Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand by Jennifer S Alderson #BookReview #Travel

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After reading Down and Out in Kathmandu, the first fictional adventure of Zelda Richardson, I was eager to learn more about the incredible country of Nepal and author, Jennifer S Alderson’s experiences as a volunteer teacher. Jennifer was indeed a naïve traveler, who had left her family and secure job in Seattle to live with locals, deep in the Asian countryside, with little modern comforts.

Written in late 1999, this is a frank, spontaneous journal, augmented by messages home to friends and family. Beautiful word pictures are created of the lush countryside and fascinating shrines but we are also given details of the dirt, lack of hygiene and cultural clashes. So many interesting customs and festivals are included but we are also informed of how menstruating women are prevented from preparing food or even eating with their family for the first few days of their period.

Some of the places visited are so remote that few westerners are likely to see them. Jennifer describes a holy site up in the hills behind the house where she is staying, which is called Budhanilkantha. She finds an enormous sleeping statue of Vishnu reclining on a bed of snakes. There are also shrines to Ganesh, Shiva and other gods. Returning from this journey, she is stricken with diarrhea, vomiting and fever, as a result of a few sips of unboiled water.

Interspersed with the accounts of the killing of a goat and demands for donations from her host, Jennifer also enjoyed some thrilling expeditions where she proves herself to be fearless, but it is with some relief that she leaves for Thailand, at last able to have privacy. I was not surprised to read that Thailand is much more westernised and modern than Nepal, but after leaving Bangkok, Jennifer finds paradise in Koh Tao on the East coast and Krabi on the west coast.

This travel memoir is a great read, whether you have some experience of the East or not and it should be required reading for anyone contemplating volunteering in a different part of the world.

You can find Notes of a Naive Traveler on Amazon UK or Amazon US

The Pierced Heart by Lynn Shepherd #BookReview

Pierced

The Pierced Heart continues the story of Lynn Shepherd’s flawed detective Charlie Maddox. Regretting his behaviour towards servant girl, Molly, he is haunted by her in his dreams which are not abated by a mission to Austria, where he finds himself in a strange castle deep in the Austrian countryside. As the plot progresses the actions of his host, Baron Von Reisenberg, take us to the Gothic world of Bram Stoker and Charlie begins to descend into madness.

For me this story came to life in Chapter 4, at the beginning of the journal of Lucy, in January 1851. Describing her travels in Paris and Vienna she is about to return to Whitby, a home she cannot remember. She recounts how she has assisted her father in deceiving audiences with phantasmagoria and how gradually her health has weakened. In the style of the books of Essie Fox and Wilkie Collins, Lucy’s plight worsens with each episode we read.

At times, the novel seems too gratuitous for me, but others will relish the descriptions of a series of violent murders of young women in London, 40 years before Jack the Ripper. This is an intense, captivating book to read and the ending, though not really a surprise, was very satisfying.

The Pierced Heart can be purchased on Amazon UK

The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival #amreading #FridayReads

Indelible

This is the second Esme Quentin Mystery by Wendy Percival and it takes us to a charming part of North Devon. Esme, an historical researcher, returns to Warren Quay where she spent family holidays, 30 years ago, but this time she has gone to assist Maddy, cataloguing the archives of children’s charity SAFE. But her visit takes a dramatic turn when she discovers a dying woman on the beach. Never one to avoid problems, Esme tries to help the woman’s daughter, Neave, discover, why her mother had travelled to Devon from Berkshire and whether there was a connection to the father Neave has never met.

As in the first Esme Quentin Mystery, the reader can discover many interesting aspects of social and genealogical research but there is also a gritty and frightening mystery story. Dramatic events play out against the background of the Mary Ann, a replica nineteenth century sailing ship which has been turned in to a floating museum about the fate of the convicts transported to Australia. Esme and Neave are drawn into a dangerous situation but Detective Sergeant Collins does not believe there is anything to worry about.

I would recommend this to lovers of murder mysteries, intrepid women and those with an interest in family history. I look forward to Esme’s next adventure and perhaps learning more about her previous life.

You can purchase The Indelible Stain at Amazon UK

Wendy

Wendy Percival was born in the West Midlands and grew up in rural Worcestershire. She moved to North Devon in the 1980s to start her teaching career.

An impulse buy of Writing Magazine prompted her to start writing seriously and after winning a short story competition and having another story published she turned to full length fiction.

