Sunday, 22 April 2018

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A Column of Fire - Ken Follett

The most recent installment of the Kingsbridge series, A Column of  Fire may be the best yet. We see major acts designated to historical heavy weights like Queen Elizabeth 1 and the rival for her throne Mary, Queen of Scots and former Queen of France. Starting at the cusp of the Elizabethan Golden Age, the book has the traditional Kingsbridge novel flair - intelligent male & female protagonists who should be a couple but due to her dutiful (in this case staunch Roman Catholic) nature, they will not be together for many years. Cue ambitious parents who would be nobility though the marriages of their daughters; the necessary and ambitious zealots (cathedral town after all); the intelligent and interesting people surrounding the protagonists and of course a few brutes . But the best parts of this read are the scenes that their set in: the religiously brutal pre-Elizabethan era in England; the slaughter of St. Bartholomew's Day when the streets of Paris were painted red by all the Protestant slaughter; the intrigue and and power struggles in the French palace; the transfer to the Elizabethan crown where the monarch is described artfully in a way that makes her more than just a historical juggernaut giving credence. The same can be said about the Guise's of France and the tragic Mary to name but a few. True historical figures and events are narrated so much and guide much of the of premise that the back of the novel includes a section to help the reader distinguish true from fictional characters
A Column of Fire is a spectacular culmination of the writers pattern of turning real events into vivid fictional narrations, more so  than the other Kingsbridge novels. The tapestry of this read is richly coloured by real historical events and will have you glued in no-time at all.
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan 

A Column of Fire

Saturday, 14 April 2018

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World Without End - Ken Follett

Not that I've researched this fact, but I could not imagine that any of Ken Follett's book reviews are ever negative. Exquisitely detailed, but not to the point of being cumbersome and yet just more than enough to let you know that some serious research has gone into it. Scenes are always described in the most vivid way to capture a readers interest, and keep it. The chronological sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, but not necessarily to the story line, World Without End continues in the town of Kingsbridge two centuries later and again centres around the cathedral. We see the generational successors of some of the previous books protagonists as the main characters and to some extent a similar contextualized theme i.e the unconventional but lovable and seemingly irresistible clever builder (Merthin), the duty bound but stubborn and independent female protagonist (Caris) and the avaricious & ambitious yet identifiable gentry(Ralph, Merthin's brother & his parents) who seem not only to only drink too much, but also will stop at nothing to become nobility. Like its precursor, the prologue of the book has a scene that ties the lives of the main characters together which unfolds later on towards the end. Being a cathedral-town, Of course, there must be a crazed zealot  (Godwyn) who indemnifies his power hungriness as a sign God-sent. And then there was the incredible Gwenda - sold, abused and poor, she is the most interesting of all the characters just because of the sheer determination that allowed her to reach above her social burdens.
If I had to pick at this book, it would be that the repetitive nature of some of the characters in comparison to the previous book is a bit too obvious - but then, I have read them in close succession.
An elegant read written by a thoughtful writer.
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan 

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Friday, 16 March 2018

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Virgins - Diana Gabaldon

Its hard to believe that Diana Gabaldon isn't a thoroughbred Scot whose been rollicking in the Highlands her entire life to enable her to write about such convincing archetypal Scottish characters in the best representation of their particular colloquial of this 1700's. But no, she's not.
Being a full-on Outlander fan, I was drawn to this book because of the younger character of Jamie Fraser and his brother-in-law (not yet in this book though), Ian Murray. True to his trouble magnetic nature, the book starts out with an injured Jamie - pretty much the way Outlander does. Both he an Ian then go on an adventure that see's them travelling with mercenaries and their travels take them to Paris where they both have eyes for the beautiful - but sneaky we are later to find out - Rebekah.
A short piece or novella, this is my first read of Diana Gabaldon and I have to say my favourite part about the book was the three courtesy chapters of the Outlander book included at the end which in her authors note Gabaldon explains Virgins is the technical prequel for. We get this generous helping of Outlander so that the reader gets to meet the older and more experienced Jamie. Cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of Outlander...

