Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Silk Road by Colin Falconer

A breath-taking adventure on an epic scale.

Back Cover Blurb

1260 AD: Josseran Sarrazini is a man divided in his soul. A Christian Knight Templar haunted by a shameful past, he hopes to find redemption in a dangerous crusade: a journey from Palestine to Xanadu, to form a crucial allegiance against the Saracens at the legendary court of Kubilai Khan – the seat of the Mongol Empire.

Instead he finds the solace he seeks in a warrior-princess from a heathen tribe. Beautiful and ferocious, Khutelun is a Tartar, a nomadic rider of the Mongolian steppe. Although their union is utterly impossible, she will find in Josseran what she cannot find in one of her own.

Parched by desert winds, pursued by Saracen hordes, and now tormented by a passion he cannot control, Josseran must abandon Khutelun if he is to complete his journey and save his soul. Worse, he must travel with William, a Dominican friar of fearsome zeal who longs for matyrdom, but whose life Josseran is sworn to protect. And worse yet, he will arrive in Xanadu just as the greatest empire in human history plunges into civil war.

Winding through the plains of Palestine and over the high mountains of the Hindu Kush, from the empty wastes of the Taklimakan desert to the golden palaces of China, Silk Road weaves a spellbinding story of sin, desire, conflict and human frailty onto the vast tapestry of the medieval orient.


For those readers who love history and immersing themselves into an accurately written novel of a long ago era, The Silk Road by Colin Falconer is sure to please. In this epic tale, Colin Falconer brings to life the Crusades of the 13th century with both realism and impact. A map at the front of the novel shows the ancient route of the Silk Road.

The story opens in the year A.D.1260 in the Mongolian empire. Three main characters dominate the tale. Khutelun is the wilful, intelligent, and free-spirited daughter of Qaidu, the Khan of the Tartars. Josseran Sarrazini, a coarse Templar knight with a dark and secret past who has been assigned the onerous task of negotiating a union with the Tatars against the Saracens. And lastly there is William, a fanatical, self-righteous Dominican friar excessively obsessed with converting the pagans to Christianity even if it costs him his life, and even if it puts Josseran, who is tasked with protecting him, into the path of danger.  

Each of the three characters come together to colour each page with their vibrant, but very believable personalities. Falconer writes with vivid detail, never holding back when depicting the brutal realities of the era while also creating scenes that bring humour and light into the story. Callous executions, one-eyed camel drivers, corruption, sin, a heart-wrenching love story, dark secrets, and life and death circumstances are revealed at a fast pace in each brief chapter. The plot is rich and complicated and sure to keep the reader focused on turning the page to learn what happens next – and always to some shocking circumstance or pleasant surprise. That’s what I loved most about this book – plenty of the odd and unusual to keep me fascinated throughout.

It is the richness of the prose itself that truly made this historical era come alive. Stocked with exquisite details, each chapter paints a mural for the senses, describing in detail articles, scenery, characters, and architecture so that one truly feels as if they are experiencing the story instead of merely reading it. Clashes, politics, characters ever at odds with each other, good and evil, love and hate, sin and goodness, and much, much more all culminate into a very satisfying ending. A profound story of great depth that will please both genders and one I strongly recommend. Utterly absorbing and captivating!


Monday, October 24, 2011

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

A majestic novel of four women facing life and death

Back Cover:

Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman's novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael's mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker's wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior's daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.

The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets-about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's masterpiece.

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman is women’s literary and historical fiction at its very best. From first page to last, I loved this novel.

In A.D. 70, the story depicts the struggles of four very wise, very resilient women whose lives are interwoven when they arrive in Masada and are assigned the task of taking care of the doves in King Herod’s palace. 

After years of intense research, Ms. Hoffman weaves historical fact into fiction as she tries to recreate a tragic event where 900 people chose to commit suicide rather than submit to Roman rule.

The novel is divided into four sections – one for each of the women – and unfolds through their eyes. Each woman has suffered some form of turmoil or tragedy. Although the plot is intricate and complex, the story is easy to follow and quickly draws you in. It is Ms. Hoffman’s talent as a writer that lifts the novel into vividness and passion.

A tale full of mystery and secrets, mothers and daughters, love and hate, and complex human relationships. This is one novel to read slowly and enjoy every word. It would be an ideal novel for book clubs or an exchange of gifts between mothers and daughters. A profound statement on the power and resilience and honour! Highly recommended.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sophie Arnould Quote

Women give themselves to God when the devil wants nothing more to do with them.

Sophie Arnould
Opera singer

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lucille Ball

A beautiful red head - 22 years in Heaven



Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Lady of the River by Philippa Gregory

The fascinating story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford.
The woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the Wars of the Roses.

Back Cover Blurb:

Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta always has had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she met his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and saw her own power reflected in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the wheel of fortune before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.

Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, and he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York, threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty.

Jacquetta fights for her king, her queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

A sweeping, powerful story rich in passion and legend and drawing on years of research, The Lady of the Rivers tells the story of the real-life mother of the white queen.

Jacquetta of Luxembourg was distantly related to the Kings of England. When she was 17 years old, she was married to John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford. Their arranged marriage was to strengthen ties between England and the Holy Roman Empire. Unfortunately, their marriage was childless and her husband died a few years later.

King Henry VI of England sent Sir Richard Woodville to bring the young widow, Jacquetta, back to England, but along the way, they fell in love. Without waiting for the king’s permission, they secretly married before they arrived, risking the dower lands Jacquetta had been granted upon her first husband’s death as long as she did not marry without the king’s approval. The King was incensed and refused to see them. Wisely, the couple paid a £1000 fine to appease him. Their marriage was a happy one and over the years, Jacquetta bore Richard sixteen children, one of which, Elizabeth Woodville, would become the future Queen consort Elizabeth Woodville.


Read an Excerpt at Scribd
Philippa’s website
Simon and Schuster Book Page


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Blue Suitcase by Marianne Wheelaghan

A poignant story of a German family's struggles during the Nazi reign

Back Cover:

It is 1932, Silesia, Germany, and the eve of Antonia's 12th birthday. Hitler's Brownshirts and Red Front Marxists are fighting each other in the streets. Antonia doesn't care about the political unrest but it's all her family argue about. Then Hitler is made Chancellor and order is restored across the country, but not in Antonia's family. The longer the National Socialists stay in power, the more divided the family becomes with devastating consequences. Unpleasant truths are revealed and terrible lies uncovered. Antonia thinks life can't get much worse - and then it does. Partly based on a true-life story, Antonia's gripping diary takes the reader inside the head of an ordinary teenage girl growing up. Her journey into adulthood, however, is anything but ordinary.

It was with great pleasure that I read this World War II Nazi Germany story told through the eyes of a young German girl. The Blue Suitcase opens in 1932 Silesia, Germany. Antonia Nasiski is twelve years old. The political upheaval in her country slowly infiltrates her family, tearing them apart bit by bit as they each face horrific struggles.

It is a poignant coming-of-age story that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. The easy, simplistic style transcends age restrictions and is appropriate for young adults as well as adults. What makes this novel so important is that it gives readers a point of view rarely shared – that of the suffering of the common German people.

The novel is a compelling read, unique, and one that will definitely shock. It is a portrayal of the resilience of the human spirit. An excellent depiction of a lesser know point of view.