Monday, 14 August 2017

Review of The Seed Woman by Petra Durst-Benning

This is a novel 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:

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.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Review of "The Red" - do I dare to tell I did read that?

For the website Nedgalley I review books that have not been published yet. This one had a beautiful cover and after the "50 shades of grey"- hype even a nun can admit to have read an erotic novel right?

Mona Lisa enherited the artgallery of her mother but the business was so deep in depths she had to fire the staff and was about to close it down. Then a very goodlooking man appeared in the gallery after closing time and offered her to save her gallery. But she had to have sex with him once and awhile for a period of a year. She thaught he was a rich guy and who wanted a mistress. What he wanted was to reenact famous paintings however.

Which means they have sex only a couple of times during that year but it is all a bit out of the ordinary.

To be honest I thought most of the book pure porn. I am a hopeless romantic so group orgies, flogging and the like are not my cup of tea.

However some of the things that happened seemed to hint to something that was strange and unexplainable. Like when Malcolm reenacts a painting of a satyr playing with nymphs he seems to have real satyr legs. Mona at first thinks it is just a matter of having spent a lot of money on re-ennacting.

So I wanted to know what was really going on. Mona Lisa herself wonders if he is the devil. In books everything is possible is it not? In the end we find out who Malcolm really is and to be honest that part of the book is quite good.

I also liked the fact that the book explained a lot about famous paintings or paintings that I had not know of from famous painters.

Book review: The Midwife: The Pocket Watch Chronicles - a kind of Outlander Light

Another of those novels in which a woman timetravels to Scotland ("Outlander" set a trend). This time even further: to the 12th century.

The beginning is interesting. How to practice medicine with modern knowledge but Dark Ages material. You can notice the writer has a medical background. When you cannot perform a Ceasarian what other options are left?

The second half however is a bit bland. I rather had seen a bit more background and soulsearching. As for instance in Outlander where the real history and politics of the period are described.

Not the deepest story but a nice one to read on a plane (train / bus) and I had hours to fill in transport.

Amazon is a lot cheaper than Bol.  Kindle you can read with an app on your phone.

Te koop via

Te koop via Amazon

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Review of "Laws of Migration"

Birds, especially the ibis, have always fascinated Elize--that's why she became an ornithologist. But when her boss at the private Texas coastal institute where she's spent her career gives away her expected promotion, Elize flees to Morocco to lick her wounds and write a research paper that will prove her worth and secure her professional future.

Morocco, with its impressive migration season, exotic flavors, and unwritten rules, is altogether foreign, even if many of the birds are familiar. After a brush with danger, Elize finds herself in Marrakesh, dependent on Erik, a sexy, mysterious stranger who makes her feel alive while opening her eyes to a new, intriguing world. After encountering her ornithology colleagues, who remind Elize of every bad professional choice and missed opportunity, she vows to find the Northern Bald Ibis--an endangered bird few have seen--and impress everyone.

She and Erik journey from coastal paradise to remote desert mountains in search of the birds. Through misadventure, Elize is forced to trust an unknown culture, and through tragedy, she realizes that love and forgiveness are attainable. But first she must surrender her past and its pain to embrace her future and fly free.

For sale at Amazon and (loading of the button can be slow, please wait and let me earn some commission)

I do have doves nesting on my balcony but that is all I know of birds. I did not even know all kind of groups of birds have a different name  in English like "a murder of crows". Maybe we do not have that in Dutch. All in all the small facts on birds were interesting to learn. Another plus was how I could recognise the real Morocco in the book. The story is a lovestory but even more that of someone whose life had been an emotional desert who slowly - with a lot of references to birds- starts to function living in and enjoying groups. To live, to feel, to be happy. At first one suspects it to be a dreadful chicklit romp but the story gets better after awhile.


Review of "The Drowning guard" - a Turkish princess confesses to her executioner

When the sister of the sultan starts to smell decay everywhere her physician suspects it is guilt making her mind ill. What would not be surprising as as she is renowned as the woman who drowns her lovers in the Bosporus The old Christian doctor recommends a confessor. Who better then the executioner. And so nights of storytelling like in 1001 night start. But is she really such a vile person?
I liked the psychology of the first part. But had problems seeing her as a hero because she knew what would happen and still acted as a bitch in heath. Apparently it is based on a historical woman and a good read however some elements sound very unrealistic and fantastic to me. 

