Thursday, 29 December 2016

"In a far country" - growing up in a mission in India and then finding yourself alone in the world - review

"Someone's personality is formed by genes and circumstances" is what my teacher father always says. This is essentially what this story is about. Someone explains at the end that loving someone is something you have to learn as a child. And that because that person was not loved - and we know had very bad biological parents - he is so self absorbed.

19-century India, a few years after the rebellion. Pree (15) lives as the daughter of two very damaged and poor British missionaries in a rural mission. Her life evolves around her ill mother and taking care of the sick Indians who come to the mission for medical treatment. Kai, who is a couple of years older, and his mother Glory, a leper and a cook who are all Indian live there too.

In the next two years all the certainties in her life crumble away. Somehow that made me think of Dickens books or the one by Pallister. It makes one realise that in those days you had no social network to rely upon when things turned sour, no authorities to ask for help. That one day you could lead a very respectable life and the next month could be in the clutches of a whore madam.

When all seems lost Pree embarks on a journey to find the person she loved all her life in hope of his help and protection. But because of that journey she finds a totally unexpected happiness.

The book is well written and a real page turner. There was only one aspect I wondered about. A certain gentleman has a senior position in the government but is half Afghan - half British and was married to a Muslim Afghan woman. In the highly segregated society of British India - as it is shown in the book but also in others - I wonder if that was possible. The man also explains his British mother returned to England but his father somehow still lives in Afghanistan and it is clear he uses an English surname. So was he illegitimate? And was it then possible to have such a respected position? But I noticed it is the same surname as the writer uses in another of her books so maybe this gentleman is supposed to be related to that book and the answers to my questions are answered there.



AMAZON

"Pree Fincastle, daughter of impoverished British missionaries in India, is left alone and destitute when tragedy strikes. Turned away by the Church, she embarks on a journey in search of Kai, the son of her mother’s ayah, and the only person she can trust. But Kai is not the man Pree thought he was, and the secrets he holds will unlock the door to another world, another time – and, shockingly, another life.

Haunting, powerful, and heartbreaking, In a Far Country tells of an enthralling journey. From the whispering Ravi River to the bustling Grand Trunk Road, from the cantonments of Lahore to the bazaars of Peshawar, this is a breathtaking story of penury and prostitution, of tragedy and bloodshed, of secrets and love. But ultimately it is a story of hope; a story that, once read, will never be forgotten."

BOL.com

Een jonge vrouw zoekt naar een plek om zich thuis te voelen Witte Jasmijn is het spannende en dramatische verhaal van de eigenzinnige Pree Fincastle en haar zoektocht naar geluk en liefde in Noord- India halverwege de negentiende eeuw. Pree groeit op in een bescheiden missieziekenhuis net buiten Lahore. Haar leven als fatsoenlijke missionarisdochter verandert volkomen als haar vader sterft en zijn vele geheimen een voor een worden onthuld. Verstoten door de kerk en zonder geld op zak gaat ze op zoek naar haar jeugdliefde Kai, de enige die ze durft te vertrouwen. Maar Kai is niet de man die ze denkt dat hij is. De geheimen die hij met zich meedraagt onthullen de schokkende waarheid van haar familiegeschiedenis en brengen Pree naar een nieuwe wereld en een nieuw leven. Van de nauwe straatjes en kleurrijke bazaars van Peshawar tot de besneeuwde bergtoppen van de Himalaya, Witte Jasmijn is een adembenemende vertelling van liefde, tragedie en hoop. Een verhaal om nooit meer te vergeten.



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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A siege during the crusades seen through the eyes of the opposing parties - review of "pillars of light"

When a friend of mine told writer Jane Johnson I used her book "The Tenth gift" in class she surprised me by sending me this book with a nice note. Unbeknownst to her I am quite familiar with the area the story is set as I travelled Israel, Jordan and Syria when I was young. And I am very interested in the crusades.So I looked forward reading this book. But now let me review it.

The novel reads as a history book with the main characters as witnesses of the unfolding events. It focusses on the siege of Akka (or Acra, now Akko in Israel) when it was under Muslim rule. Jerusalem has just fallen (see movie "Kingdom of Heaven") and King Richard Lionheart sails for the Holy Land planning to conquer Jerusalem again. But first there is the strategic port city Akka.

We see the events unfold from mostly three main characters. There is Muslim Zohra who lives in Akka and is secretly in love with Jewish doctor Nathaniel, her brother Malek who is an elite soldier of Saladin the sultan and leader of the Muslims and the English young man John who discovers he is gay.

My town was also besieged but centuries later - 16th century - and still stories are told about the famine. Accordingly to folk legends the mayor offered his arm to the hungry mob. But also in the Second World War people were dying on the streets from hunger here. That makes it easy to picture what the book is describing. The slowly starving of a town where people more and more get to the end of their options and on the other hand the harsh lives of the besiegers who endure a kind of WW1 trenches existence.

