Thursday, 27 February 2020

Review of "On wilder seas" by Nikki Malmery - a young black slave woman with Sir Francis Drake around the world

Sir Francis Drake, the hero of the Armada, the second man who sailed around the globe, is just a shadow called The General in this tale told by a young enslaved African woman.

When the ship she is on, the FireShitter or Cagafuego is captured by the English she is transported to the English ship as a bedwarmer for Drake.

" Golden Hind caught up with Cagafuego on 1 March 1579, in the vicinity of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Since it was the middle of the day and Drake did not want to arouse suspicions by reducing sails, he trailed some wine caskets behind Golden Hind to slow her progress and allow enough time for night to fall. In the early evening, after disguising Golden Hind as a merchantman, Drake finally came alongside his target and, when the Spanish captain San Juan de Antón refused to surrender, opened fire.[1]
Golden Hind's first broadside took off Cagafuego's mizzenmast. When the English sailors opened fire with muskets and crossbows, Golden Hind came alongside with a boarding party. Since they were not expecting English ships to be in the Pacific, Cagafuego's crew was taken completely by surprise and surrendered quickly and without much resistance. Once in control of the galleon, Drake brought both ships to a secluded stretch of coastline and over the course of the next six days unloaded the treasure.[2]"
Source: Wikipedia

Maria sails with the Golden Hind towards what is now the USA and Canada and over the Pacific. Life on board the ship is cruel and rough with you shipboys buggered and a captain who can decide on life and limp. The novel gives a more dark view on life on board of those ocean faring ships. ANd also drives the grim reality of slavers and slavery in your face.

The novel is well written but apart from Maria the men aboard ship remain a mere shadows in her tale. The book seems well researched. It did manage to turn the hero into the more realistic slaver and privateer who abandoned friends when it was more opportunistic.


a 4 stars out of 5.




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Monday, 17 February 2020

Review of "Heart's blood" by Alice Von Kannon - a lovestory set in the early days of the USA about a man coming back from white slavery

This novel was quite bad for my law practise because instead of working I have spent the last two days reading at my window curled up in a cosy chair with a pot of tea nearby. It is very well written and interesting.

When you see the cover of this novel you expect a sappy Pirate penny romance but there is hardly a ship in sight and it is not a pirate bodice ripper. (So publisher make it a cover with a mansion and a couple instead)

The novel reminded me a lot of "Pride and Prejudice". Not because of the plot because this is a complete different storyline but because of the ambiance and the way the people develop. It is set in the same era: during Napoleon or what the English speaking world calls the Regency. And although it is not set in England but in the USA 20 years after the Revolution still many of the senior citizens of Salem in New England (yes of the witches trials 100 years prior)  have a strong link with England and the English norms and values of society life. Eleanor Hampton is a level headed, intelligent unmarried woman on the verge of spinsterhood who after the death of her father takes care of her younger teenage sister and very immature mother. A mother with tantrums and theatrics that somehow ended up with the voice of Mrs Bennet from the 1990-ties BBC version of Pride and Prejudice in my head. Isaac McCallister is a tall darkhaired silent stoic man who keeps his cards close to his chests and had a lot of tales an scandals surrounding him but is a real good person (A bit the Darcy type). He is ten years older than Eleanor and the stepbrother of her father and the owner of the estate and the cottage Eleanor and her family live in gentile poverty in.

The novel starts with Captain Isaac McCallister returning from a five year period of slavery in the Barbary states (Algeria, Tunesia in this case, white slavery). While he was away Eleanor's father and Isaac's brother have died and Eleanor's mother had been pressing lawsuits against her step-family. Eleanor fears that with the heir returning her family will be evicted and walks over to Isaac's house to plea their case. In despair she offers the only thing she can: herself. She will be willingly be his mistress as long as he takes care of her family. Isaac suggests another option: they can marry.


Eleanor and Isaac set up house and things go differently than you might expect. And then there is a murder.

Yes so far it sounds like a soppy romance but that is just the first impression at the beginning. It is the psychological development between the two main characters but also the minor people that is very well done. It feels real. You follow their line of thought.


