Sunday, June 29, 2014

Crossing the Rubicon: A Journey in the Time of Apartheid by Eric de la Harpe


Much has been experienced. 
Some has been forgiven. 
Nothing has been forgotten.

This ever-changing story is a journey of discovery from beginning to end. Seen through the eyes of a white South African, it reveals a period of rapid change and the following challenges that faced an entire country. 

Based on real events, this novel relates an untold story in considerable detail. It opens a vivid window into the history of apartheid in South Africa and the role that the late Nelson Mandela played in the lives of ordinary people.

"This novel deserves to be widely read… 
The prose is seductive and the dialogue crackles with personality." 
Writer's Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards

Review 
by

CROSSING THE RUBICON is a coming of age story about a young boy growing to manhood in Apartheid South Africa. Painful at times, and written with depth and emotion, I was exposed to the hardships of prejudicial way of life that in its dying days. The novel spans several decades and culminates with Nelson Mandela when he retires as President.

There were plenty of good descriptions to make the setting come alive, heart-wrenching scenes, and a memorable main character. It gives a very good historical perspective of what it was like to live in South Africa before the abolishment of Apartheid.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Settler by Brian Duncan

A novel of love and war in 19th century South Africa


Loves and wars in the cauldron of Southern Africa in 1890-1902, 
where a young Englishman and his American companion become accidental soldiers. 
an they survive the desperate fighting between settlers and African tribesmen, and between British and Boer armies? Which of four pioneering young women will choose to share their challenges? 

WINNER! Historical Fiction category; IndieReader 2013 Discovery Awards 
(announced at Book Expo America in New York on June 1, 2013)

Review 
by 

Martin dreams of a life outside of England, in Africa where he can explore a new land, settle down someday, and farm. Before he departs, he is asked by a friend of his father, to take an unruly young American named Perry Davenport to South Africa with him. Perry has been tasked with seeking out for an uncle who owns and operates several gold mines. Little is Martin to know that Perry will become a nemesis in many ways. 

Set in South Africa during the end of the 19th century, The Settler is an intriguing adventure rich with historical accuracy and a touch of romance. The story sweeps the reader into the heart of the Matabele War, the Mashonaland Rebellion, and finally the Second Boer War. Some of the war scenes are not for the feint of heart, but war is war and the graphic are accurately depicted and feel very real. I found the scenes that concerned the women and children in the concentration camps most poignant of all. There is definitely something for everyone in this sweeping novel. Nicely written, with plenty of emotional turmoil, I enjoyed this historical novel and learning more about the Boer war in exotic Africa. 

   

Friday, June 27, 2014

Succession by Livi Michael

Behind the bloody battle scenes of the Wars of the Roses lie the sinewy political skills of a remarkable pair of women.


Margaret of Anjou, French, beautiful, unpopular; her marriage in 1444 to a young Henry VI causes national uproar. As English rule in France collapses, Henry goes insane, civil war erupts, and families are pitted against each other. With Henry VI incapacitated, Margaret Anjou is left to fight alone for her son's position as rightful heir.

Meanwhile Margaret Beaufort, nobly born but far more distant from the throne, becomes a great heiress while only an infant. Her childhood is lived in echoing remote castles and she is lonely and vulnerable: everyone at Henry's court competes to be her guardian and to engineer an advantageous alliance through marriage to her. By the age of thirteen, she has married twice and given birth to her only son - the future King of England. But then she is separated from him . . . and her fight really begins.

Succession is the intense and powerful story of the women who gave birth to the Tudor dynasty.

Review by Mirella Patzer

SUCCESSION is a novel that focuses on the two women on opposing sides during the War of the Roses – Margaret of Anjou and Margaret Beaufort. Author Livi Michaels successfully brings to life both women, and through them, describes the War of the Roses in clear, concise, and easy to understand prose. She uses extracts from articles/chronicles to mark out peculiarities and/or public opinions of the period, which helps to underscore the importance of what is happening in the story and its impact to the people.

The two women are portrayed beautifully, honestly, with their faults as well as their qualities. I could feel their emotions as I read along, experience their hopes and dreams, and motivations too. Credible secondary characterizations also help bring to life this tempestuous period in English history.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel very much, not only for its ability to educate, but also for its entertainment value. The story is presented in easy-to-read and easy-to-understand prose! A uniquely wonderful way to gain a better understanding of the War of the Roses and how it changed England’s history. 

