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: http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/running-the-gauntlet-the-murmansk-run-wwiis-arctic-convoys/)
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.(Bol.com)

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 Bol.com 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.




Review "Bloodmoon over Zanzibar" - I was disappointed as it seems just the beginning of a story and that is the case

AMAZON: "Lachlan McKenzie never found out why his family lived as virtual exiles in a lonely bay on the Slave Coast of Africa, far from the other British traders on the Cape.

No one will talk about it.

The past is best left buried, his father tells him.

But the past is never dead; one day an armed frigate appears in the bay. As its mysterious commander rolls out the cannon the young Hamish prepares to defend all he knows and loves.

There are unspeakable tragedies ahead; and perhaps, at the end of it, a life of love and glory, on the other side of the world.
But first he must survive …"


My review: Normally I am a big fan of this author. But his new book disappointed. It reads as a novel that stops halfway into the story. Unlike other heroes in his books the ones here fail to let me bond with them apart from the moment the boy wakes up on the beach and realises he is all alone.

2 stars out of 5

Monday, 30 January 2017

#Free novel: Romantic adventure in Africa (Only free 30/1/17)

Kayla has always been a sucker for strays--baby gorillas, okapis, even rhinos--so when an American doctor shows up wounded at her door, with a story of being pressed into service as medic to a local militia unit, Mark LeSabre is just another stray to be taken in and taken care of.

Then Ushindi's controversial election tips the tiny nation into civil war, and Kayla's beloved ancestral coffee plantation becomes a casualty of the escalating conflict. Forced to flee, Kayla's determined not to leave any of her workers--or her strays--behind, including Mark, who's found his way into her heart...and her bed.

But a rich American doctor is too valuable a prize to let escape. Thwarted at every border access, with the militia hot on their tail, Kayla and Mark's only option for freedom is to brave a treacherous jungle route across the Mountains of the Moon. Alone, they might make it to Uganda and safety, but their ragtag group of strays will surely perish if they're abandoned.

How far will Mark and Kayla risk their lives--and their hearts--in the service of love?


Saturday, 28 January 2017

#Free novel: "The Woman in the Photograph: The Search for My Mother's Past" - #WW2 #Jewish #German

#Free only today

What if a secret photograph and a property stolen by the Nazis unlocked the door to your mother's buried past and to a family history you knew nothing about?
"A riveting, beautifully written memoir." – Naomi Lucks
"The story has a heartbeat." – Sue Bender
"An eloquent account of a daughter's transformative journey into the heart of her mother's hidden life." – Elizabeth Rosner

Mani Feniger steered a deliberate course away from her mother's German-Jewish roots. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, she found herself swept up in a flood of startling revelations from her mother's earlier life. As she pored through old photographs and documents, she began to ask questions about secrets and omissions. The answers she found both shocked and inspired her, and would irrevocably transform her view of her mother, herself, and the meaning of family legacy.



From Berkeley, California to New York City, to Leipzig, Germany, this compelling memoir takes you across continents and lifetimes.

"The Woman in the Photograph" will make you wonder about the men and women in your own photographs and how your life has been shaped by events you know little about.

#Free only today - Harper's folly - adventure novel - on board of a yacht near the Seycelles

#Free only today

Harper has everything to look forward to, and plenty to forget…

Starting life over again after an unpleasant divorce, he lands on the exotic Seychelles ready for a large dose of independence, fulfilment and fun — eager to take the helm of his magnificent motor yacht Moon Wind.

He has invested everything he owns into creating an exciting new life for himself in paradise as skipper of his own boat.

Moon Wind is for hire by the jet-set, to explore the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean.

But from the start it seems his fantasy could prove folly.

Harper discovers Moon Wind's previous owner and crew were found brutally murdered on board.

They had been secretly searching for pirate treasure.

Had they found an ancient fortune of gold lost beneath the waves or is Moon Wind jinxed by the gris-gris spells which terrify his crew?

For seemingly no reason Harper suffers a vicious attack and finds his yacht savagely vandalised.

The beautiful journalist Jo Hillman saves his life three times in as many days.

How does she always end up in the right place at the right time?

Then there is the captivating Gabrielle Balthazar, who seems to know more than she is telling…

Undeterred, Harper lifts anchor to take glamorous Prince Syed on a voyage to discover the delights of the local wildlife.

But the playboy prince is a pawn in a crucial Middle-East struggle for power.

