3) Tall blackhaired green eyed giants while I tower over most of the ginger haired ones and am only 5'10" (although I was told by the Lowlanders Highlanders can be quite tall). (UPDATE: in Time of the Draig that is explained)

Time of the Draig

Not that much my taste. Too science fiction, a bossy woman and a too gentle and
simple man. I liked her other books better. But it is a good explanation of what
happens in the other books.

The Draig's woman

Another of the time travel series of this author and so far the best one. It is more or less the story of a warm family and problems with money. Nice crime twist as well.

World politics in a romance novel. I got a free copy of 'Fake for the sheikh' to write and ARC review and it turned out to be about refugees.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review. And yes it is a lot less serious than my other reading material.

The writer took an interesting take by making a South American refugee whose  genuine bit for asylum was denied by the America government the heroine of this novel. It is obvious that the writer hopes that people open their eyes to people from other religions and part of the world and are more tolerant towards each other. I applaud her for that. And also for working real world politics into a romance novel while showing how the public opinion can be played.

What is the story about? A Venezuelan lawyer is working as a lawyer in the US waiting for a decision on her own asylum request when she gets the decision that her appeal is denied and she has four weeks to go back to a country where she will surely be killed. Just at that moment she gets the case of an Arabian king who is also an American citizen and has tax problems. She tried to blackmail him in marrying her so she will get citizenship. He agrees because he has plans that would do with a wife as well.

Let me first rate the romance story: I think it lacks the kind of wooing I would like. If a guy would whip out his personal firehose the first moment I would be in private with him and start rutting that would certainly not create any butterflies with me. But that can be a matter of personal taste. I however fail to see their connection build. I also do not her at all: a lawyer harming her own client by blackmailing him! And he sounds a bit too manipulative. There is also a bit of a loose end with his eye problem.

Factual errors: When you let an immigration lawyer do the ARC of a romance about immigration you might be in deep shit :) I am not an American lawyer though. But: 1) You cannot get the nationality of the European Union. The Brexiteers in the UK might not agree with me but as far as I know the EU still consists of sovereign states. But you could get for instance the nationality of Cyprus - they are easy when you invest enough 2) I always understood that when you get American nationality you have to revoke nobility titles. So being a sheikh and a king even and be American would not work I think 3) The sheikh has three nationalities. Often it is very hard to be able to keep your original when you opt for naturalisation. So far the serious notes :)