Perfiditas by Alison Morton




PUBLISHER’S BLURB


Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’├ętat thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.

Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…


REVIEW BY ANITA


Perfiditas is the sequel to Inceptio, which continues the story of Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces in Roma Nova, a fictional but very believable independent country which emerged at the fall of the Roman Empire. 

Carina Mitela was raised in the US but has been transplanted in her ancestral country, who, while rooting out a conspiracy to remove the female superiority of the country and replace it with a Patriarchal society, she finds her motives questioned by everyone, even her husband.  Her situation goes from bad to worse as conspiracies are revealed and Carina's method's condemned.

Circumstances have made Carina a tough soldier, and determined to maintain the status quo. The alternate history theme never falters, though at times I found the uncompromising attitudes, and mistrust of some of the characters, who assume the worst at all times, difficult to understand.

Carina has to use all her skills, both mental and physical to get herself out of this one and redeem her family name. This has made her somewhat intransigent and at times I was frustrated by the verbal dance of the two main characters, but they get their act sorted out in the end.

I enjoyed this novel as much as I did the first book, where the narrative is consistent and the pace fast, steady and engaging. In Roman Nova, the female line dominates - which makes sense - at least you know whose child is whose?

The author has no trouble putting her ‘darlings’ through the wringer, and is a master at taking the reader by surprise. Poor Carina is tested to the limit in this story – I dread to think what Ms Morton has in store for her in Book 3 Successio – oh hang on, I have that one too, so I’ll be back!

Anita Davison is an historical fiction author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is released by Claymore Press under the name Anita Seymour

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BLOG: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/anita.davison?
GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/AnitaDavison
TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Carenza's Heirs by Felicity Knight


Synopsis:

Carenza Heston has settled down with her new husband Hugh in the village of Nether Heydon in Worcestershire. Her antiques business keeps her independent as her eldest daughters, Lily and Georgia, make ready for the wider world. 

At Durham University Lily falls in and out of love with Janyn Beckworth. She thinks she's learned the hard way how Mr Right can turn out to be Mr Wrong. 
But Janyn is only getting started. 

Resolved to start her life afresh and to keep her old flame out of it, Lily and her family can only guess at the love and hate that festers when it drives the father of Lily's son to unthinkable acts that plunge their comfortable lives into a nightmare. 

In graceful and enchanting prose Felicity Knight has written a great family novel that spans three generations as, slowly and by stealth, the past catches up with the Hestons.

Review by Mirella Patzer:

Carenza’s Heirs is the sequel to Carenza’s Journey, a family saga about a young woman named Carenza Heston and her children. Carenza runs a highly successful antiques business, which she hopes to leave to her twins, Lily and Georgia. While Lily and Georgina are at university, Lily meets a young man named Janyn who begins to consume all her time. He is possessive and controlling, and this leaves Georgia frustrated at the loss of contact with her twin. Lily seems blind to Janyn’s faults as Georgia tries unsuccessfully to separate the two lovers. Janyn is a titled, but penniless aristocrat who desires Lily for her money. Soon Lily learns he is controlling and abusive, and when she finds herself pregnant, flees the relationship, keeping her condition secret. But Janyn is not so easily got rid of. He makes several attempts to get Lily back, but failed. Subsequently, he moves on with his life and Lily moves on with hers. The past, however, has an uncanny way of returning to haunt those involved. Through numerous twists and turns, the family is thrown into danger and conflict.

When I began reading this novel, I was unaware there was a previous book to the series. It was reassuring to learn that the story carried well on its own, and you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy the sequel. Lovely prose and intriguing characters made this a very enjoyable book. I always enjoy good villains, and Janyn kept me intrigued to the very end. There is also a good love story or two thrown in to delight readers! All in all, this is a great family saga! Very enjoyable.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Engaging The Earl by Diana Quincy



PUBLISHER'S BLURB

England 1819

Vivacious Lady Katherine Granville is the toast of the ton, but society's most eligible miss secretly yearns for her childhood love, an untitled loner who vanished long ago after her father forbade their marriage.

After years abroad, the dark and brooding Edward Stanhope returns to England a changed man. No longer a second son with no prospects, his battlefield strategies won him an earldom. His return should be a victorious one, but the new Earl of Randolph is battling secret demons that no one can discover. Least of all, Kat.