Ruthless mercenaries and armed terrorists want him dead — and anyone else who stands in their way.

Harper has never handled a gun or fought for his life.

Now, at the centre of a bloody adventure, he must learn fast.

Harper’s Folly is the first in the Harper Series , full of modern adventure.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NCO1JQT/?tag=freebooksyemail-20&utm_source=Freebooksy+Free+Books&utm_campaign=956fc7e7bb-Freebooksy_email_2017_01_28&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_79911212c6-956fc7e7bb-58243385

Friday, 13 January 2017

"Silk Road" - a Templar and a monk travel east to the Mongol Khan to broker a deal against the Muslims.

Some books make you think about them long after you have closed the cover (or your Kindle App). This is one of those:

The story starts with a monk on his deathbed. He tells the abbot about his life and when the abbots leave he has the feeling the devil passes him in the hallway to come and collect the soul of the evil monk.

"The Holy Land, 1260. Josseran Sarrazini is chosen to escort the Pope’s emissary on an embassy to the all conquering Mongol horde in an effort to save all Christendom form destruction. But although he serves as a Templar warrior, Josseran is not all that he appears to be - and he despises the Pope’s man on sight.

Now they have to spend nine months in each other’s company on the most dangerous and most inhospitable journey on the earth - across the legendary deserts of Persia and the horrific black hurricanes of the Taklimakan, along the Silk Road to Khubilai Khan’s legendary capital at Xanadu.

When he sets out, Josseran cannot know then that he will never see Christendom again.

And somewhere near the Roof of the World a Tatar princess, possessing a gift for prophesy, refuses all her suitors and defies her father’s attempts to marry her off to the sons of other tribal chiefs. She does not belong in her world any more than Josseran belongs in his.

And now fate will bring their paths on a collision course somewhere on the Silk Road and change the course of her own life forever.

From the Storehouse of Winds to the Palace of Myriad Tranquillities, over the Pamirs and Hindu Kush to the legendary Xanadu and the dazzling court of Khubilai Khan. This is romance and adventure on a breath-taking scale."
AMAZON

My review

My first thought was that it reminded me of Turandot the opera where a princess also dismisses all her suitors because they cannot best her. In that case by not solving riddles, in this book by not outdoing her in martial arts.

I read somewhere that the writer started writing again with this book after a black period in his life. I have the feeling that might have to do with the death of his wife. There is a very poignant scene in the book where the only convert the Christians had made in China is calling out for God to help her and instead dies horrible sentenced to be killed by her own baby. That chapter had me sick. It was too horrible. I laid awake for hours. But looking at the whole book the whole bottomline is that the one who is spreading religion is utterly evil and has many deaths on his conscience. He is not at all what one would expect from a disciple of Christ. But the scene where God seems to refuse help made me wonder if that had it's origins in a personal experience of the writer with an illness what was fatal for someone near him. That he had lost faith himself. Thing is it had me reflect on my belief in God for days.

All in all it is a very interesting novel that tells us a lot about that time in history but also about the landscapes the caravan travels through. And it introduced me to the Mongolian culture of those days. Happy not to live then though. People are extremely cruel in the novel. Life seemed to be worth nothing and family members desert their own kind. Oh and the monk - hell would have been too good for him.



Novel "The Lushai girl" - How a simple convent girl survives a famous WW2 battle and becomes a businesstycoon

This book tells about how a simple convent girl in British India becomes a industrial tycoon in India after it's independence.

I had no idea where Lushai or Nagaland or ohima were located. I guessed on the border with Nepal. But according to Wikipedia the Lushai hills are located in Assam on the border with Birma. That might explain why part of the book describes the battle of Kohima.

Quoting Wikipedia: "The Battle of Kohima was the turning point of the Japanese U Go offensive into India in 1944 during the Second World War. The battle was fought in three stages from 4 April to 22 June 1944 around the town of Kohima in Nagaland in northeast India. From 3 to 16 April, the Japanese attempted to capture Kohima ridge, a feature which dominated the road by which the besieged British and Indian troops of IV Corps at Imphal were supplied. By mid-April, the small British and Indian force at Kohima was relieved. From 18 April to 13 May, British and Indian reinforcements counter-attacked to drive the Japanese from the positions they had captured. The Japanese abandoned the ridge at this point but continued to block the Kohima–Imphal road. From 16 May to 22 June, the British and Indian troops pursued the retreating Japanese and reopened the road. The battle ended on 22 June when British and Indian troops from Kohima and Imphal met at Milestone 109, ending the Siege of Imphal.
The battle is often referred to as the "Stalingrad of the East".[3][4] In 2013, the British National Army Museum voted the Battle of Imphal and Kohima to be "Britain's Greatest Battle"

Although Amazon more or less summarises the first part of the novel, the book itself is that good that you will still enjoy reading it. It does tell the story of Mary and the men in her life but at the same time the story of war and independence.