Woven into that are elements as the relics scams of those days, architectural developments, being gay (interesting to see one of the main characters gay and also some others while the book is not about being gay - just like in real life), the questions about faith, the position of women, mental illness, discrimination, hating Jews, medicine, the assasin sect and a lot more.

It is not overly sentimental while the events are very cruel, it is never sexual explicit even with several lovestories developing. Apart from what John is thinking it reads as if we are looking at the scenes like watching a movie.

There is one scene that immediately made me think of old material of WWII Jewish people going in their best cloths to their doom. Maybe because I have seen that on film made that part of the story so real.

The beginning is a bit slow. All the fundraising in England was not overly interesting but I can see that is was a good method to give all the main characters a true to live full persona.

It left me with the feeling that Richard Lionheart was a cruel man and not the hero of chivalry as he is often depicted. Looking at his brother and parents that could be explained by genes. It made me think it must have been divine punishment that he never did take Jerusalem or father an heir.

Saladin is as generous as depicted in Kingdom of Heaven but it is a known fact that even his contemporary enemies admired him as a "true knight". The writer manages to draw him as a man suffering from maladies and sometimes frustrated and not make him into some superhero what he more or less is and was for the Muslims. I stood paying homage at his grave in 1999.

There was one thing I could not understand. After all the famine there is suddenly tea and bread again but later on food shortage is mentioned again. Where did the victors get that food that fast?

It also left me with the question who the Moor is supposed to be. At the end there is a hint but that might need rereading the book for other hints.

I really recommend the book. A 5 out of 5 stars. Also a great way to learn more about history.

You can buy it by clicking on the picture link. I have the paperbackversion what is real nice quality.

When I looked Akka now Akko up on Google Maps I was surprised to see a flat town while reading the book I had pictures a hill-town like Jerusalem. See picture below.





Sunday, 18 December 2016

Review of "Native Gold" - for some light reading material about white girls and Indian braves

Orphan Mattie, from upperclass Boston, travels West to meet her mailorder bride husband-to-be who is a doctor in a small mining town. However upon arrival she learns the man kicked the bucket just one day prior. So Mattie inherits his hut and tries to fend for herself. The miners are a rough but goodhearted bunch what made me think of the story of Snowwhite and the 7 dwarves somehow.

While in Paradise Bar she meets two Native American, Indian, brothers. One a small boy, the other a mighty hunter. Well you can guess what happens next.  She falls in love.

It was a nice light-hearted read over Saturday when I was tired.

However the cover picture is incorrect as Mattie has straw blonde hair and is a white woman.



AMAZON writes:

A unique love letter to the Gold Rush town of Paradise, California!
CALIFORNIA LEGENDS...These are chronicles of the Old West--of the native people who lived on the land for generations and the pioneers who came from all over the world in search of riches…the struggle to survive in a land without laws…the strange bedfellows that resulted from the clash of cultures…and the common language of the heart that spoke of a love more precious than gold.
NATIVE GOLD: Book 1Mathilda Hardwicke, a rebellious artist rejected by her family and New York society, heads west to Gold Rush California to make a new life for herself as a mail-order bride. When fate leaves her at the altar in Paradise Bar--a ramshackle gold camp full of ragtag miners--she's sure she's leaped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

But unbeknownst to Mattie, she has a protector. Sakote, a fierce Konkow warrior, is bound by honor to watch over the white woman. And though his tribe is threatened by the encroaching miners, he's strangely drawn to Mattie, who delights in making pictures of him and whose destiny seems entwined with his.

When a tragedy at the camp forces Sakote to steal Mattie away, she finds herself in an unfamiliar Paradise of savage wonder, and she soon discovers a forbidden love more precious than gold.
Book Details
  • An original novel based on the Gold Rush history of the author's home town of Paradise, California
  • R-rated for sensual passages
  • Includes historical information and vocabulary from the Konkow tribe
  • Coming soon, Book 2--NATIVE WOLF and Book 3--NATIVE HAWK

Review of " East India" - the nightmare of a shipwrecked group


Some of you might have had to read "Lord of the Flies" for English literature lessons in the past. In that book a plane crashes on a tropical island and only a bunch of boarding school boys survive. Before you know it they turn into brutal savages and murder is rampant.

Here in this book we see more or less the same. The writer used a real foundering of a Dutch merchantman on a Australian reef and the horrendous aftermath as inspiration but explains that he made it into a novel because if he used the real events he had no artistic freedom.

The main character is well-to-do Cornelia Noorstrandt who travels to the Dutch Indies to meet up with her husband. But en route the passengers and crew are played against each other by a passenger. The general conditions are not that comfortable as well. Tensions rise and mutiny is just a breath away. And then the ship hits the Houtman rocks! Although most of the people survive the the problems start for real. Hardly any food or water and a captain who abandons them to sail to Batavia.

The story has you glued to your book for days and has you shivering. But I think the description on Amazon makes it sound like a love story while it is more a story like Lord of the Flies in showing how thin the veneer of civilisation is.

A good story but what a terrible tale!

