Monday, 14 August 2017

Review of The Seed Woman by Petra Durst-Benning

This is a novel http://amzn.to/2vxUNGN what we call in The Netherlands a "streekroman" - a traditional family chronicle set in a rural area in an era in the past. Not my normal pick in novels. But I was attracted by the cover of the book.


The book is written by a German author and is set mostly in a small village Gönningen in the south of Germany around 1850 but some parts take place in Odessa and in the Dutch bulb growing area. The village is famous for it's seed trading. The men and also many women of the village travel all over Europe to sell vegetable and flower seeds to farmers and estates.

It is a few days before Christmas when a young woman, the daughter of an innkeeper from Neurenberg, arrives in the village. She states that she is pregnant and the father is the son of the richest trader in town. That same son is supposed to marry the townbeauty Seraphine on the 6th of January. Seraphina whose father is missing and who grew up in poverty and who is longing for her fate to be wed to such a catch. Who has been sowing her weddingdress for months.

While at first I was all too sympathetic with Seraphine, having been dumped with heartbreak myself in my own youth, I more and more started to really dislike her. And wished that Helmut and his family grew some balls. Who would want to stand such war and then even in your own house? Why not move away when there are trading opportunities in Russia and America? She is totally obsessed and maybe crazy. What due to the two traumatic events at the start of the novel is not that far fetched..I really doubt if remorse would be able to cure that. It made me wonder if all the other familymembers were daft.

The historical background of the story was interesting. I would like to suggest to the writer to put the historical explanation at the start of the book so the readers will realise all that is more or less correct and no fantasy.

What I found difficult is that the seed woman is Hannah but large parts of the book are about the brothers and others about Seraphine. That makes it harder to identify with one person in the novel.

It was a nice surprise to see the area I live in in Holland suddenly feature in a German book mainly set in Germany. The sandy soil for the bulbs, the "helmgras" (sand reed) on the sanddunes on the seashore.

Original title in German "Die Samenhändlerin" what means the lady who trades in seeds.




On Amazon:
"From bestselling author Petra Durst-Benning comes a sweeping emotional story of courage, triumph, and love against all odds in nineteenth-century Germany.
After a long and trying journey from her home, Hannah arrives at a charming village nestled in the foothills of the Swabian Mountains, eager to find Helmut Kerner, a traveling seed merchant she loved and lost. Enchanted by the glorious wildflowers and thriving harvests stretching as far as the eye can see, Hannah feels less like an outsider with each passing hour, until she meets Seraphine, an ethereally beautiful dreamer engaged to be married to Helmut, the father of Hannah’s unborn child.
Desperate to win back Helmut’s affections, Hannah gets to work and quickly discovers a passion for the seed trade, and with every change of season comes a change of heart. Can Hannah and Seraphine put aside their differences to find a way to work together, or will Hannah and her child be forced to leave this place she has come to love?"

Or you want to read it in its original language?


Die Samenhändlerin

Württemberg im Jahre 1850: Auf der Suche nach dem Mann, der sie geschwängert hat, kommt die junge Hannah Brettschneider in ein Dorf am Fuß der Schwäbischen Alb: Gönningen ist die Heimat der Samenhändler, die seit fast zwei Jahrhunderten vom Geschäft mit Tulpenzwiebeln, mit Blumen- und Gemüsesamen leben. Doch Hannahs Begeisterung für den ungewöhnlichen Ort währt nicht lange: Helmut, dessen Kind sie erwartet, ist mit Seraphine, dem schönsten Mädchen im Dorf, verlobt …

 


Monday, 7 August 2017

"The warrior princess" - the Welsh rebellion's historical facts in the form of a novel

Thanks to Outlander en Braveheart even we non-British people know the stories of the Scottish rebellions. However to me the Welsh rebellion was totally unknown. A few weeks ago I read a simple romance novel in which the heroine's mother wanted her to be a second Gwenllian. The first Gwenllian was apparently some freedom fighter who was still remembered in the Welsh battlecry. I thought all of that was fiction till all of a sudden the book Netgalley asked me to review was about exactly that Gwenllian. First thing I did was check Wikipedia. Yes she was a historical figure. No do not check before you have read the book as the tale is as historically correct as possible and checking a history book will spoil the suspense of the story!

It is less then 100 years after the Normans under William the Conqueror aka the Bastard have invaded England. But even now they have their claws in the Wales territory and have occupied some of the principalities/kingdoms while others are still free. Princess Gwenllian and her husband prince Gruffydd ap Rhys alias Tarw of Deheubarth had been fighting the English invaders but have disappeared / died a decade before. The sister of the prince is happily married to a Norman knight who holds one of the big English castles in the area, Pembroke.

All seems more or less peaceful but then the English king dies, the son of the steward of Llandeilo is arrested for rebelling against the English and the second man of castle Pembroke has plans of his own. In a few months time the area is knees deep in a civil war.

