Jul 28, 2014

Book Review - East India by Colin Falconer

A Novel of Mutiny, Murder, and Madness!

The Shipwreck of the Batavia

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

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

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

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

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

But can he keep it?

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

Mirella Patzer

In the novel, EAST INDIA, internationally bestselling author, Colin Falconer, has written a fictionalized accounting of a terrible tale of depravity and barbarity that is known the world over – that of the shipwreck Batavia in 1629 that became one of the most incredible stories of shipwreck ever recorded and one of the bloodiest chapters in Australia's history.

The plight of the women is especially tragic and horrendous. 

Some survivors of the shipwreck made it to some tiny islands that lacked water and food and they suffered dehydration, starvation, and heat illness. Others remained on the ship and were either washed off deck, drowned when the ship collapsed, or failed trying to swim to the islands. 48 people packed into a longboat set off to make a 2000 journey to Batavia to get help. For the people left on the islands, they would face bloodshed, rape, and murder at the hand of the madman and his group of henchmen who seized control. The group began to systematically reduce the survivors to preserve food and water. First, they exiled groups of people to various nearby islands without sufficient food or water, hoping they would perish. When that failed, the group of murderers began drowning people in the ocean. One group of people on one of the islands who had survived on seals, seal’s blood, and urine, became the victims of a secret slaughter by these henchmen. Soon the murders were no longer conducted in secret. One boy was beheaded for sport, and the women were herded into a tent and used as sex slaves.

With his usual style of sharp, succinct writing, Colin Falconer captured the facts of this dreadful drama, skilfully mixed it with a little fiction, and created a powerfully passionate novel that shocked me and held me in its grip! In fact, I read the entire book in one sitting, unable to stop reading. The plight of the survivors at the hands of a few controlling madmen is one that I will not soon forget, and Falconer tells it like it is with blunt honesty and intense narrative.

I have long been a fan and follower of Colin Falconer. I found this novel as spell-binding, expertly written, and compelling as all his others. His tales offer something of interest to both men and women. With poignant characterization, dazzling dialogue, and impeccable research, there is something for everyone that will please. I can’t say enough about this book. Although it is a dark tale, there is a bit of a love story within that lends the tale some closure so the reader is left with a feeling of satisfaction! Nothing short of brilliant, Colin! Can’t wait for your next book on Cleopatra!

Following is a documentary on this shipwreck. It's a bit long at almost an hour, but it's worth watching.

Jul 18, 2014

Book Review - Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freeantle - A novel about the Grey Sisters

Excellent! Definitely not your typical Tudor story!

From the author of Queen’s Gambit, which People magazine called, “A must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a gripping historical novel about two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction,” (People) Sisters of Treason brings to vivid life the perilous and romantic lives of two little known young women who played a major role in the complex politics of their day.

Here are the four main historical women in the story!


Lady Jane Grey
(Executed by beheading 9 days afer the start of her reign)

Lady Catherine Grey
The belle of the family

Lady Mary Gray
The sensible one but afflicted with spinal curvature and very short of stature.

Levina Teerlinc
Royal Painter of the Tudor Court

Book Review


Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle is set in 16th century England during a time of political upheaval. At the heart of the story are three women, the sisters Mary and Catherine Grey, and painter Levina Teerlinc. Through their collective points of view, the story unfolds. The main story plot are the struggles of the two sisters to avoid court intrigue and politics. Still reeling after the beheading of their Sister, Lady Jane Grey, Catherine and Mary find themselves pulled into court intrigue despite their attempts to keep their distance, where a single swipe of the quill or a few angry words, or even worse, the truth, will spill out and see them imprisoned in the Tower or executed.

Although I had not read the previous book, The Queen's Gambit, it made no difference – this story definitely stands alone. At first I was a little apprehensive because of the over-abundance of Tudor novels on the market currently, and I am getting a little weary of them, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The author has taken us deep into the viewpoint of two lesser known women in England’s history. So for that aspect alone, I found this book unique and refreshing. Brava Elizabeth Freemantle for bringing to life women other than those married to Henry VIII!

I did not expect to become so involved in this story, but I did. Lots of detail, spectacular writing, and an engaging plot kept me involved right to the very last page. Definitely a book not to overlook, especially if you are a fan of English history! I'm definitely looking forward to reading The Queen's Gambit! 

Jul 7, 2014

Sultana: The Bride Price by Lisa J. Yarde

Book #4 of the Sultana series.