Each morning in the hour before dawn, a silent boat launches on the Bosphorous, moving swiftly into the deepest part of the waters halfway between Europe and Asia, where a man will die…

The Drowning Guard is the tale of the Ottoman princess, Esma Sultan—one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history and unlike any other woman in the Islamic world. In a gender reversal of Scheherazade in 1001 Arabian Nights, Esma seduces a different Christian lover each night, only to have him drowned in the morning. The Sultaness's true passion burns only for the Christian-born soldier charged with carrying out the brutal nightly death sentence: her drowning guard, Ivan Postivich.

The Drowning Guard explores the riddle of Esma—who is at once a murderer and a champion and liberator of women—and the man who loves her in spite of her horrifying crimes. This textured historical novel, set in the opulence and squalor of Istanbul in 1826, is woven with the complexity and consequences of love.

VIA AMAZON AND BOL.COM (loading takes awhile, be patient)

Review of 'Ottoman the epic rise and fall of Constantinople"

Hawkwood one of the first artillerist moves to Byzantium to offer his knowledge to the Emperor. However he ends up fighting for the Ottoman sultan and so will his descendants for the next 200 years.
Great story that starts with Mehmet Fati who conquers Constantinople and ends with Selim the Sot.



1448, Constantinople.

A city where East meets West in a glittering display of culture and power.

English master-gunner John Hawkwood uproots his family from their native land and journeys to this fabled city.

With the city under threat by the Ottoman Turks, the Byzantine emperor is in desperate need of men like Hawkwood and the knowledge of cannon and gunpowder he brings.

For a time, the Hawkwoods enjoy status and privilege in return for John’s superior abilities as an artillerist.

But all good things must come to an end.

When tragedy strikes, even the close relationship John shares with the emperor cannot absolve the family of their sins, and with little more than the clothes on their backs, the Hawkwoods flee Constantinople.

Captured by the savage Turks, John Hawkwood swiftly changes his allegiance, and once more applies his considerable skills…this time serving the conquerors in their victorious surge across eastern Europe and Mediterranean shores.

No man lives forever, but the Hawkwood line never dies.

For five generations, the Hawkwood men serve their Turkish leaders faithfully as military leaders and envoys.

Although showered with wealth and privilege and accorded honours commensurate with their rank, their fates lie in the often capricious hands of the Ottoman empire’s cruel leaders.

Over a span of nearly one hundred and fifty years, the Hawkwoods must employ every ounce of political cunning they possess to survive the swirling intrigues and bloody massacres that dominate the world in which they live.

For their wives and concubines, the uncertainties and dangers of life are no less severe: the punishment meted out to a Hawkwood man who fails his duty likewise falls upon his family.

Beyond the gleaming wealth and the veneer of power lie grim spectres of betrayal and sudden death, the threat of ravishment and torture lurking behind the gilded pillars of their palaces and harems.

And when the time comes to choose between Ottoman and Hawkwood, no one can say what the future might bring…
(source Amazon)

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Review: The Spanish woman (book about life in the Ottoman empire)

When I bought the book I expected a traditional romance novel But it is a book written by a male historian. The book starts as a romance story in which a woman is taken (in both meanings of the word writes the historic source material) captive by a Turkish naval captain. This means that her pending marriage to a Spanish nobleman will be cancelled and even when her family will pay her ransom she will be send to a convent for the rest of her life. She cannot stand that thought. However, they marry and the story turns more into a narrative of life in Ottoman Turkey. Where you have to make sure you do not offend the Sultan by falling in love with your own prisoner without at least offering the spoils of war to him first. Where the whole court moves every summer to Adrianople. Where the Queen Mum can summon you to court. But where women although veiled have quite some freedom. Even more it seemed to me then she had in Spain. It seems to be based on a mention of a Spanish woman who was married to a Turkish admiral, in letters of the wife of an English diplomat at the Ottoman court. Interesting book. I reread it a year later and it was even better then because then you know it is no juicy romance but a realistic tale of a woman who had to take matters in her own hands and ended up very happy. In our days of internet and telephones you can hardly imagine however that couples would not see each other or even speak to each other for a year due to work and you would not even know if the other was still alive.