I also had the feeling that some of the old Dutch words used in the book were not correct. Something that sounds as "verdedigers" is translated as diggers what was a nickname of Australian soldiers in WW1 and means someone who digs but the Dutch word verdediger means "defender". Also the captain calls his mistress Soetecut what is translated as "sweetcunt" but I wonder if not the word "Soeteke" was meant what was an endearment used in the past and meant something like sweetheart. I cannot imagine even a sailor telling his girl in public she is a sweetcunt.

If you want to buy the book or read it with Amazon Kindle Unlimited just click on the small picture with the price in this blogposts.





AMAZON states:

In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.

He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.

But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.

As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.

He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’

But can he keep it?

Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India will keep you wondering until the final page.

Review of "Morocco, maybe" - a young corporate lawyer joins a group touring Morocco and starts to doubt her life

For those who ever visited Morocco and did the "Royal cities"- tour around the country this book is a feast of recognition as we say in Dutch. But the book offers so much more.

Sara is a young corporate attorney who ruthlessly goes for the kill to further her career. In this case to stop an archaeological dig in Afghanistan so her client a Chinese mining corporation can start mining.

But when she attends a charity function with her fiancé Nathan it is clear that her life is very "empty". She is the only one who takes the time to go and look at the artwork from Afghanistan, the rest is discussing golf. Her fiancé does not bother to have a look even when Sara used to study Art and he must know it is something that hugely interests her. There is only one other person interested in the art, a handsome man. He advises her to bid on the trips in the auction and that is what she tells her fiancé Nathan to do. To be flabbergasted that the guy she chatted with at the art exhibit  turns out to be the guest speaker at the event and the leading archaeologist at the dig she tried to shut down by having him expelled from Afghanistan.

"He can dig for my treasures any day", a woman quipped at the nearby table.
"I got some relics for him to uncover," said an older brunette in a prim dress.
Other women joined the drunken chorus to sing fresh praises for the archeologist. Ridiculous. I heades to the gallery, leaving the brouhaha behind.

Nathan wins a trip for two for them to Morocco but then at the last moment decides it is better to stay home to do something for his work. Pissed off Sara decides to go to Morocco alone. The very expensive arranged tour however is full with the same boring types as attended the fundraising.

Then the spot of Nathan is filled by Kai. Kai the archeologist. It takes him however just a day to decide he rather continues as a backpacker with an old friend and they ask Sara to tag along. Causing a complete cultureshock on her part.

So far you will think this book sounds like a romance novel for women but it has more to offer.

First of all it gives a very recognisable idea of the mayor Moroccan touristic spots. I really enjoyed that as I toured the country in 2005 a bit along the same route.

But second of all at the second half of the book it suddenly turns very serious. How to cope with a tremendous loss? Should one try and be loyal to someone or follow your heart? Can you just throw away all you worked for? It had me in tears.

For someone in the legal profession with a love for history and once a ton of grief it was quite close to home.

I can really recommend it!


And it seems to be written by a man!!!.

Just 99 cents on Kindle so what are you waiting for? Just click on the picture below.




AMAZON wrote:

Sara Meadows is an ambitious attorney who helps her mining-company client make billions, even if she has to bulldoze an ancient monastery and blackmail the opposition. Unsavory, true, especially since she once dreamed of a PhD in art history, but soon she’ll make partner at an elite firm. Not bad for someone raised on food stamps. A vacation to Morocco shouldn’t screw up anything.

It screws up everything.

Backpacking through Morocco, Sara meets an archaeologist who seems everything she is not: idealistic, spontaneous, and as down-to-earth as his digs. They explore fabled kasbahs and medieval medinas, sharing tales under Saharan skies. Over sips of mint tea, the two discover a mutual passion for history. And fall in love.

Sara’s newfound happiness would be perfect but for one tiny detail: the priceless monastery she’s demolishing is the same one the archaeologist is desperate to save. Navigating unexpected detours is hard enough. Betraying someone she loves is harder. The hardest part? Mustering the courage to defy her head and follow her heart.




Wednesday, 7 December 2016

#FREE book (Well at least today) The Viking (The Viking Series Book 1) by Marti Talbott

The Viking (The Viking Series Book 1) by Marti Talbott

#Free book

At not quite fifteen, Stefan’s father finally let him board the longship Sja Vinna to take part in his first Viking raid. Yet, the battle was not at all what he expected and he soon found himself alone and stranded in Scotland.

Thirteen-year-old Kannak’s problem was just as grave. Her father deserted them and the only way to survive, she decided, was to take a husband over her mother‘s objections. Suddenly she was helping a hated Viking escape. Could Kannak successfully hide a Viking in the middle of a Scottish Clan? And why was someone plotting to kill the clan's beloved laird?
----
This book is suitable for ages 14 and above.


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It’s World War II and Ludwika Gierz, a young Polish woman, is forced to leave her family and go to Nazi Germany to work for an SS officer. There, she must walk a tightrope, learning to live as a second-class citizen in a world where one wrong word could spell disaster and every day could be her last. Based on real events, this is a story of hope amid despair, of love amid loss . . . ultimately, it’s one woman’s story of survival.
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