The book is a fascinating read for people who are interested in history and people who like to read about military campaigns. Because it is done as a novel it reads a lot better than when done as an article.

What surprised me to see was how much European (continental) influence there was in the conquest of Wales. Flemish knights, mercenaries from Saxony and I read somewhere also many Flemish immigrants sent there to colonise Wales. EU migration 1000 years early. It also made me wonder why the Normans rather had foreigners there than trying to conquer the Welsh hearts. I mean England did not have that much of a problem with them unless we have to believe Ivanho.

While we more or less see what happens to all the players in the book from a birds eye perspective, that does prevent a bit to form a strong connection with the individuals. It is more their acts than their thoughts we read about.

When you have finished do go to Wiki and see what happened with the ones who are still alive at the end of the book. The author did explain the historical facts at the end. Maybe he should have also added a little bit of an historical epilogue. I liked the successtory of son Rhys.

Not a book you finish in a day.

Five out of five stars. Really recommend it.





This is what Amazon wrote: 
1135 AD. Wales is a broken land. Many of its true-born rulers are in hiding, or married into noble English families. But, though low and dim, a flame of vengeance still burns…
In the southern kingdom of Deheubarth, Gerald of Windsor governs. Firm but fair, he commands the respect of those he reigns over, and the love of Nesta, his wife.
But then treachery strikes from the heart of the English ranks and peace and stability are quickly forgotten. Nesta, daughter of a long-dead prince, is more than what she seems. And when her family is threatened, she takes drastic action to protect it…
In the mountainous rebel heartland of Cantref Mawr, the Welsh resistance has found a new figurehead: a fearless warrior, born with a sword in her hand, and with vengeance in her heart.
The Warrior Princess is coming. And the English will know fear.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

A real murder described in what looks like a novel but what is an "I accuse" by a relative

At first I pondered, while reading, that this Turkish novel was definatly from another writing culture than my normal Western books. It starts not even with the birth of the heroine but with her great grandfather.

Well in fact it starts with Aylin's death. Was it murder? Was this based on a real person? Then the turns towards the past and starts with her ancestors and continues to describe her whole life.It seems we pass five husbands and numorous flings in the blink of an eye only to slow down to tell about several patients she treated. She is described as a very good doctor but a very shallow person in real life who is fun to be with but who gets easily bored with people and then moves on to the next man. She reminded me of a friend of mine who is the same with men.

The story stops abrupt with her death leaving a couple of suspects: 1) the husband she refuses to divorce who has connections with the Clintons  2) army connections because she is digging in experiments 3) a violent ex patient.

Exactly that ending made me wonder if this was indeed based on a real person and the book a kind of "I accuse". And after some digging I found out that the real Aylin was Aylin Radomisli-Cates, married to Kelvin Kline's father in law. And indeed this Aylin was found dead as described. The writer a relative of hers. I ran some Turkish newspaper interviews through Google translate. It seems not all the familymembers agreed with the picture of Aylin in the book.

Although I do not like the book as a novel (no depth) it still had me mesmerised because it is a real murder case and I have a legal mind. I wished I knew - now 20 years after the murder - who had done it. But even her ex is now dead.

This is what AMAZON has to say about the book:

Aylin’s body was found in her garden, her hair immaculately styled as usual. Her death came as a shock—after all, who would have wanted someone so admired and talented dead? Who—among the many she’d helped, the few she’d hurt, and all those she’d left behind—might have been driven to murder?
In the course of Aylin’s life, she had been many things: a skinny little girl, a young woman blossoming into a beauty, a princess married to a controlling Libyan prince, a broke medical student determined to succeed. She’d been a seductress, a teacher, a renowned psychiatrist, and a Turkish immigrant remarkably at home as an officer in the US Army. Through it all, she’d loved, been in love, and pursued truth without surrender. Whatever role she’d found herself in, she’d committed to it fully and lived it with her heart, mind, and soul.
From internationally bestselling Turkish author Ayşe Kulin comes Aylin, the story of one woman’s life as she makes her passionate way toward a strange, sudden end.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Interesting read for the weekend? "The Race for Timbuktu"


Timbuktu rings a bell for all of us who were raised with the Donald Duck. When Donald had done something wrong and he had to race to a place as far remote as possible it was Timbuktu. In newer versions it is the North Pole I believe. But still I knew the name before hearing of it famous past.
  In 1825, Alexander Gordon Laing set out to become the first European to reach the city of Timbuktu since the Middle Ages. This “lively and informative” history (The Washington Post) traces his death-defying 2,000-mile journey.  Amazon writes:


"In the first decades of the nineteenth century, no place burned more brightly in the imagination of European geographers––and fortune hunters––than the lost city of Timbuktu. Africa's legendary City of Gold, not visited by Europeans since the Middle Ages, held the promise of wealth and fame for the first explorer to make it there. In 1824, the French Geographical Society offered a cash prize to the first expedition from any nation to visit Timbuktu and return to tell the tale.