Monday, 10 April 2017

An impressive book about the scars of WW2: review of The women of the castle

(By The publisher) Bavaria, Germany. June, 1945.
The Third Reich has crumbled. The Russians are coming. Can Marianne von Lingenfels and the women in her care survive and build their ravaged world anew?
Marianne - widow of a resistor to the Nazi regime - returns to the grand, crumbling castle where she once played host to all of German high society. She assembles a makeshift family from the ruins of her husband's movement, rescuing her dearest friend's widow, Benita, from sexual slavery to the Russian army, and Ania from a work camp for political prisoners. She is certain their shared past will bind them together.
But as Benita begins a clandestine relationship and Ania struggles to conceal her role in the Nazi regime, Marianne learns that her clear-cut, highly principled world view has no place in these new, frightening and emotionally-charged days.
All three women must grapple with the realities they now face, and the consequences of decisions each made in the darkest of times . . .
(My Review) 
I was very impressed by this book. The story starts during a party on Burg Lingenfels in the late 1930-ties. The husband of Marianne von Lingenfelt, her childhood friend Connie and some others decide after long deliberations to overthrow Hitler because they see him as evil. That is the only moment I have doubts about the book as the guys join the Von Stauffenberg putch but that takes place in 1944 so why wait that long?

Marianne, flat chested and bony, is married to her old university professor. She seems to have a happy marriage but it seems more a good partnership than a passionate love affair. During the party at the beginning of the book Connie kisses her and I believe this man is the love of her life. Someone she was in love with as a teenager but who never noticed her as more than a friend she thought. And then he kisses her like that and introduces her to his pregnant fiancee Benita a beautiful young girl and she wonders what to think of it all. Reading the book we learn that he always called Marianne The judge and said to Benita Marianne could be so cruel. What has Marianne wondening why.

Then the story jumps to 1945. The husbands are all executed and Marianne sets out to find Benita and Connie's son. They are joined by Ania another widow who hides a secret. The women try to survive in the ruined castle dealing with famine, former Nazies and raiding Russians.

The book ends in 1991 and a very old Marianne is asked to speech at a book presentation in Burg Langenfels that is now a New Age, human rights center. Marianne realises that she is unworthy of all the praise. That she was indeed a harsch judge all those years ago who put herself on a moral high horse and time has come to forgive and be forgiven. Meanwhile the daughter of a Nazi and the son of the man executed by the Nazies make love.

To prevent spoilers I cannot delve too much into the story but I was very impressed by this book. The story deals with all the muddy details of the war and the time after the war. Like one of the children was in a Nazi-home but thinks back kindly to the lady who ran it. It reminded me of my elderly neighbour who worked in Germany as forced labourer but called the farmer Mutti (mother) and even years after the war when he was married would go to visit the old German woman. Landowners getting shot by advancing Russians, the rapes, the bombed out houses, the refugee trails, the movies showing concentration camps, the youth camps of the Nazies when they were still fun, the moments that people realise mass killings take place, the condemnation of people who did not do wrongs, the ways people try to pay for their sins or not. 

It is a book you cannot stop reading and then you will think about it for days afterwards.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

A romance in the 15th century - The McKinnon the beginning

England, 15th century. Morgan finds her whole family slaughtered by an uncle who uses her as his ward to be able to rule her earldom. Her father had obtained a charter that his daughter would be able to rule it on her own after her 23rd birthday in the event he would die. When he uncle asks permission of the king to marry his ward and is turned down and her birthday is approaching Morgan fears for her life and escapes the castle posing as a stable-hand. In the forests she stumbles upon Sir Nic not knowing that he is ordered by the king to marry her (women and castles being seen as a reward).

The story is very well written but unfortunately the writer did cut the book in two parts and I got only part one to write a review about. I do not understand that marketing concept.

Monday, 3 April 2017

The hell of the Arctic runs during WW2: review of "Soldier, Sail North" by James Pattinson

This book was written in 1954 and is republished. It narrates the hell on earth that were the Arctic runs. The allies had promised Stalin to send him material to use in his fight against the Germans. The result were convoys under constant attack by the German navy and airforce.

