LUCINDA’S BEST BOOKS 2019 (4)

The last of my 12 books (from a total of 100) for 2019. Remember they are in no particular order and I would be hard put to choose one above all the others.

THE MYSTERY OF JULIA EPISOPA by  John I Rigoli

THE MYSTERY OF JULIA EPISOPA

I have a weakness for historical fiction books set especially around the early Christian era. There is an aura of mystery surrounding the Vatican and the secrets of the early church and the manipulation of the elderly men who set a whole religion on a path that is still followed two thousand years later. An exciting, easy to read book which kept me turning the pages while the dirty dishes waited in the sink.

This was a great book to read. We meet Julia, the wife of a Roman official who was alive not long after the crucifixion of Jesus. Circumstances take her from Rome to Ephesus and then to Heracleum and back to Rome. In parallel, the story is set in the present day when two young archaeologists discover evidence of Julia’s life buried deep in the Vatican archives. What they find will rock the world. The tale moves at a great pace, not lagging for a moment and the characters were believable although I could relate more to Julia. Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078P5T17C/

THINGS FALL APART  by Sharon Brownlie

THINGS FALL APART

An emotional journey of awakening, through broken trust, heartbreak, and family conflict. Despite being at the depths of despair, in the face of adversity, there is always a belief in the promise of a hopeful future. This is a coming of age story with a difference. Thirty-five-year-old single mother Mandy is forced to mature and grow up quickly. By the time we reach the final chapters of this incredible chronicle she moves from the blindness of naivety into pain, despair and eventually, at great cost, the maturity of hard-won wisdom.
Set in the mid-nineteen eighties in Edinburgh, a city dubbed as the drug’s capital of Europe, it’s a town where Mandy faces a mother’s worst nightmare. The warning signs are staring her in the face, but at first, she doesn’t heed them. All she wants to do is love, nurture and protect her family, but despite all her efforts she has to stand by, watching helplessly as it fragments, and things fall apart. How does she bring things to a peaceful conclusion? Is it even possible?

I know I am reading a good book when the dishes are ignored, the world goes by and I sit and read it from beginning to end. This story had me transfixed. I can’t praise it enough. I am not sure if it is in any way autobiographical, but if not, then this author can get right inside her characters. You feel their pain, their joy and their precarious position. This is a book which should be read by every parent with teenage children and the teenagers themselves.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07961BTBX/

CAPE OF STORMS  by Bianca Bowers

CPAE OF STORMS

Why did I choose to read this book? Initially, because it was set in and around Durban and Umhlanga and evoked almost forgotten memories of places I knew well having lived there for several years. I suspect the story has a hint of autobiography as the author grew up in South Africa and left to live in Australia when she was twenty-three, also considered by the heroine Rosalinde. The narrative is fast-paced and engaging as we first meet her as a young child questioning apartheid and its ramifications. The innocence of childhood accompanies her through school to university when she is brought face to face with a different culture and an alien mindset when her beliefs are shaken to the core. She is forced to face the same dilemma that so many white South Africans have encountered and to which there is no easy solution if there is any solution at all. The tension builds as Rosalinde is faced with the reality of being of Caucasian origin in the modern South Africa. Family members are brutally murdered, and from sitting at home with a panoramic view over the Indian Ocean, all this changes, to high walls, razor wire, and security cameras. She, like so many, becomes a prisoner in her own home. She struggles to understand the reasons for the anger and violence but it is hard to accept and she can see how the fledgling country is on the path to destruction. Not wanting to leave the land of her birth she acknowledges that leaving may be the only path to take to save her life. The dialogue is realistic, the narrative flows smoothly and once I read the first page, I did not put this book down until I reached the last one. If you have always lived in a western country and think you know what life in Africa is like because you have watched the news and read the papers, this book may open your eyes. It is a novel, yes, but nothing is far-fetched, it simply incorporates everyday life in a country I too fell in love with and was heartbroken to leave.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZJVKHPN/

If any of my top books sound fun, then do please go and check them out. They are the 12 best of the 100+ in 2019 that have taken me to new worlds, different places, and exciting situations. I could have included a lot more, many of the other books I’ve read this year have been good, but those I’ve featured over the last 4 weeks are the ones that have stayed with me and that is always the sign of a good book.