One of the contenders was Major Alexander Gordon Laing, a thirty–year–old army officer. Handsome and confident, Laing was convinced that Timbuktu was his destiny, and his ticket to glory. In July 1825, after a whirlwind romance with Emma Warrington, daughter of the British consul at Tripoli, Laing left the Mediterranean coast to cross the Sahara. His 2,000–mile journey took on an added urgency when Hugh Clapperton, a more experienced explorer, set out to beat him. Apprised of each other's mission by overseers in London who hoped the two would cooperate, Clapperton instead became Laing's rival, spurring him on across a hostile wilderness.

An emotionally charged, action–packed, utterly gripping read, The Race for Timbuktu offers a close, personal look at the extraordinary people and pivotal events of nineteenth–century African exploration that changed the course of history and the shape of the modern world."

You can buy it here: http://amzn.to/2tn2rQB

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great - a book about the king who stood up against the Vikings

This one is not free but costs 1.99 dollar. However for everyone who enjoyed the tv series The Last Kingdom or Vikings or are just interested in Vikings and history in general l this might be an interesting read. I am buying it anyways.



The unlikely king who saved England.

Down swept the Vikings from the frigid North. Across the English coastlands and countryside they raided, torched, murdered, and destroyed all in their path. Farmers, monks, and soldiers all fell bloody under the Viking sword, hammer, and axe.

Then, when the hour was most desperate, came an unlikely hero. King Alfred rallied the battered and bedraggled kingdoms of Britain and after decades of plotting, praying, and persisting, finally triumphed over the invaders.

Alfred's victory reverberates to this day: He sparked a literary renaissance, restructured Britain's roadways, revised the legal codes, and revived Christian learning and worship. It was Alfred's accomplishments that laid the groundwork for Britian's later glories and triumphs in literature, liturgy, and liberty.

"Ben Merkle tells the sort of mythic adventure story that stirs the imagination and races the heart and all the more so knowing that it is altogether true!" George Grant, author of The Last Crusader and The Blood of the Moon .

This sounds as a promising #FREE (today) book. A murder mystery set in Gaul in 56 BC

This sounds as a promising #FREE (today) book:

Summer, 56 BC.

Caesar is waging a war on Gaul.

Cingetorix, king of the Cantiaci, sends his bard, Bran, to meet the ambassador of the Veneti and Bran’s old friend, Morigenos, who has an urgent message for his allies about the war.

But when Bran arrives in Glannomagos he finds Morigenos has been brutally murdered.

And a few days later, the corpse of a young woman is washed ashore.

It quickly becomes apparent that the young woman had witnessed Morigenos’ murder and that someone is trying to cover their tracks...

Realising that the motive was to stop Bran from receiving Morigenos’ message, he is determined to find the culprit.

But his suspects include the very people in charge of the official investigation. Bran must contend with Druids, menacing mercenaries, a renegade Roman sailor, scheming Atrebetians and his well-meaning but troublesome charges, Cingetorix’s sons.

As the omens point to a confrontation with the might of Rome, can Bran solve the murder, recover Morigenos’ secret message and still escape with his own life?

'A memorable. page-turning read.' - Robert Foster, best-selling author of 'The Lunar Code'.

Malcolm Gentle is a retired civil servant. He lives in Sheffield with his wife. 'Blood Sacrifice' is his first novel.

Endeavour Press is the UK’s leading independent publisher of digital books.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Review of free book "The Arabian Rose"

During the Second World war a young woman is posted as a war correspondent in a small Arabian harbour town on the edge of the desert. She falls in love with the town and its inhabitants. The British garrison however treats the locals with contempt. The commanding officer turns out to be a dangerous madman. The Germans are expected to attack any day. Tansy however is enjoying herself. She made a friend. A local she feels very attracted to. But then all hell breaks loose.

A beautiful and layered novel. But I might be prejudiced as I also fell in love with an Arab in a sleepy harbour town with whom I went to explore the desert. So my memory could bring up the sights and smells while reading this story.

I can really recommend this book. If a lovestory is not your cup of tea wait till it becomes a wartale that keeps you on the tip of your toes.

Only thing I found hard to swallow is that the British armed forces are committing warcrimes even when their crazed commanding officer is not there (I am not British by the way). I do understand that in the 1940ties some people harboured a deep mistrust or hatred towards natives but I would have expected it more from a German SS regiment.

The title refers to Tansy becoming an Arabian rose instead of the English rose she was.

Some scenes are very touching. Like the man who is insisting to read her her own journals so that she will know the names of the people to call for in heaven that she has forgotten due to her very old age.