Flint Whitlock describes it like this:
The voyages across the North Atlantic and from Iceland to the Russian ports of Murmansk, Archangel, and Kola Inlet involved more hazards than in any other kind of naval duty. Severe weather was commonplace. Ice fields could be encountered at any time of year. Floating mines were a constant menace. German submarines, surface craft, and warplanes could strike at will from nearby bases in German-occupied Norway. And, prior to the spring of 1943, when an effective Allied antisubmarine offensive got underway, ships and men making the so-called “Murmansk Run” had about one chance in three of returning.
This was no glamorous sea campaign, with full-sail, tall-masted men-of-war firing broadside after broadside into their enemy’s rigging. It was a cold, dirty, dangerous business in which seamen might be blown into a flaming sea of burning oil and left to die of wounds, burns, or hypothermia.
Once the convoys reached their destinations, there was no guarantee of safe harbor, either, for the Germans often attacked while the cargo ships were in port, unloading. Then there was the return trip.
The history of the convoy operations, which went on nearly continuously from the autumn of 1939 until May 1945, is one of intense suffering, great loss, unparalleled bravery, and uncompromising devotion to duty. The epic saga is one of the most remarkable chapters of World War II—one that has for too long been overshadowed by other events. (See:
It took many decades before those merchant sailors on the Murmansk runs were regarded as war veterans in the USA. No GI-bill benefits. And if I remember correctly only a few years ago the British survivors received a medal for having taken part in the campaign.

Most novels have one or maybe two or three central characters we readers can identify with. The heroes of the story. Here it is a whole team of gunners of the Maritime Royal Artillery who board the S.S. Golden Ray of Liverpool. The have to man the gun during the trip to Murmansk.

Of every gunner we come to know a bit of his background. But that is not enough to really bond with the person. However it is a great opportunity to narrate the different aspects of the war: The effects on marriages when the husband has to leave a few weeks into the marriage and only to return almost a year later, the bombardments on the British cities, the old officers who came back from retirement, the British communist and fascists movement, people surviving a sinking to see their mates die of hunger and thirst in the lifeboats, the very lives suddenly cut short. The book works well as a kind of history book.

The writer accomplishes to make you feel the stress. Icy waters with wolfpacks lurking in the depths, planes circling that are the scouts of the attack that will come. Ships going up in balls of flames all around you.

What is also quite special is that the only Germans mentioned are a pilot who is shot while he is floating by after his plane went down (by then a warcrime too) and the captain of a submarine who is described as quite a good bloke because he hands out food and water to survivors in a lifeboat.

The cover of the book is a real ship from the Arctic runs.

An interesting read.

There are a few editing issues in the beginning with words slurring together. I am sure the publisher will amend that.

How "un-sexy" can a novel be? Review of "The disappearence of Catherine Brodie"

Scanning NetGalley for new novels to read and review I noticed one with a beautiful cover. NetGalley qualified it as erotica but as my 18th birthday passed over 30 years ago that should not be a problem and the description sounded interesting: a young law student lies to her parents to attend a party and her parents and brother die as a result of that (it seemed). Every birthday after that she meets Alex somehow. And it is obvious people mean her harm.

To my surprise the book seemed to be a coming of age story for young adults. Well at least for 70% into the story. Then all of a sudden things like groupsex and kinkclubs it is. And that does not seem suitable for the young readers.

It is an accomplishment in itself to write sexscenes that are so unerotic. If you want to write about stuff like that why stop in the middle of things? How old is the author?

What irritated me from the start was the kind of "voice over"- style of telling a story. It felt like a summary of someone's biography.

It also did not help that all of a sudden the book ended and people are supposed to buy a part two.

Not a fan!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Review of "Revolution" by Piet Hein Wokke - Brilliant novel set in the Middle East

One of the best novels I read in a long time! "Shepherds use religion to fight; sheep fight over religion". It is one of the great quotes in the novel written by Dutch historian Piet Hein Wokke (3 June 1985) who studied history in Groningen, focusing on contemporary conflicts and Middle Eastern history. Even when the book is set in a fictitious country called Beledar situated between Jordan and Iraq, the novel sheds light on many real things regarding the region while telling a captivating story in the meantime: What is the difference between the Sunni and the Shi'a muslims? Why did people call followers of Islam Mohammedans in the past and why do Muslims prefer to be called Muslims? (Because they think the term Mohammedans implies they worship Mohammed like Christians worship Christ). And when you are familiar with the history of the region you recognise elements of Jordanian and Iraqi historic facts in the tale of fantasy Beledar.