I’m currently scribbling my 14th book, it’s a follow on of my psychological thriller A Year in the Life of Leah Brand. You can take a look at all my books by clicking here  https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

I wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas or holiday season wherever you might be. I’ll be down south in Australia and wrenched away from my laptop, but I’ll do my best to keep in touch.

Stay safe and take care

Lucinda

 

 

 

Lucinda’s best books of 2019 (3)

Someone asked me how do I choose only a few books from so many? Since my memory went AWOL some time ago, l now list them on a spreadsheet. Those special books I highlight when I review, and I nearly always write up a few words, unless I really didn’t like the book or it was badly written.. All writers adore getting reviews (hint).  The three books in my top 12 this week are:-

PORTRAIT OF STELLA by  Susan Wuthridge

PORTRAIT OF STELLA

After discovering her birth certificate is a fake and there is no record of her existence in the UK database. Jemima Ashton is desperate to discover her real identity. With scant information and the burning question ‘who am I?’, she embarks on an incredible journey of detection. On learning of her late mother Stella’s disappearance during WWII, she retraces her footsteps across the globe and at a distant vineyard, unearths a family she had no idea existed.
While treading a path of narrow-minded bigotry, scandalous revelations emerge of two families inextricably linked by one woman and the drastic steps they took to hide the truth.

I didn’t think I was going to even like this book, but I loved it. I loved it so much I spent a whole day immersed flicking the pages as fast as I could. This is an excellent story, carefully crafted, exciting and packed with lots of information. Having lived in South Africa, I was aware of the apartheid rules and regulations – if you did not experience that, it will be a real eye-opener. The plot is quite complex but all the loose ends are tied up leading to a very satisfactory conclusion. The pace was fast, but the words flowed and I raced through the book through the eyes of both Stella and Jemima. The book grabs you from the first chapter when Jemima finds out that she is not who she thought she was and thus begins her search to discover her past. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QGDX9Y/

ONLY THE GOOD by Rosemary Reeve

ONLY THE GOOD

The third book in the Jack Hart series follows on nicely from books one and two but it can be read as a stand-alone. We meet up again with Jack, the kind-hearted litigator, his girlfriend and long-time friend Mark, not forgetting Betsy the dog with attitude. Mark is still hating his job in the Seattle law firm, but he finds himself in deep water when he is suspected of murder. He might be able to prove his innocence on one killing but then the bodies begin to pile up. Adding to this Jack’s family, a family he didn’t know he had, is involved and he finds himself in conflict on both sides of the law. Extra suspicion falls on Jack when it is revealed that he has inherited the family business, the mansion, a holiday home, and several yachts.
Rosemary Reeve has written another action-packed, fast-moving novel. The reader cannot help but love Jack and his friends, even the golden-haired almost out of control Betsy. The plot is tight, the words follow effortlessly and the scenes are described with just the right amount of detail, not too much but enough to take you into each location. The storyline had me guessing as the murders add up and suspicion falls on Jack time and time again. It does not help when the police in Bellingham are determined to pin all the crimes on Jack. At the same time, Jack is struggling with his own demons, about his past childhood in a selection of foster homes and his desperate desire to know who his parents were – all is not what it seems.      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DDFS2QJ/ref

WILD CHILD   by Ian Mathie

Ian Mathie was an entertaining raconteur and writer who told his true-life stories with great vigour and enthusiasm. He had an amazing memory and was able to recall the smallest details, even from his early childhood. His life was packed with unusual experiences and adventures in distant places with strange people, wild animals, danger and fun.