When the man she can't forget reappears at her betrothal ball, Kat's perfectly arranged future is thrown into tumult. Edward remains cold and distant, hoping she'll marry a man worthy of her. But nothing is settled when Kat sets out to win back her first love. Can the new Earl of Randolph resist the woman he's loved for so many years?


REVIEW BY ANITA

This is the fourth book in Diana Quincy’s Accidental Peers series, but it is easily a stand-alone story.

Katherine Granville has been in love with Edward Stanhope since she was in her teens, however instead of eloping with her he goes to fight Napoleon. However, he also demands she wait for him, something Katherine isn’t going to agree to and she makes it clear that she has no intention of doing so.

As Edward only bought his commission to make him more acceptable to Katherine’s family, this wasn’t quite what he expected so he destroys a gift she gave him and symbolically at least, destroys their love forever.

Edward, now Lord Randolph (Rand) returns home after six years with mental wounds after the war, and although he has never forgotten the girl he left behind, he feels he has little to offer her now due to his precarious mental state – which we would call PTSD these days, and she would have a better life with the man she accepted in his absence, Viscount Laurie Sinclair.

Ms Quincy handles their situation very well, in that Regency society doesn’t make allowances for a couple who haven’t come to terms with their mutual attraction, so the pair dance round each other with anger, indifference and aloofness at their frustration with their unresolved love.

The author has introduced a canine element to smooth the rocky path between the pair, made more treacherous when a Spanish temptress arrives in London Society as a guest of the Prince Regent.

Ms Quincy is a consistent creator of strong, engaging characters with whom a reader cannot help but empathise. An enjoyable read for romance lovers of the Regency era.

Anita Davison is an historical fiction author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is released by Claymore Press under the name Anita Seymour

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BLOG: http://thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/anita.davison?
GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/AnitaDavison
TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

To Die a Dry Death by Greta Van Der Rol



280 survivors. One tyrant. The true story of the Batavia shipwreck.

This novel tells the chilling, true story of the shipwreck of the Dutch merchantman Batavia. The barbaric events that unfolded could so easily have been the template for William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

In June 1629, the Batavia, laden with treasure and the riches of Europe, smashed into an uncharted reef thirty miles off the coast of Terra Incognita Australis—the unknown Great South Land. 200 survivors—women and children, sailors, soldiers and merchants—scrambled ashore on a small group of uninhabited, hostile islands, with little food or fresh water.

Desperately seeking help, the ship’s officers set out in an open boat to make a two-thousand-mile journey to the nearest port. While they were gone, from the struggle for survival on the islands there emerged a tyrant whose brutal lust for power was even deadlier than the reef that wrecked the Batavia. 

To Die a Dry Death is a novel about the shipwreck of the Batavia, a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company. Laden with riches and treasure, the ship struck ground near the coast of western Australia in the year 1629. Like the Titanic, it was her maiden voyage. The men, women, and children who managed to flee the sinking ship found refuge on deserted small islands with only a few barrels of food and water to sustain them. Food and water were scarce or non-existent on the islands upon which they landed.

The ship's captain, an official with the Dutch East India Company, and a handful of crewmembers set sail in a longboat headed for Batavia (Jakarta) searching of help and supplies. They promised to return to rescue the survivors and retrieve the valuables. What happened after they departed can only be described as a nightmare.

Thirst, starvation, and a primitive existence brought out the worst in some of the survivors. In their struggle to survive, prejudices and greed surfaced. Sailor vs soldier, men vs women, German vs Dutch vs French. A tyrant came to rule and he secretly ordered the weak to be killed, one by one.

This is not a story for the weak kneed. It is a tale of survival, of brutality, and finally vindication. Intense research into the shipwreck leads to a factual tale that reads like a suspense novel. Although there are numerous characters, the story is easy to follow, shocking as well as poignant at times as the horrific crimes are described. There is a great surprise at the end as well.


Long after closing the book, the story will continue to haunt. For those who love to read factual based fiction, and who love to be gripped and shocked, this book is definitely for you.

Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

An incredible painful, but rich tale of internment camps!


In Isabel Wolff’s poignant and bittersweet tenth novel, a ghostwriter is haunted by a childhood tragedy as she brings to light a forgotten story of the Second World War.

Jenni loves her job as a ghostwriter—it satisfies her insatiable curiosity about people. It also means that she can hide behind the stories of others and not think about her own life too much.

But when Jenni starts work on the memoirs of a survivor of the Japanese internment camps in Java, striking coincidences force her to examine her own past.