The story is about two young boys: Abdullah and Khalid who are just in their teens when the story starts and when young emir Jalal (who will become King later on) takes over the reign from his father. Still children both boys have to kill someone.

Abdullah is a street rat from the city who is given the chance to go and work for king Jalal. Khalid a younger son of a more or less well-to-do merchant from a desert oasis who runs away to the army with his brother and rises through the ranks.

We follow both boys growing up into men and in between we see short glimpses of King Jelal who in my opinion is the real hero of the story. A king who quotes Shakespeare, is aware he is a descendant of the prophet Mohammed but refuses to believe in a God as mankind is "shortsighted, self-centered and treacherous" and no God would create a species like that in his opinion. Although an Arab lord he is more British than anything else. Stiff upper lip and all.

Beledar is emerging into something more modern under King Jelal but not everyone likes that policy so under a prospering society currents of discontent are whirling.

In the end it is the conscience and courage of both Abdullah and Khalid that are tested. And unlike in his youth when revenge was brought upon someone here one of them says in the end: "Retribution for an injury is equal injury. However who forgives an injury and make reconciliation will be rewarded by God" and the other man feels the eyes of the king burning into his soul again.

I have the feeling the writer wants to continue the story in another book. Maybe that is one of the reasons some things are not crystal clear in the end. The writer choose sto show us a glimpse into the future of Beledar and our hero. I would have advised against that or to continue writing the whole story.

Nevertheless a brilliant book that had my Muslim colleague and I discussing it. I certainly can recommend buying it. I myself was given the opportunity of an advanced copy for the Netgalley-site.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Review of "The strings of the Lute" - a book about love and a view into Moroccan, American and French daily life

The lute in the title is the instrument Moroccan Larbi was given by an uncle to help him overcome his grief. Later on in his life he gives the instrument to a friend to help her cope with her loss.

This is a book about love: the love between two girl friends growing up together, the love between a Moroccan architect and a girl from the US, the love between parents and children and the lingering love for people departed.

The book starts slow and it took me awhile to start liking it - it is not so much a novel as someone telling you their lifestory - but it becomes a lot more interesting when she meets Larbi. The writer successfully brings the world in it to life. The French town, the Moroccan daily life. As the writer is living for decades in Morocco the book gives you in my opinion a real glimpse of Moroccan life. I wondered if some things were not more or less a personal memoir.

At first I had the feeling the writer ended the book too suddenly. I was annoyed how the girlfriend did not tell the husband about how happy his wife had been when she had discovered something. The limbo we as readers ended up in. But after a day or so - while I was still thinking about the novel - I think that limbo might be part of the charm.

Review of thrilling detectivenovel "Ghosts of the Sahara"

Thrilling detective novel set in Morocco: A girl is found dead in Morocco, an heiress disappeared and reporter Kennedy supposed to do an interview with a terrorist. But the terrorist who abducted the girl has a history with Kennedy. He held her hostage too but were they lovers?
The writer had a career in journalism what made the journalism world in the book believable. And the story successfully steers clear of the stereotypes.
The book opens with a scene that reminded me of the movie (and the novel) "The Sheltering sky".
I have never been in the deep south of Morocco so I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the setting, but the book is a joy to read anyways.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

#Free on Amazon today: "The king's man" set in 13th century Wales

Ranulf Ombrier’s fame throughout 13th century England for his skill at swordplay is rivaled only by his notoriety as King Edward I’s favorite killer. Ranulf's actions have gained him lands, title, and a lasting reputation as a hired butcher. But after years of doing his king's bidding, he begins to fear for his mortal soul and follows his conscience away from Edward, all the way to the wilds of Wales.

Gwenllian of Ruardean, Welsh daughter of a powerful Marcher lord, has every reason to leave Ranulf for dead when one of her men nearly kills him. As a girl she was married by proxy to a man Ranulf murdered, only to become a widow before she ever met her groom. In the years since, she has shunned the life of a lady, instead studying warfare and combat at her mother’s behest. But she has also studied healing and this, with her sense of duty to knightly virtues, leads her to tend to Ranulf’s wounds.