The story is written by someone who studied history and that shows. In the storyline there is a lot of background information. I, as a non-American, found it interesting to read about the early days of the USA. Where definitely not everyone was so happy with saying good bye to England. Where sea captains who still owned their big privateer-ships decided to go and sail the oceans to far away places and trade just because those big brigs were not suitable for a bit of coastal trade and thus transforming small Salem into a cosmopolitan town. Where both France and England were not allies and could press your sailors or grab your ships. Where such a mayhem might bankrupt a whole family. But where also the Muslim privateers of North Africa were a real danger to ships and crew alike.

Part of the story is trauma and psychological treatment. The writer tells us about the groundbreaking work done in Paris in those days. I googled the names and indeed that was all true.

I liked the natural way the characters develop. When they begin to respect each other you do too. When they realise they love each other is sounds more than logical. Hell you start thinking "Can you find me a guy like that!" It is not for the people wanting an action packed novel. It is more how two people get close and then battle a big problem.

The author manages a good way of worldbuilding. You can almost picture the setting.

I know some (American) readers want to read only "clean" novels. This is a novel about two people who are married. You can expect some lovemaking but it is certainly not pornographic but an essential element in the story.

I can highly recommend the novel both to male and female readers.  A 5 stars out of 5. I understand there is a sequel. That I would like to read too.


Heart's Blood


Pub Date:  

AMAZON


Captain Isaac McCallister, five years a slave in North Africa, has returned from the grave, and Salem has put out a wary welcome. It is 1803, and the village of Salem, once known only for the dark horrors of its witch trials, is now a cosmopolitan seaport, the richest city in America. Everyone in Salem knows that Captain McCallister lost his mind in the desert of Barbary. Isaac is a damaged man, looking for a reason to go on living. He finds it when he meets Eleanor Hampton, his step-brother's daughter, an eccentric young painter living in genteel poverty on his estate along with her mother and sister. Despite the long-standing bitterness between the two families, Isaac is bewitched by this determined, gifted woman, while Eleanor is unexpectedly drawn to him. He's not the man she expected, a coarse merchant prince who could reduce the beauty of art to the banality of dry goods. There is a gallantry in Isaac that couldn't be snuffed out by the hell of Algerian slavery. But his unexpected proposal of marriage sets dark forces out of the past into motion, resulting in a stunning betrayal and a brutal murder. And as her passion for her enigmatic husband consumes her, Eleanor finds there's no danger she's unwilling to face to save her husband from the hangman.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Review of "And only to deceive" by Tasha Alexander - a young widow delves into her late husband's past while studying the ancient Greeks

Emily is a very young widow in the Victorian era. She is supposed to be in mourning shut away from society for 2 years. The problem is she is not mourning. She married her husband to get away from her domineering mother and although she liked him in her bed it is not that she was in love with him. She hardly knew him. Right after their honeymoon he left for a safari never to return.

Bored out of her brains she starts to read his diaries and discovers he was quite an interesting man who loved the old Greeks. First that triggers Emily to visit the museum and to study the language but while learning more about her dead husband she falls in love with the man. The man who is dead. The man she more or less ignored. She falls in a deep depression of loneliness and regret. If you ever had a broken heart this story will bring back those feelings.

But what about his friend who said he was there when he died and despises another friend of her husband? Is her husband dead or is her not? And if he is dead was he murdered? What about that guy who is such good company?

While in a whirlwind of emotions Emily also learns a lot about antiquities, forgery and more. And we do while reading the novel. Reading the Iliad and strolling from one room to the other in the British Museum.

The book is full of interesting information. I was visiting an expo about ancient Cyprus and noticed a statue of the same artist mentioned in the novel. And the vases with red or black people on them.

I can really recommend it. Definitely not a daft Victorian romance but a very layered combination of detective and coming of age story.




A later book in the series you can find here http://www.dutchysbookreviewsandfreebooks.com/2020/02/istanbul-murder-mystery-tears-of-pearl.html

Review of "Atlas" by Eline Peer

The author has written a couple of romance novels series around a central theme. It is obvious she is well versed in psychology and now identifies as a coach in her bio. Some of her novels are quite good others are just typical romances. I think it matters if she has her first idea for a new series developed into a book or if it is part 5 of the series.

This series is about cultivation. Book 1 that I did not read was about a cult.

