Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Crocodile on the Sandbank - Elizabeth Peters

'The Crocodile on The Sandbank' is the first of a series of books by Elizabeth Peters that introduces us to the indomitable Amelia Peabody. The saga starts in 1884 when Amelia decides to use the money that she has inherited to travel to Egypt and indulge in her interest in excavating and Egyptology. Amelia is a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of woman, who carries a trusty parasol to great purpose. Whilst on her journey through Europe to Egypt, she rescues a young lady called Evelyn Barton-Forbes. Evelyn, who is a much more ethereal, 'shrinking violet' type of young lady is duly appointed as Amelia's companion and the pair become devoted friends, despite or because of the fact that Amelia fondly bullies her and interferes in her life!

When they arrive in Egypt, the murder mystery unfolds as they encounter strange happenings, ancient mummies that roam the night, and the two Emerson brothers, Radcliffe and Walter.

At 32, Amelia believes that she is set to be a spinster for life, but can the inscrutable and irascible Radcliffe Emerson melt her heart? Will romance also blossom for Evelyn and Walter? Will the mysteries be solved and will their little party survive the dangers that beset them?

One to be read while taking afternoon tea at the British Museum, while one knows that one should really be studying their hieroglyphics texts! Cucumber sandwich anyone?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Fellow Hubber Publishes Self-Help Book - Fear, Phobias & Frozen Feet!

I write regularly on a site called HubPages and one of the other Hubbers called CindyVine, who is a writer that I admire greatly, has recently self-published a book called Fear, Phobias & Frozen Feet which is now available on Amazon.

The book is about abuse, being a victim and how to stop being a victim. The book explores the relationship triangle and the Victim/Rescuer game that people play. The book is based on CindyVine's own experiences with an abusive husband and other abusive people that she has drawn into her life, how she managed to move away and move on from these people and situations and build a better life for herself and her children.

She also has another book available on Amazon called 'Stop the World, I Need to Pee!', which follows the fictional adventures of a girl called Fenella Fisher

Buy the books, as they are amazing and don't forget to check out CindyVine's Hubs for more great writing!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Shadow of the Moon - M.M Kaye

So I further indulged my nostalgic streak and pulled down my battered copy of 'Shadow of the Moon' by M.M Kaye, and reread it from cover to cover.

Another historical romance set in the time of the Indian Mutiny, The Shadow of the Moon follows the story of Winter de Ballesteros and Captain Alex Randall. Winter was an orphan who had spent her early years in the warmth and cosy bustle of a small Indian palace. She was ripped away from everything she knew, except for her old nurse, and sent to England to live on the estate of her elderly Great-Grandfather the Earl of Ware. England was a very cold and lonely place for the young Winter and spent she spent her childhood pining for the heat and colour of her birth country and by maintaining the Indian language that she had spoken as a child with her nurse.

She was fascinated by anything to do with India, and so, while she was still very young, she became entranced by a visitor from India called Conway Barton. She was unaware that she is a considerable heiress and was too naive to realise that Conway was a thoroughly debauched character who only wanted her for her money. Her Great-Grandfather the Earl agrees to the match because he is getting very old, is not such a good judge of character as he used to be, and is concerned about who would care for Winter after his death.

After his return to India, Conway sinks back into his life of drinking and debauchery and when the time comes for the marriage knows that he cannot go to England to fetch his prospective bride, as the years have taken their toll on him and he would surely be rejected if he presents himself at the Earl's estate. He takes advantage of the fact that his assistant, Captain Alex Randall, is on leave in England and orders him to escort his wife to India.

Captain Randall, who is very well aware of his Superior's reputation and lifestyle, is against the idea of his marriage to an impressionable young girl, and when he meets Winter and is instantly drawn to her, he tries to warn her off the marriage. Winter however, who was in love with the idea of returning to the India of her childhood and who viewed Conway through the rose-tinted spectacles of distant memory, was having none of it and bitterly resented Alex's interference.