Saving her enemy’s life comes with consequences, and Gwenllian and Ranulf are soon caught up in dangerous intrigue. Forced together by political machinations, they discover a kinship of spirit and a surprising, intense desire. But even hard-won love cannot thrive when loyalties are divided and the winds of rebellion sweep the land.

(source: Amazon)

I have not read it yet. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

This Scottish girl jumps not to the past but another realm - book review of "The Source of Magic"

Delightful story with quite a few surprises. Jilian comes back to Scotland after her father's death. In the night she hears a voice calling her. A day later a stranger appears from thin air who hauls her into another realm. It seems her help is paramount to save that country.
The writer has a very pleasant style of writing and succeeds in building a world for us that comes to life on the pages.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A great fantasy saga (2 books) "The reluctant concubine" and "The accidental sorceress"

With a title like this you would not expect a Game of Thrones like story.

At the beginning of the two books Tera is I guess 16 or something. She and her father live on a beach and have fallen into deep poverty since the death of her mother who was a famous healer. She trained as a healer too but apart from administering herbal treatment she is still unable to heal by magic. When she would bed a man before that gift comes to her she probably will never develop it.

Sold into slavery she ends up in a society alien to her. It is a kind of warrior state where women are either concubines or slaves to be used by the warriors. But after a year or so in the service of a cruel household of a local noble the high lord of the country makes her his only concubine without ever touching her.

She does everything to regain her freedom so she can return home but then stumbles on an old secret.

While book 1 read as a romance story with fantasy elements book 2 is a fantasy adventure about a war but with a love aspect.

 Book 2

Tera is now the favourite concubine of the High Lord Batumar and his city is rebuilding after the siege. However her safe home is now threatened by another enemy and Tera feels very insecure about how Batumar feels about her. (And after having read book 1 you know the man is someone you would want to have fall in love with you.) But then Batumar wants to embark on a dangerous journey to forge alliances and takes her with him.

The story does a great job in painting us a vast world and in describing love and loss. Where many books will treat grief as a temporary thing here two things really wound her and are still hurting later on on several occasions like it would in the real world.

We can witness Tera grow into a leader. She is really a character you bond with. Her bodyguard Orz brings tears to one's eye.

Very good book. I will recommend it to my friends.

There were however some thing that kept me wondering: (***** some minor spoilers)
- Why would the High Lord leave his realm to go on such a mission on his own and not send a trusted warrior or diplomat? Because that one is already dead? Is there no other? I mean even with a second in command in place it will leave his country without the highest leader. Even if he maybe thinks he can accomplish it in two weeks or so it is very dangerous;
- Why does Tera not heal Orz with her healing magic? Somewhere she says he would be angry. Why? Because it would kill her as he is so hurt? But now his injuries make him unable to do his job.
- He cannot speak and then suddenly he can? Is that just a way of him getting healed over time?
Many reviewers on Amazon say there will be a third novel but I doubt it. As the last couple of sentences are exactly what Tera has been hoping for.

Worth the money. A 5 out of 5 stars!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Review "Ebb Tide" - A nautical Zombie novel that keeps you hooked

Only 0.99 cents. Totally scary. Death around every corner. I had trouble falling asleep. As English is a foreign language for me and I am all thumbs some of the technical stuff I did not grasp but the story is great. (The writer lives on a yacht in the Pacific just like Matai). The story is set in the near future. A pandemic flu has killed 90% of the world's population. 5% survived and the other 5% turned into a kind of zombies. Matai the female hero lives on the sailing yacht that used to be her parent's. Initially the family survived because they were at sea when the illness struck. The book starts with Matai finding a Chinese cargo ship that ran aground on an atoll. She suspects it to be full of hidden treasures to bring home to the island she and her survivor friends live but she is also scared to death that the dark cargo holds might be full with Typhoid Maries. The story is told partly in flash backs.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Morocco 16th century: Young Berber woman becomes pirate queen -based on historic facts

Hura is only 14 years old when her free childhood as daughter of a Berber prince in 16th century Morocco comes to an end. She is married off to the Andalusian refugee who is now the ruler of the coastal town Tetouan. Her much older husband thinks wives belong in the harem. But young Hura finds a way out and succeeds in convincing her husband to let her assist him. But their little realm is under constant threat: refugees poring in, culture classes between Berbers and Andalusians, Portuguese raids and a Sultan who cannot be trusted.