This novel is about the son of that enigmatic cult-leader who forced his people to commit suicide like in that 1970ties cult. Atlas has dedicated his life to research into mind control. He is afraid that he is like his father. When a young female psychologist joins his team he has to fight fantasies of dominating her. And that scares him shitless because he thinks it is proof that he is rotten in his core.

The part where Elin the psychologist became apparent in this novel is where Atlas is told that there is a difference between wanting to hurt people and liking a rougher version of sex as long as that is mutual. But that wanting to be the dominant male does not involve inflicting bodily harm. That there is nothing wrong with him. This is done by discussing Fifty Shades of Grey without mentioning the title. I think with all those whip and chains novels that bursted to life after that book was published this bit of explaining is quite handy.

I also liked the background into how cults come to be. That even when someone has an idea to do good they always derail the moment person worshipping becomes part of it all. And how people can get traumatised by a situation like this where children survived that cult.

For the rest it is a love story.

Istanbul murder mystery "Tears of Pearl" by Tasha Alexander


At the end of the 19th century a newly wed English lady and her husband travel to Istanbul with the Orient Express. On the train some strange things happen but when they are in Istanbul just a few days they stumble upon a murdered harem girl who turns out to be the daughter of one of the English diplomats, the man who was also on the train.

All the famous sight are visited in the novel. Crossing the Bospurus, the lavish estates along the waterfront, Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque. And it is obvious the author studied Ottoman history well while doing research in town. (I once read a novel where the author mentioned the desert around the town and I was like WHAT???).

The mystery is not that plausible and I got a bit sick of the hints towards bedsport that was however never mentioned (seen) but this novel was still a good read because of the setting. I studied in Istanbul when I was young and this novel was bringing all the settings back in my mind's eye.
 
When you plan to go to Istanbul, have been there or are interested in Ottoman history this book is a good read. But as a novel no 1 of the series is a lot better (have not read the others yet).


 

Sunday, 2 February 2020

All of a sudden Amazon.com excludes people from writing reviews who spend not enough and Kindle Unlimited is excluded

"I want to issue a complaint. For years and years I am a customer of Amazon.com and have a Kindle Unlimited Account. I buy also Kindle books. But as I am not living in the USA I do not buy physical items as postal fees will bleed me dry. I tried Prime but as I am outside of the USA lots of the contends were blocked. Nowadays I have Prime via Amazon.de but for my Kindle books that is no option as 1) Most are German 2) in my country I can only access Kindle books via Amazon.com/

All of a sudden, after 500 reviews of novels mostly read via Amazon Kindle Unlimited, bought via Amazon .com and some via Netgalley, I am not allowed to write reviews on the Amazon site anymore because I am not spending enough and KU is excluded and also accounts on other Amazon sites like Amazon.de where I DO have Amazon Prime but cannot read my Kindle books. (I spent a lot of money on the .de version but as I said books are no option there). Sorry I find that very rude and discriminatory for people outside of the USA and hope you will change that on my account."


WW2 Norway seen from a child's point of view: review of the novel "Occupied" by Kurt-Blorstad

An elderly father and his grown up son travel to Norway, the land the father spent his youth. The old man gets quite emotional seeing all those familiar places and starts telling his story to his son.

It is mid 1930ties when an America born, from Norwegian parents, 7 years old boy, Trygve, takes a bus to travel from his paternal grandparent's house to that of his maternal grandmother's. His parents had emigrated to the US but his dad had lost his job due to the Depression. As a result of that they had taken their children back to Norway. But when the economy is picking up dad has gone back to the US and when he has saved enough money he will let the family come as well. As mom does not like Bestemor (grandmother) that much she rather waits at her own mother's house.

But saving money is a slow thing and when WW2 comes to Norway and the Germans invade moving to the US is impossible.

The book is very well written and keeps you glued to your Kindle. We follow Trygve from age 7 to 17 and the writer develops the story age consistent. For instance only we as grown-ups realise the poverty and later on teenager Trygve underestimates the danger at first.

The last chapter feels a bit hurried. I would have loved some grown up hindsight comments. Why did Norwegians who had wanted Norway liberated still emigrate? Was it that poor for them? Did he never miss the land and the friends of his youth? Was life in a big town not very different from life in a Norwegian village? 

I recommend the book for people who are interested in history and WW2, for people from Norway or of Norwegian decent or who want to visit Norway, for adults but also for teenagers 10-18 (no sex, no graphic violence).