 
Amazon writes: "In March 1944, during World War Two and just before the Japanese army's offensive towards Bengal, their gateway to India, Lieutenant Gerald Petrie visits one of his father's tea plantations in Upper Assam, near Nagaland. As heir to the Petrie baronetcy and the Petrie tea empire, he knows the sort of world he will be entering, where British wives deal patience cards 'with the skill of ten thousand evenings'. What he does not expect to find there is the lovely Mary Sachema, a village-school educated Lushai hill girl working for the Warrens.

Against all the dictates of their circumstances Gerald and Mary fall deeply in love, spending just one night together before Gerald is abruptly recalled to his regiment. To Gerald's horror, but in tribal tradition, Mary follows him to the Kohima battlefield. Later, as he lies terribly wounded behind the enemy lines
she finds him and, to the amazement of his commanding officer, Alan Jameson, brings him to safety from a scene of carnage. As Gerald recovers, Mary and Alan realise that he will never walk again.

Scandalising Gerald's family and the co-directors of Petrie India, Mary accepts Gerald's proposal - accepting with it all the pain of a mixed marriage of that period, with an invalid husband, for the sake of love. She bears him a son, conceived before his injuries. And in due course, as his widow, becomes first-ever chairwoman of the Petrie India Company, at a time of far-reaching change.

The Lushai Girl, a 'best-seller' in several countries, was a finalist and runner-up in the Romantic Novelist Association's annual competition for the best romantic novel of the year. It is the highly romantic and deeply moving story of a woman's struggle to come to terms with family tragedy, racial prejudice, commercial manipulation and an India in which national politics have become politics of violence."

5 stars out of 5






Wednesday, 4 January 2017

"The Sultan’s Wife" - not a soppy romance story but a novel about an interesting time in Moroccan history

When I bought the book I expected some light reading material like "The Sheikh" to find myself suprised by a story about 17th century Moroccan sultan Moulay Ismail who built Meknes. The story is told by the black African courteunuch Nus Nus and the enslaved English concubine Alys Swan.

Moulay Ismail uses slave labor to built a huge palace and surrounding town in Meknes. His corsairs are attacking European ships and the seamen are used as laborers for the building project. Alys is a very pale and blonde woman sailing from Scheveningen to her betrothed in London when her ship is also attacked. The corsair leaders send her to the palace. The sultan is a very pious man and refuses a woman who is not Muslim so his queen orders Nus Nus to make sure Alys converts (or killed). During those meetings the eunuch and the foreign woman become friends.

The Moroccan court is a very dangerous place to live. Not only is the sultan definately mad in the head big time, his chief wife, a woman from Subsaharan Africa and a former slave, is as dangerous. Everybody believes her to be a witch and she has a habit of killing the other women and their children off using her potions. No one can be sure of his life around the two of them. While Zidana is cruel and evil the sultan however has more mellow moments. For instance he loves his children.

The book offers an interesting view into a period of history not many of us know a lot of. For those of us who have been in Meknes it is even more interesting. We read about all the different inhabitants of the area: the Westerners who occupy Tanger, the Jewish mellah and the obliged clothing for Jews, the Europeans who "turned Turk", the courtofficials ready to kill each other, the pest, the campains against the Berbers.

Part of the story is set in London at the court of King Charles the Second as Nus Nus is part of a delegation send to the English king that is led by a son of another British slave who is the architect of Meknes and whose English is perfect. The similarities and differences between the two courts are interesting: a king with many women, court ladies who rival each other, huge building projects. But while the sultan makes you shiver, king Charles is as interesting but a nicer person.

I reread the book over the Christmas holiday. Due to having read "The Tenth Gift" the first novel of Jane Johnson, and more or less a prequal to this one as that deals with the whole corsair and slavery subject, I enjoyed "The Sultan's wife" even more because I now knew what would happen to Nus Nus and Alys and focussed more on all the historical details and subplots.