The story feels like it has been researched and the fact that is is based in a real folk hero guarantees a story that does not fall for platitudes.

The writer has a pleasant style. I enjoyed reading it. What I also found refreshing is that she does not make Hura into a 21st century girl transported into the 16th century. No complaints about arranged marriages.

What I thought interesting was to see that the town her husband rules is quite cosmopolitan: Jews and Christians living there. A gay man totally accepted. While the Berber stronghold she comes from has a ban on Jews and Christians from entering. Also interesting to see is how Rabat and Algiers were more or less rubble (an Tetouan) at first due to bombardment earlier in the century. And I had not expected that men and women would mingle at a court dinner.

Like I said: good reading material. For people with Moroccan roots, people who visited there, people who like to read about history or people who have Moroccan clients they want to impress.

Hura, a young Berber woman, defies the confining tradition of her first husband's harem to become the ruler of his fiefdom. Set in early Sixteenth century Morocco and based on fact, this biographical novel is the first to chronicle her heartbreaking challenges and dazzling achievements. (AMAZON)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Nine parts of desire - the hidden world of Islamic women - book review

As a prizewinning foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Geraldine Brooks spent six years covering the Middle East through wars, insurrection, and the volcanic upheaval of resurgent fundamentalism. Yet for her, headline events were only the backdrop to a less obvious but more enduring drama: the daily life of Muslim women.Nine Parts of Desire is the story of Brooks' intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives.(

The book is written in 1996 many years prior to the Taliban, 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. It is an interesting book and easy to read. The chapters are all around one theme  and cover many themes and a couple of countries: the wives of the Prophet, polygamy on the West bank, the widow and daughter of Ayatollah Khomeiny, temporary marriages in Iran etc.

Some things make you smile as when she barges into a bedroom of a fellow attendant to a women's conference who she has only seen in chador to meet a woman clad in a see through negligee with bleached blonde hair and at first think she made a mistake with the roomnumber. I remember a bit of the same experience that happened to me at an asylumseeker centrum where one lady was always sternly covered in a scarf but once in her room had changed into a classic French chic woman.

Sometimes one wonders if the outsider look of the writer did draw the correct conclusion. Like when she discovers her fellow conference attendee is a vamp under all her covers and the lady explains that the Iranian women make themselves beautiful for their husband and the writer thinks back on meeting mrs Khomeiny after her husband's death and discovers the grandmother in her seventies is hiding a load of carrot red dyed curls under her chador that show grey roots because she has not dyed them after her husband's death. One of my friends died young and his mother and wife did not dye their hair not because he could not see it anymore but as a sign of mourning.

Nevertheless: interesting book - 5 stars out of 5

Oh and this is what the title means:  "God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one part to men."

You can buy in in Holland at or worldwide at Amazon. Advertising buttons will appear below. Bol is slow.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Epic story where a fantasy Roman empire meets a fantasy Persian desert sultanate

When you like Games of Thrones this might be a book for you.

Althea is the daughter of the Emperor of Ronan, a lush farming country that reminds us of the Roman empire. One day she sneaks out of the palace to see the normal life in the empire but ends up caught and sold as a slave into the mysterious neighbouring desert sultanate.

I did not like book 1 and you can read book 2 as a stand alone. It might even make it even more a puzzle. It had a captivating story with loads of mystery and intrigue. And you think you can predict the story and then it goes again into a different direction.

WARNING there might be some slight spoilers ahead although I tried to make them unrecognisable for the people who have not read the book yet.

Only thing I missed was knowing how Althea felt when someone who had seemed a friend died. Would you not grieve or miss someone after been together that often or consider yourself been played?

I also wondered how you can stay sane when on the one hand you are best friends with someone and on the other am a traitor.

I liked the solid way personalities were constructed in a psychological way. Did he really want her or was it just a powerplay to use her? The trustissues. The inherited harshness. When you think back you realise his best friend telling her that he could tell one thing and you would think he means it in a certain way but then do something unexpected because that was what he had in mind.

Book one (free) 2 stars out of 5
Book two (99 cents) 5 stars out of 5

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Review of "Lost Lady of Laramie" - A woman is captured by Indians and is surviving in a society alien to her own.