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Friday, 9 February 2018

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Heaven Under Your Feet - Pregnancy for Muslim Women
Umm Hasan bint Salim

Last year when I was about 6 months pregnant I picked up this book at a local book store having heard that a reputable OBGYN based her pre-natal lectures on the principles espoused within the book. I read it and then life got busy. Almost a year later, I remembered the book which had been demarcated into a coffee table, patiently awaiting its next pregnant reader. High time for this review then hey?
As a Muslim mum there were definitely identifiable and helpful aspects to the book, particularly for a new mum who wanted to find the religious significance of this whole incredible experience. While I didn't really get that from the book, it did talk to me about how this incredible process impacts ones life from an Islamic female perspective, as well as the lives of our significant in the voice of someone who had obviously tread the path of pregnancy and mommy-hood.Written in a conversational tone, I could almost imagine a friend or aunt speaking to me as I read.
Finding some of the views too idealistic, the authenticated hadiths (narrations) were great, and the presence of helpful dua's (supplications) for different situations were nice too.
All in all a good read for the expectant Muslim mum-to-be who wants something more than the usual get-ready-for-baby literature.

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Sunday, 21 January 2018

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Living the Healthy Life - Jessica Sepel

I'm in awe of how honest Jessica Sepel is in her books, which is probably what attracted her huge fan base. Opening up about everything from her health struggles to her emotional issues with food, she is a super identifiable example for trying your best to live a healthy life. No diets, no extreme exercising or restrictive food regimes, the Jessica Sepel food creed is all about nourishing your body with food that's good for you and tastes delicious. Packed with nutritious and interesting sounding recipes that echo off what we saw in the Healthy Life, this book expands even further on her experiences and how we can all live better by healing different areas of our lives. I love how she incorporates different facets of the mind and body to give a holistic picture of healthy living - how the gut impacts the human system;  the impact of stress and imbalanced hormones; the relationship we have with ourselves etc
With 160 recipes there are at least 160 reasons to delve into this keepsake of a book, not including the eating plans and general good advice I guess we're all in need of in this super busy age.
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan

Sunday, 24 December 2017

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The Queen of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

This is apparently a debut novel for Erika Johansen and I love that a female writer so perfectly produced a must-read in a genre more typically dominated by men. Cherry on top, our protagonist is not the skinny-exquisitely beautiful-brave but mysterious usual formula for female characters in the fantasy genre, oh no, our Kelsea is chubby, loves her food and has truck loads of courage and spunk- just how we like'em.
The book starts out on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday when soldiers relucttanlty fetch her from the only  home shes ever known to escort her to the throne of the Tearling which, at that point is ruled by her corrupt uncle who not so secretly is under the thumb of the Queen of Mortmesne. Little faith is lended to her to actually get to the throne as assassins are in hot pursuit of her to make sure she never reaches the the throne. The lack luster faith of the soldiers quickly turn around when our Kelsea shows them that she's no 'dolls and dresses' type. And of course, she gets aided by the creepy Fetch who she secretly becomes smitten with.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, its darkly delicious and I would imagine inspired many a late night for the fortunate people who were smart enough to acquire the whole trilogy set together *Sigh*
The Queen of the Tearling is followed by The Invasion of the Tearling and The Fate of the Tearling.

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

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One Dark Throne - Kendare Blake

The sequel to the former Three Dark Crowns, the anticipation for One Dark Crown saw me mentally tapping a literary foot for almost a year. Now I know that this is more suited to the late teen market, but there is something just so riveting about the three very different sisters who are used as pawns to claim the crown of Fennbirn island. The book starts off in Greavesdrake Manor, home of the formerly weak queen Katharine, who very interestingly after being thrown into the Breccia Domain because of said weakness and trusting nature, emerges as a force to be reckoned with, which pretty much sends chills up the spines of everyone who once lauded power over. Queens Mirabella and Arsinoe are no less interesting either and we see each of the three queens finding their own voices and being used less as pawns.
This book is appealing enough to an adult, which means I wouldnt recommend it to a lower age group than the mid-late teenage sphere.
Gone are the days when a books entire tale was in a single thick volume - wait, were there ever such days?? - and so dear readers, we await the next installment with due anticipation *tap, tap, tap*
*Book sponsored by Pan Macmillan