A 5 out of 5 stars. Really recommend it. And the good news: Only 99 cents for the Kindle version



AMAZON wrote:
1677. In Europe, the Enlightenment is dawning after a century of wars. On the seas and in coastal villages, pirates and corsairs are the scourge of the waves. And in Morocco, Sultan Moulay Ismail is concentrating his power, building an elaborate palace complex with captive labor.

Alys Swann is also a captive, but hers is a different lot: convert to Islam, marry the sultan and give him sons. Or die. Nus-Nus, the sultan’s scribe and keeper of the royal couching book, is charged with convincing Alys to accept her fate. Or they both die. Two powerless prisoners in a world of brutal intrigue, each discovers that they can take strength in the other, to endure that which must be endured in the hope of a better tomorrow.

Rich in detail with compelling characters and an ambitious scope, The Sultan’s Wife is a remarkable tale of adventure, romance, history, and friendship.

BOL.com wrote:

"The author of The Salt Road and The Tenth Gift Jane Johnson returns with a captivating historical novel The Sultan's Wife set in Morocco. Morocco, 1677. The tyrannical King Ismail resides over the palace of Meknes. Through the sweltering heat of the palace streets, Nus Nus, slave to the King and forced into his live of servitude as court scribe, is sent to the apothecary. There he discovers the bloody corpse of the herb man, and becomes entangled in a plot to frame him for the murder. Juggling the tempestuous Moroccan king, sorceress queen Zidana and the malicious Grand Vizier is his only hope to escape the blame. Meanwhile, young, fair Alys Swann is captured during her crossing to England, where she is due to be wed. Sold into Ismail's harem, she is forced to choose: renounce her faith or die. An unlikely alliance develops between Alys and Nus Nus, one that will help them to survive the horrifying ordeals of the Moroccan court. Brimming with rich historical detail and peppered with real characters, from Charles I to Samuel Pepys, The Sultan's Wife is a story of enduring love and adventure. 'Jane Johnson writes the sort of books you want to tell everyone about - they hook you from the first page and sweep you along with passion, history and romance. I'm addicted' Katie Fforde 'An utterly compelling story' Stuart MacBride, author of Cold Granite 'Imagine the darkest Arabian Tale combined with Tremain's glorious Restoration' Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist 'An irresistible page turner - I loved it' Barbara Erskine 'Full of intrigue, deceit, skulduggery and murder. It has romance in it, but also heartbreak and personal tragedy. It's deeply evocative of North Africa - the sights, the smells, the culture, but there are also great depictions of London at the time, and the court of Charles II. I really enjoyed it' Ben Kane, bestselling author of Spartacus: The Gladiator 'Far more than a rip-roaring read: it's a true work of art. Deftly recreating the court intrigue of the tyrannical Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail - with all its trappings of superstition, black magic and torture - it sucks you down through interleaving layers steeped in blood, sweat and raw adrenalin, to a mesmerising bedrock of real history...The Sultan's Wife gets inside you, conjuring its magic long after you read the last line' Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House Jane Johnson was raised in Cornwall but now lives for half the year in a remote mountain village in Morocco. Her first novel set in North Africa is The Tenth Gift, and this was followed by The Salt Road. The Sultan's Wife is her third Moroccan novel. She has been involved in the book industry for many years and combines her work as a publisher with writing for both adults and children.

Recensie(s)

Jane Johnson writes the sort of books you want to tell everyone about - they hook you from the first page and sweep you along with passion, history and romance. I'm addicted -- Katie Fforde An irresistible page turner - I loved it -- Barbara Erskine An utterly compelling story -- Stuart MacBride, author of Cold Granite Imagine the darkest Arabian Tale combined with Tremain's glorious Restoration. A truly alluring read -- Essie Fox, author of The Somnambulist Full of intrigue, deceit, skulduggery and murder. It has romance in it, but also heartbreak and personal tragedy. It's deeply evocative of North Africa - the sights, the smells, the culture, but there are also great depictions of London at the time, and the court of Charles II. I really enjoyed it -- Ben Kane, bestselling author of Spartacus: The Gladiator Far more than a rip-roaring read: it's a true work of art. Deftly recreating the court intrigue of the tyrannical Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail - with all its trappings of superstition, black magic and torture - it sucks you down through interleaving layers steeped in blood, sweat and raw adrenalin, to a mesmerising bedrock of real history... The Sultan's Wife gets inside you, conjuring its magic long after you read the last line -- Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House"
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