The writer has written many books each set in a different part of the history of the United States. This one is set in the days when the Wild West was opening up and wagon trains started to cross into Indian territories.

The book is the story of a young officer's wife who is captured by Indians, her low life husband and a nasty warchief. What balances the story are all the realistic and complex minor roles. The Indians seem a lot more sympathetic then the whites. I liked to read about all the cultural things. Good book. And a cheap buy.

"Scandalous Lady" - a romance novel set in historic Istanbul with a good story that managed to get the location right

Written by a lady who married someone in Turkey and lived and worked there for years this story is coloured with a lot of the real landmarks in and around Istanbul. The story is set in 1811.

When Olivia travels to Turkey to join her historian brother in the days of Napoleon, there is not much left in England to return to: victim of a huge scandal and her soon to be sister in law insisting she will not live in the family manor. While in Troy she is saved from an attack by a viper by a mysterious man. She sees him again in Constantinople sometimes looking like a Turkish noble sometimes as an European. Olivia feels strongly fascinated by this stranger.

The novel is a good story in which a lot happens and where logical decisions are made even when some might be very modern for a lady in those days. It is also nice to read when you have been in Istanbul.

While a lot of the romance novels set in Ottoman time even manage to have deserts around Istanbul the things described in this book are easily recognisable for one like me who spent weeks there for a course. The cysterns, the boating on the Bosporus, the view from the high cliffs near the Black Sea, the paradise of the Princes Isles (although now the sea is quite polluted.).

The one thing I do not understand is the need to make the hero part French. It is a habit seen in old romances like The Sheikh. As if a European woman and a Muslim non-European could not fall in love. I am sure it would not have been socially acceptable in early 19th century Britain but at that time the Turkish Sultan mother was rumoured to be a captured French woman and cousin of Napoleon's wife. And many haremgirls were. In this book the Sultan mother is mentioned but not her European roots. What I mean is if the writer wanted to make the lovematch not to have to cross too many cultural gaps she could have given Selim a Western slave as a mother or grandmother. The Sultan, the leader of the believers, marrying his sister to a Christian French nobleman sounds too far fetched to me.

I also doubt nobility living in France under Napoleon. Did the ones who survived the revolution not flee abroad and return after Napoleon lost? But jf they stayed working against France would be treason and Selim seems too honourable for that.

And I thought Constantinople as a name for the town ceased when the Ottomans conquered the Byzantine capital and renamed it Istanbul? Or kept the English using the old name?

So although the geographical backdrop is correct to the dot I have doubts about the historical accuracy.

But aside from those historical things the book is interesting, fast paced, shows a lot of cultural colour and has a hero you would like to have yourself : witty caring, smart, strong but vulnerable and good-looking.

5 stars out of 5

This is how Amazon describes it:

 Turkey, 1811

All in the name of love…

For as long as Richard Hartford can remember he has wanted to see Turkey, and explore the antiquities of the once mighty Ottoman Empire.

Now, he is fulfilling that dream alongside his sister, Olivia.

Since their parents died in a carriage accident when she was 16, the siblings have been very close. Now 23, Olivia is a strong woman who knows her own mind.

Before Richard left their family estate for Turkey, he sent Olivia to London for the season, hoping she would find herself a husband. But scandal erupted when Lord Craybook, a gambler with huge debts who knew he could not win her hand any other way, set out to compromise her, keeping Olivia away from home overnight.

Olivia’s aunt, who she was staying with in London, insists she marry Lord Craybrook, but Olivia refuses and is shipped off to Turkey to avoid the inevitable scandal.

Yet Olivia soon falls in love with the magical land of Turkey and she soon meets a number of interesting people, like Lady Hester Stanhope, niece of the prime minister of England, and intrepid world traveller.

And then there is the handsome Selim, cousin to the Sultan.

Selim works as an ambassador for the Sultan and Olivia quickly falls irrevocably in love with him. Things are looking quite promising for Olivia, until Lord Crayrook shows up, determined to win her hand.

Is Olivia destined to live a life of solitude and regret?

Or will her past stay buried long enough for her to have her happy ending?

Filled with the rich detail of the sunset of the Ottoman Empire, Scandalous Lady is a love story that crosses cultures and boundaries, showing what is possible when love is at stake.