When Ian Mathie sadly passed away some months ago, the world lost one of the last adventurers who grew up and loved the African continent and its people in the mid 19th Century. I have avidly read all of this author’s books and this last one, completed by his family in collaboration with his publishers, tells the story of Ian’s early days growing up in the bush. It recounts the freedoms, the adventures, and the creatures, running wild without a care in the world. His voice shines through on every page painting vivid pictures of a rural missionary school and the exacting punishments he received. He tells us of his African friends, getting to grips with a new language and the culture shock of boarding school back in Britain. Reading Wild Child takes you to Africa, surrounding you with the dust, the smells, the atmosphere of those vast areas densely populated with wildlife and vegetation. The book is a must-read for all those who have visited, lived there or who simply want to experience a world very different from any other continent on earth.

I should mention my books, shouldn’t I? I have penned 3 memoirs, one fairy tale for adults, a five-book adventure series set in Africa and my latest one is a psychological thriller set in England. Click here for my Amazon author page.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

 

LUCINDA’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019 (2)

Last year, 2018, I set my Goodreads reading challenge to 100 books. I only managed to achieve that by cramming in a couple of children’s books in December – well I wasn’t really cheating, was I? This year and last I read more than the totals as I could not include beta reading or other books that were not yet published.

In 2019 to take a little pressure off I lowered it to 80 books and that is a much easier target to reach, I’m already there.

I have traveled back in time, returned to Africa several times, lurked behind pillars in the Vatican, and again and racked my brains wondering ‘who done it’?

Here are the next three books I loved.

CONCLAVE  by Robert Harris 

conclave

I’m very curious about the Vatican with all its secrets, mysteries and the men who live there – those who are genuine in their beliefs and those who worship power more than God. I loved this book and read it in one day. The pope is dead, and behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours, one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth. I also learned much about the rituals involved when voting for a new pope and it was not as I had imagined. Why did I think they were all locked in one chapel for days on end? Why did I believe they might not be able to talk to outsiders in those days? This book explains a lot and the ending? While I was still debating – it had me fooled – as to who were the good guys – the ending was explosive and made me laugh out loud.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1784751839

THE DUNG BEETLES OF LIBERIA  by  Daniel V Meier JR

dung beetles

I loved this book for its sheer honesty especially in an age where so many people are just willing and waiting to criticize and contradict and pc speech is strangling our literature. This book set in Liberia in the 1970s cannot be questioned, it tells of a time period well before we could all immediately find out the ‘facts’ as they now appear on the world wide web.

The Dung Beetles of Liberia is the story of a young college undergraduate at Cornell who drops out of school to take a job flying planes in Liberia. He leaves behind his astonished family and his almost-fiancé in a bid to escape the demons that plague him over the death of his brother. He’s learned that Liberia is one of the richest countries in Africa and has high expectations of what he will find there. America had repatriated many slaves in the 1800s and established a democracy and infrastructure. What young Kenneth found was the true state of Africa with its own interpretation of life, morals, and ethics. It shocks him to the core. Life is cheap, the hierarchy is absolute, the poor are driven to the point of extinction and he finds himself rubbing shoulders with other hard-drinking, wild and unprincipled expatriates.
The book is based on a true account of life there at the time – which I suspect has changed very little. This is possibly the most honest tale of Africa I have ever read. It is not as politically correct as other books set in similar places, but the author brilliantly highlights the cheapness of life, the lack of compassion, the willingness of the poor and downtrodden to accept their lot in life. Many readers may simply not believe the tales told with such pathos and humour but I can assure them that life is as wild and undisciplined as they are recounted. Kenneth Verrier is a typical young American from a good family who is shocked to the core with what he encounters. Flying small planes delivering equipment to the mines – and a little diamond smuggling on the side – paying no attention to overloading, air traffic rules, non-existent runways and centre of gravity safety regulations. Little by little Kenneth learns to adapt but never loses his humanity. He is a likable hero, and tells his story simply, honestly and clearly. This book is one of the best I have read in a long, long time and find it difficult to believe the author did not spend most of his life in Africa as he has grasped the problems, the customs, and the mindset so truthfully. Highly recommend reading – in fact this should be on the prescribed reading list of every high school as a window on a continent with a different way of life and a different mindset. Welcome to the world of Africa.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1945448377