In fourteenth-century Moorish Spain, a marriage of convenience for the sake of peace leads to disaster in the medieval kingdom of Granada. The young queen Jazirah, caught up in a dynastic struggle between warring brothers, fights for her survival. Wed to a husband who looks at her with more suspicion than lust in his eyes, she must escape reminders of a brutal past in a quest to find forgiveness, hope, and love. 

Her husband Muhammad faces greater peril than union with a wife he cannot trust. Surrounded by enemies within his family who seek the throne and undermined by ministers who would alter the course of his country’s future, he intends to rule the land of his ancestors alone. How can he endure against his most bitter opponents, not least among them, the woman whom he has chosen for a bride?

My Review 

Do you want to discover a fabulous, talented new author? Do you want to sink your teeth into a gripping, poignant, and rich tale of power, lust, greed, and love? If you have not yet read the Sultana series of novels by author, Lisa J. Yarde, then I encourage you to read this series! The books are a comprehensive historical journey deep into the heart of medieval Moorish Spain, but more importantly, the books are gripping, powerful, and fascinating revelations into murder, greed, and family conflicts. Incredibly, it is all based on fact.

Now, with this fourth book in the series, THE BRIDE PRICE, we are introduced to a new generation in this epic family saga. At the center of the story is a burgeoning romance between Muhammad, the current Sultan of Granada, and his wife, Jazirah, a forced marriage to strengthen family ties. Also returning to the story are the previous Sultana’s Butayna and Maryam whose vitriol continues and threatens to tear Muhammad’s family apart. Love and hate, dark secrets and shocking revelations, all combine to make this story as gripping as the previous books. 

I have eagerly followed every book in the series. Lisa Yarde is a captivating writer, writing with powerful, lush prose, and recreating the nail-biting, twisted history of a family’s bloodlust and greed for power. Based on years of intense, impeccable historical research, this book, and others in the series, provide readers with a first-hand look at the dangerous life inside the Sultan’s harem in medieval Granada. Her rich writing is sensual, evoking not only sights and smells, but the strong emotions of the characters, real historical personages.

I cannot recommend this book and the others in the Sultana series enough. Although each book stands alone, I recommend reading the books in order to get the full impact of this historic family. Truly rich reads that will hold your interest from start to finish. 

Jul 4, 2014

Hoyden of the Week - Happy 4th of July

Smile for mommy's camera, darling. 

Happy 4th of July!

(I'm so glad some things have changed. I can't even imagine putting a gun into a child's hand. 
Good grief! What were they thinking back then!

Jun 21, 2014

Alexandra Lisowska - Roxelana

Ascent to power - from humble slave to Sultana

How does a good Ukranian girl, the daughter of an Orthodox priest end up as a slave in Constantinople? Crimean Tartars, of course. Her red hair made her unique, so eager to cash in on their prize, they sold her as a slave. Sharp tongued and quick witted, the unruly Roxelana was bought and sold several times. Finally, she was sold to the harem of Sultan Suleyman. 

For two years, Roxelana spent her time learning the Koran and the languages spoken in the Harem, namely Turkish, Arabic, and Persian. And of course, there were the womanly arts to learn too - singing, belly dancing, while she waited to be chosen for the Sultan's bed. But these were the things all the harem women learned. Roxelana wanted more - much, much more. So she watched and secretly watched those in power and the power structure of the Sultan's court. Roxelana befriended the Sultan's mother and made strong alliances with the other women.

Then the day she had dreamed of finally arrived. As the Sultan took a stroll through his harem, he caught sight of her beauty, her red hair, and chose her to warm his bed that night. And Roxelana was more than ready. In addition to her body, she demonstrated her intelligence, regaling the Sultan with wonderful stories and an abundance of humor. Discovering there was more to women than soft curves and bed-sport, the Sultan was enchanted by Roxelana's intelligence. She soon became his favourite, at his side at all celebrations, dinner parties, and death sentences.  

Of course, much more was needed to secure her place, so Roxelana set out to provide the Sultan with numerous sons. He was so much in love, he wrote her this love letter:

Throne of my lonely niche, my wealth, my love, my moonlight.
My most sincere friend, my confidant, my very existence, my Sultan, my one and only love.
The most beautiful among the beautiful...
My springtime, my merry faced love, my daytime, my sweetheart, laughing leaf...
My plants, my sweet, my rose, the one only who does not distress me in this world...
My Constantinople, my Caraman, the earth of my Anatolia
My Badakhshan, my Baghdad and Khorasan
My woman of the beautiful hair, my love of the slanted brow, my love of eyes full of mischief...
I'll sing your praises always

I, lover of the tormented heart, Muhibbi of the eyes full of tears, I am happy. 

Statue of Roxelana in Ukraine