Gripping, moving and meticulously researched, Ghostwritten delivers Isabel Wolff’s signature blend of pathos, mystery and romance. It also sheds light on a forgotten chapter of history and shimmers with an element of the supernatural that will tingle the reader’s spine.

Jenni Clark is a young woman with a dark past – she holds herself responsible for your young brothers death when they were children. As an adult, she is a ghostwriter – she makes a living by writing other people’s stories. She is asked by an acquaintance to write the memoirs of Klara, an elderly Dutch woman from Cornwall who used to live on a plantation in the Dutch East Indies, and in an internment camp under Japanese occupation.  

As Klara begins to unburden herself of long buried secrets and suffering, the reader is exposed to the incredible cruelty women and children suffered while imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. Klara’s suffering slowly unfolds and is exceedingly disturbing, but also enthralling.

To say this novel has great depth would be an understatement. The plot and subplots unfold with rich layers, and is like peeling the skin from an onion – with every layer, come more dark secrets, surprises, and revelations. In between Klara’s tale, Jenni’s tale slowly unfolds. She draws some parallels from Klara’s story and compares them to her life. Through Klara’s pain, Jenni learns to accept the past and forgive herself, just as Klara had to do the same decades prior.

This is an amazing novel that will profoundly move you as it educates readeards about historic events during World War II but that happened beyond Europe’s borders. Incredibly raw, horrific, but lush descriptions make this novel one not to miss. Prepare yourself for a wonderfully complex plot, an emotional roller coaster ride, and plenty of jaw-dropping scenes that mesmerize. It culminates in one hugely satisfying ending! This is a definite must read for the summer!


Cicely's King Richard by Sandra Heath Wilson

One of the best stories of King Richard and Cicely I've ever read!


It is 1483, and the children of the late Yorkist King Edward IV have been declared illegitimate by their own uncle, the new King Richard III. His second niece, Lady Cicely Plantagenet, hardly knows her uncle, but from the outset is fiercely drawn to this charismatic man, with whom she shares tremendous affinity and rarest of all, his trust. But there will be complete, unconditional passion and the loss of all innocence for Cicely before Richard has to defend his realm, his cause and his life against the invading force of the Lancastrian pretender, Henry Tudor, at the Battle of Bosworth Field. A new and compassionate look at the much-maligned, misunderstood Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Sandra Heath Wilson explores the intensity and sensitivity of history's 'wicked' King and his illicit relationship with his young niece: the perceptive and enticing Cicely. The first in an impressive historical trilogy.

Cicely Plantagenet was known for her feisty spirit, acerbic speech, and gutsy behaviour. She was the daughter of King Edward IV and the story opens shortly after his death when she and her mother and siblings sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey alongside her siblings and mother, the former Queen Elizabeth Woodville. According to history, Cicely and her sister loved their uncle Richard III, who later became king of England. Throughout history, rumours have abounded that Cicely and Richard were more than niece and uncle; they were in fact, lovers. Their illicit love is the basis for this trilogy based on Cicely’s tumultuous life.

Not only did Sandra Heath Wilson have the courage to take on this incestuous love story, but she did a brilliant job of it. Her characterization of Cicely was outstanding, utterly fascinating. Richard was also beautifully portrayed as a kind, fair man, a hero that readers will instantly fall in love with. He never desired the crown of England, but his sense of duty and honor made it impossible to refuse. The storyline was compelling from start to finish, gripping and fascinating. The story is beautifully told, heart-wrenching at times, joyous at others. There are numerous twists and turns, villains, political subterfuges, and of course, the never-resolved issue of who kidnapped Cicely’s young brothers. Impeccable research coupled with outstanding detail and intense dialogue truly bring the 15th century alive in the reader’s mind.

The book has been released in the UK, and will be released in September 2014 here in North America. It is available for pre-order. I am eagerly awaiting CICELY’S SECOND KING and CICELY’S LORD LINCOLN, the second and third book in this series. Definitely worth reading! Highly recommended for those who love English history. Don't miss this series!


Friday, June 13, 2014

Dark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly


Synopsis

A TALE OF SORCERY AND PASSION IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY LONDON—WHERE WITCHES HAUNT WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND HIS DARK LADY, THE PLAYWRIGHT'S MUSE AND ONE TRUE LOVE

The daughter of a Venetian musician, Aemilia Bassano came of age in Queen Elizabeth’s royal court. The Queen’s favorite, she develops a love of poetry and learning, maturing into a young woman known not only for her beauty but also her sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemilia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, but her position is precarious. Then she crosses paths with an impetuous playwright named William Shakespeare and begins an impassioned but ill-fated affair.