THE OPIUM LORD’S DAUGHTER  by  Robert Wang

THE OPIUM LORDS DAUGHTER

Moving continent to Asia, the author, now living in the United States, writes of a historical period in the land of his ancestors. In an east meets west scenario we meet the family of Lord Lee Shao Lin, his daughter Su-Mei and his number one son Lee da Ping during the time of the opium Wars between Britain and China. Many people may not know of the travesty of this unevenly fought war when the British navy attacked China to ensure uninterrupted trade in tea, porcelain, silks, and spices. Since China had no need to import anything from the west, the currency used to buy Chinese goods was Chinese silver which the British obtained by illegally importing opium into China. Everyone was involved, the Chinese merchants, the corrupt customs officials, the addicts who would do what it took to obtain more of the drug. But then the Emperor issued a decree to halt the trade and the troubles begin. At this time, Sue-Mei meets Travers Higgins from Yorkshire and falls in love – a cross-cultural affair unheard of and disapproved of in 1840. The stage is set for an explosive story in more ways than one.

The Opium Lord’s Daughter is one of the best books I have read this year. I read it in a day and a half and loved every bit of it. The characters leaped off the pages, I connected with Sue-Mei the heroine and the words flowed effortlessly. For the hours I was engrossed in this book I was living in the 1800s in China, surrounded by the sights and smells, the customs and the laughter and sorrow of the young couple and her family. The historical information was woven seamlessly into the story and I suspect the author researched the facts thoroughly, backed up by the pictures in the back of the book featuring many of the real characters mentioned at the time. A fairly balanced argument from both sides highlights the greed and avarice and arrogance of man which has not changed one iota in the last two thousand years. I highly recommend this book, and I shall file it away to read again in the future.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T2N4GK9/

Have you checked out my books? Memoirs, humour, action-adventure and my new psychological thriller. This link will take you to my Amazon author page.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

 

 

 

A TRAILER AND YOUTH TRIALS

I was so thrilled with my very first video trailer which is for the Amie series, so I just can’t resist sharing it with you again, although I understand that over a thousand people have already seen it.

(Oh gosh that worked, such a great surprise!) Huge thanks to the very talented Susan Darlene Faw.

On a more serious note February 6th is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

Yes, I know that it’s a subject that makes people squirm, like those personal adds that pop up in the middle of the Saturday night movie.

Despite that I chose it as a central theme in Amie Cut for Life – is it the teacher in me? Not exactly, I just wanted to raise awareness among the population that the practice of female circumcision is going on and, in some areas even spreading.

I’ve done lots of research on this for the book – and the subject matter there is handled very sensitively it’s an adventure story after all – and if it helps to spread the word … in classrooms, police stations, in communities and to mothers who may be planning to have their children cut.

Check out the slides below there is not one good reason for mutilating young children.

AMIE 4 30 JAN 2018

I read that the practice is not confined to Africa, the Middle East and Indonesia, but among those communities now living in Europe and America. The UK has pledged £50m to help end FGM across Africa by 2030 which hopefully will help but it’s also prevalent in other parts of the world.

Supporters are mothers and family members who believe that girls need this to make them suitable for marriage. It will also prevent them from unfaithfulness and ensure they remain pure for their future husbands.

AMIE book 4 5 JAN 2018

The good news is the first successful prosecution in the UK where a mother had her daughter aged 3 circumcised. She will be sentenced in March. I hope it will be a warning to others. So that makes the one point in that slide above out of date, but I compiled that a year ago.

I think I’d better stop now before I really began to rant!

Check out the book, I think you’ll enjoy it.