They undertook the slow voyage to India under the kindly chaperonage of Mrs Arbuthnot and her two daughters Lottie and Sophie. Once in India, a too ardent suitor, drives Winter into running to Conway and it is only too late, when they are already married, that she learns to her horror what he is really like.

As the tensions rise in the Bartons marriage, the politics and landscape of India begin to boil and seethe with discontent. Faced with a disastrous marriage and her growing attraction to Alex, suddenly Winter finds herself immersed in trying to survive through the horror and tragedy of the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

M.M Kaye, who died in in 2004 aged 95, came from a prominent Anglo-Indian family and had been brought up in India. Her knowledge of the country and love of it's diverse peoples and landscapes shines through the writing. She is also very knowledgable about the historical aspects of the Indian Mutiny and is very even-handed in how she tells both sides of the story.

So you will need a long, cool drink and some little snacks as you escape into a world of moonlit palace gardens, deep jungles and teeming bazaars. An ideal book for the beside the pool on a long hot afternoon or on a long plane journey.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Zemindar - Valerie Fitzgerald

Wearying of conspiracy theory thrillers that find mystery, violence and shadowy secret societies in every corner of ancient and medieval history, sick of books that are promoting themselves as 'better than Dan Brown', and heroes that can jump out of planes while simultaneously machine gunning the bad guys and doing spiralling somersaults, I returned to my bookshelf for some nostalgia, for a book I had read many times and enjoyed each time.

Zemindar is Valerie Fitzgerald's story of a young lady called Laura Hewitt, who is sent to India as a companion to her beautiful, spoilt cousin Emily. Emily has recently been married to Charles Flood, a man that Laura loved and believed would be her husband. The object of the journey was to visit Charles's fabulously wealthy brother Oliver, the Zemindar of the title, on his vast estate of Hassanganj.

Laura is immediately intrigued by all that India has to offer, and starts to learn the language and its customs. The party arrives in Calcutta and is introduced into British Indian society and then moves to Lucknow to stay with the Averys, a couple who are troubled by alcoholism and gambling debts. The cracks are already appearing in Emily and Charles's marriage, and Laura finds it hard to leave her feelings for Charles behind her as Charles starts to confide in her.

A meeting with Charles's elusive half-brother Oliver, leads to an invitation to visit the estates of Hassanganj and gives Laura a chance to see even more of the real India. However, it is Laura that Oliver is interested in, not his previously unknown sibling, and a budding attraction grows between the pair. Against a backdrop of growing troubles in India that threaten to overspill, Emily finds herself pregnant and it is amid the dramas of the birth of her child and the tensions between the adults that the tragedy that was the Indian Mutiny starts to encroach on their lives.

Laura, Charles, Emily and the baby find themselves caught up in the horrors of the Siege of Lucknow, while Oliver who had parted from them to care for his illegitimate daughter, finds himself trapped in the flimsy entrenchments of Cawnpore and the hellish aftermath of the massacre of the British prisoners on the river.

Will Oliver survive to find Laura again? Will Laura be able to let go of her supposed love for Charles to fully embrace Oliver's love? Will they survive the guns, the hunger, the disease and the filth of the siege?

This is a sweeping historical romance that is set against the backdrop of the Indian Mutiny of 1857. It outlines some of the causes and reasons why the Mutiny occurred, and is even handed when apportioning blame. While Laura and her British companions suffer great hardship and dangers, the book also shows the suffering of the Indian population, both those that supported the Mutiny and those that stayed loyal to the British.

It is a long book, and at times a harrowing book. So get the biggest box of chocolates that you can lay your hands on and a huge mug of tea. It is a book that is a perfect escape on a wet Sunday afternoon to another time and place, to a land of dazzling wealth and opulence and grinding poverty. To a time where horrific cruelty was counterbalanced by incredible humanity and courage on both sides.