A decade later, the Queen is dead, and Aemilia Bassano is now Aemilia Lanyer, fallen from favor and married to a fool. Like the rest of London, she fears the plague. And when her young son Henry takes ill, Aemilia resolves to do anything to save him, even if it means seeking help from her estranged lover, Will—or worse, making a pact with the Devil himself.

In rich, vivid detail, Sally O’Reilly breathes life into England’s first female poet, a mysterious woman nearly forgotten by history. Full of passion and devilish schemes, Dark Aemilia is a tale worthy of the Bard.

My Review:

It was rumoured that William Shakespeare had a secret lover known as the “dark lady” who is said to be the inspiration for some of his sonnets and some plays. Today, it is strongly suspected that this woman was Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, the well-educated daughter of an Italian musician, and mistress to three or four men. Dark Aemelia is a fictionalized biography of her life.

Set in London in the early 1600’s, Aemelia is a writer who struggles to have her work recognized in an industry solely for men. When she meets William Shakespeare at a performance of The Taming of the Shrew, she gives him a piece of her mind because she disagrees with his portrayal of the shrew in the play. This sets off a romance between the two, despite the fact Shakespeare is a married man with a family. But their romance is stormy, fraught with quarrels, conflicts, and disagreements. The novel hints that Hamlet, with its superstitions and the three witches, was possibly written by Aemelia rather than Shakespeare.

The novel takes the reader on a journey through the Elizabethan period complete with its famed persons, the plague, and the royalty of the time. While the character of Shakespeare is likeable, Aemilia is not because of some poor decisions and loose morals, so readers should approach the book with an open mind and accept the fact that novels don’t necessarily have to have charismatic protagonists. The author did a good job of bringing to life the harsh conditions and lack of respect women endured simply because of their gender. There were some ups and downs in the book—some parts kept me eagerly turning the pages while others did not keep me fully engaged. All in all, this is an interesting novel based on strong research. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

Through the engrossing words of author Phyllis T. Smith, the world of Roman power, vice, lust and virtues unfold in I Am Livia.

Narrated by the title character, the great aims and foibles of her family, of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and of Livia’s eventual husband, the future Emperor Augustus come to vivid life in this debut work of historical fiction. The author deftly reveals all aspects of Roman cultures, society and politics, in a depiction all the figures who shaped the empire that would dominate the Mediterranean region for centuries to come.

When the heroine Livia Drusilla is just fourteen years old, she overhears an assassination plan with more immediate consequences than a drastic change to Rome’s political future. To secure the alliance among conspirators, Livia must wed a Roman senator Tiberius Nero who is more than twice her age, whom she cannot love. The aspirations of Livia’s family cause them untold suffering, but also invites the scrutiny of a vengeful heir, Octavianus, whose primary purpose soon becomes clear as Rome devolves into outright civil war in the wake of the assassination. Livia attracts young Octavianus and the pair develop a potent rapport, although divided by family lines and affairs of state. Once he decides he will have her, regardless of their individual marriages and the children Livia shares with Tiberius Nero, Octavianus pursues Livia with the same relentless fervor as he did the assassins. The new couple shares grand designs for the country’s future coupled an unequalled passion for its future, but their prideful natures often get in the way of mutual efforts to keep their marriage bond, and Rome, strong.

The adage “history is written by the victors” has never been more appropriate than in consideration of this period in Rome. Livia gives us a unique view of the historical figures around her. The lens of her interests, jealousies and desires shapes the way in which each character appears, especially with Octavianus. She recognizes his cold, monstrous behavior in all its ugliness, yet holds steadfast to him and their love through several trials for her own purposes. But there are a few aspects of the heroine and her interactions with her loved ones and enemies, which don’t always ring true. For instance, it requires a bit of a stretch to believe a fourteen year-old girl, simply by conversations with her father, has such an intimate grasp of politic maneuvering and the repercussions for all involved in the murder plot. Also, the volatile nature of some established relationships, turning from hot to cold or vice versa seemed too sudden at times to make sense. Still, the capricious nature of the human heart and the ever-changing landscape of politics during this period make it all plausible.

I Am Livia is a delightful, well-researched and engaging story, ideal for readers who love Roman history, or dynastic intrigue.