AMIE 4 20 NOV 2017

myBook.to/Ac4L

Actually, if you have read this far, the above statement is also a lie! I have 10 ARC copies of book 5 Amie Savage Safari – due out on Feb 26th. Anyone interested?  Drop me an email lucinda@lucindaeclarke.com

Till next time, take care.

Lucinda

RESTAURANT AND RHODESIAN BOILER

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

We stopped off for a quick bite at this cute little restaurant where we were the only people. In fact, most of the area was pretty deserted – possibly because they heard I wanted to take photos without crowds.

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If there is a castle to go in, then I go in.

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It’s not just a single building but almost a small town, with interlinking courtyards and of course the St Vitus Cathedral up there as well next to the palace.

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They began building all this in the 9th century and was home to Presidents, Kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperors. A World Heritage site it’s the largest ancient castle in the world occupying 70,000 square metres.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

The lovebirds, Isabella and Ferdinand, spend two hours together and renew their betrothal vows before Ferdinand returns to the town of Dueňas to wait for the wedding. The next few days are nerve-wracking. Henry’s forces could arrive at any minute. There is very little money for a wedding, how can you celebrate a royal wedding without money?  The couple are forced to borrow from members of the noble houses.

isabella 3

But, as they say, that’s not all! There is the little problem of consanguinity – yes the pair are both descended from the same ancestor. It will mean a dispensation from the Pope of the time allowing them to marry. And the Pope is friends with …? You guessed it King Henry and the Marquis of Villena who are against the marriage.

Isabella gets a bit difficult at this stage and says that she cannot marry without this dispensation.  She is deeply religious, and although she believes in the divine plan for her nuptials with Ferdinand, if it is not done properly, then God will not look on favourably. Are they ever going to share a bed?

AFRICA FACTS

Last week I told you how we moved 450 kms north taking with us our new Ayah or maid or housekeeper whichever term you prefer. Agreeing she could bring her boyfriend, or husband, I never really found out which he was, at first was a boon. He helped light the Rhodesian boiler every morning. A stone built contraction with a shelf to place logs which were then burnt and heated the oil drum above which was connected to the hot water tank in the house.

rhodesian boiler

It was the only way we could have hot water indoors. But I also mentioned there were long queues of eager looking men outside our gate every afternoon during the hours Ntebling was not working. It took me a few days to work it out, but then the penny dropped when I saw money changing hands. Whether he was married to her or not, Ntebling’s male friend was also her pimp. With two young daughters in the house I just couldn’t risk it and sadly paid them an extra month’s wages and waved them goodbye. It would be cold showers for us until we found a replacement to work that Rhodesian boiler.

THE ADD BREAK

Having stared this year fighting a variety of unwelcome bugs, I’ve not yet launched my latest book. I’ve been dithering whether to just slide it out quietly or make a huge splash and scream about it from the rooftops.

Amie 5 cover 1 hyena

Watch this space, it will be out soon. In the meantime, this is the blurb.

Rare minerals have been found in the north of Togodo and representatives from six of the world’s most powerful nations are desperate to win the contract to mine and export them. The new president Ben Mtumba invites them on safari to bid for the rights. 

 MI5, aware of Amie’s old friendship with Ben, fly her back to spy on him and ensure Britain’s success in the mining venture. Should the new president prove uncooperative, they will support any one of several ministers who are more than willing to replace him as president.

 Between pressure from her own government and her loyalty to Ben, Amie is put in an impossible position, aware that both her life, the life of her unborn child, and Ben’s are all at risk.

 To add to her problems, her fiancé Simon has been sent back to England and she has lost all contact with him. He is unaware of the drama unfolding in Togodo and has information, which, if it came to light would have drastic effects on the safari and the auction.

Till next time, take care.

Lucinda

A CASTLE AND CATASTROPHE

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

Of course, the main attraction in Prague is the castle. And, I know why they put castles on top of hills – so they could see who was coming to attack – but I don’t do hills. Luckily there was a bus that took us most of the way up, and dropped us in this square.

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HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Considering Isabella had never met Ferdinand, I can only think she decided he was the ‘one’ as they were about the same age – she is 19 and he’s all of 18. She would have seen a portrait I’m sure, but boy did the painters in those days lie through their brushes.

fedinand 3

But their royal marriage will be one of the few where the bride and groom are so close in age. Remember, while Disney tells us they lead happy, delightful lives, in reality they were just marriage fodder for the good of their country.

Ferdinand is introduced to her as “His Highness Don Ferdinand, King of Sicily and Prince of Aragon.” Unbelievably, he is indeed the man of her dreams. She is enchanted and Ferdinand? Ferdinand believes she is malleable. However, Isabella does not forget that Castile and Leon are more important than Aragon, Ferdinand will be given the title of King but out of courtesy only. I’m sure he was already planning how to change all that.

AFRICA FACTS

The girls and I grew very fond of Ntebeling and she said many times that she wanted to go on working for us when we moved into a place of our own.

francistown

I was happy about that, but then we were moved, from Gaborone the capital to Francistown 450 kilometres to the north. I was surprised when Ntebeleng said that was fine she didn’t mind moving. A couple of days later she asked if her husband could come too and I agreed. She also added that he could help around the garden if I liked. I liked.

We’d been there less than a week when I began to notice long queues outside our gate every afternoon. Something was going on, but I couldn’t figure out what. Have a guess before next week.

ADD BREAK

I have managed with the help of a kind friend to link my web page to my blog. So you can easily hop from one to the other – and view all my books on my site (hint). I have published 12 so far in 3 different genres, so there is something for everyone.

https://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

The link, just in  case 😊

Till next time, take care

Lucinda

DEFENESTRATION AND DITHERING

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

Still in the castle, we latched on to an English speaking guide who showed us the few rooms that were open to the public.

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She was particularly eager to explain defenestration, which is the practice of throwing people you don’t like for one reason or another out of windows after which they inexplicably died.

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In 1618, in an argument over religious freedom, two Regents and their secretary were thrown out of a window on the third floor – 21 metres from the ground. They survived. The Catholics maintained they were caught by angels or the Virgin Mary. The Protestants said they landed in a heap of dung. These days James Bond does that all the time without a hair out of place and not a speck of dirt on his white dinner suit.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Servants are sent poste haste to Rome to get the Pope’s permission for cousins Isabella and Ferdinand to marry. Like the proverbial magician, the Archbishop of Toledo agrees to sort it all out. It is rumoured that he himself wrote out the dispensation.

pope paul ii

 

Are we to believe that Isabella thought a dispensation, to and from Pope Paul II in Rome could be obtained in 4 days? Even using the autobahns it would be pushing it.

While Ferdinand realizes that he is marrying a deeply religious woman, whose devotion to duty is equally paramount, he is also convinced that she is his to command. Ferdinand the adventurer, so worldly, so much the man of action believes that this convent bred girl, a weak female will be subservient. Oh silly man, you have no idea at all have you?

 

AFRICA FACTS

I’m not sure how many people are aware the Africa is probably the richest continent on earth. It has many rivers, wide areas for agriculture and a wealth of precious and useful minerals deep below the ground. Many of its countries have access to the sea and deep water harbours. Trade routes east were established long before Europe was even aware just how big a land mass Africa is. It also has a workforce that, once educated and trained can meet the demands of a modern world.

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Sadly, with tribal infighting, civil wars, jostling for power and man’s insatiable greed so many suffer as a result. Will it ever come right? Well for the few at the top, life is pretty good now, except how relaxed they are is anyone’s guess. Only time will tell. In the meantime, maybe life will fall apart in the Old World – who knows!

There are lots of tale about my media work in Africa in my career memoirs, Truth, Lies and Propaganda and more Truth, Lies and Propaganda which may surprise you.

mybook.to/MemTLP                            mybook.to/MoreTLP

Till next time, take care

Lucinda.