The time-honoured ‘box of old documents in the attic’ stirred her interest in genealogy and it was while researching her Shropshire roots that she was inspired to write the first Esme Quentin mystery, Blood-Tied.

Genealogy continues to intrigue her and its mysteries provide fodder for her family history blog (http://familyhistorysecrets.blogspot.com) as well as ideas for further novels.

Wendy’s website is http://www.wendypercival.co.uk

 

 

Messandrierre: Murder in rural France by Angela Wren #TuesdayBookBlog

The First Jacques Forêt Mystery

Messandrierre

Jacques Forêt, an intelligent, considerate policeman, is vegetating in the small French village of Messandrierre, after leaving the challenging environment of Paris, so he is concerned when his unpleasant commander, Fournier, tells him to ignore the unexplained disappearance of three young adults, last seen nearby.  He is determined to continue his investigations, especially when he discovers that there have been more disappearances.

 

Meanwhile, Beth, a young British widow, has returned to the village intending to sell the cottage her husband had bought, but she is unsettled by the discovery that he had been keeping a secret from her for most of their married life.   Jacques tries to persuade her to stay in France but when she appears to be involved in his case, life becomes complicated.

 

Messandrierre is peopled by an assortment of French and British characters, who might all be suspects and there are plenty of red herrings.  The murder mystery is intriguing, as is the on/off romance between Jacques and Beth and the description of this part of rural France is vivid and believable.  I look forward to Jacques next investigation in Merle, published this month.

Angela Wren

From Angela Wren’s Author Page:

I’m an actor and director at a small theatre a few miles from where I live in the county of Yorkshire in the UK. I did work as a project and business change manager – very pressured and very demanding – but I managed to escape and now I write books.

I’ve always loved stories and story telling so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing and I started with short stories. My first published story was in an anthology, which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ and published in 2011.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.

My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year. I’m currently working on the follow-up to Messandrierre and an anthology of alternative fairy tales which I intend to self-publish.

The Orchid Tree by Siobhan Daiko #BookReview

Daiko

The Orchid Tree is a dramatic and moving account of wartime events in Hong Kong and the repercussions in 1949 for the three main characters, Kate, a British teenager, Charles, a young Eurasian and Sofia, whose home is on the neutral island of Macau.

 

Kate Wolseley tells us of her privileged life living on the Peak, in her own words.  Almost 16 when the Japanese bombs fall on the city, her days of horse riding, going to the yacht club and spending time with the son of their amah are changed to the hardship of Stanley Internment camp, where the family try to survive in one room, with very little food.  There she meets Charles Pearce, sharing the sadness and difficulties, as they fall in love.

 

Meanwhile in Macau, there is a semblance of normality despite the many Japanese soldiers, but Sofia Rodrigues, beloved daughter of the head of the successful Macau Consortium, has to bear the unpleasantness of her stepmother and her arrogant half-brother, because her mother was a Chinese concubine.  Seeking the company of Her Chinese uncle and her Russian governess she is growing up as a courageous, independent young woman.

 

When Kate reluctantly returns to Hong Kong, she is determined to help those who are less fortunate and she no longer expects happiness herself.  Lieutenant James Stevens, who has come to Hong Kong in search of a successful future hopes that Kate will become fond of him but she is evasive and uncommitting.   In dramatic circumstances, he encounters Sofia and suddenly his life takes another turn.

 

Knowing Hong Kong, I was impressed with the accuracy of the historical detail and the feel of the surroundings in this novel.  The complex strands of the plot work well and there are surprises to confound the reader.  A delightful mix of  adventure, romance and tragic modern  history.

Siobhan

Siobhan Daiko was born in and spent her childhood in colonial Hong Kong. She and her hubby moved to the UK shortly before it was handed back to China. She has worked in the City of London, once ran a post office/B&B in Herefordshire, and, more recently, taught Modern Foreign Languages in a Welsh high school. Siobhan now lives with her husband and two cats in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, where she spends her time writing, researching historical characters, and enjoying the dolce vita.

The Orchid Tree was inspired by her early life in Hong Kong. Her grandparents had been interned by the Japanese in the ex-colony from 1942 to 1945, and it was while she was researching their life in the internment camp that the idea for the novel came to her. She wanted to bring alive a time and place that no longer exist, but one that will forever be in her heart.

 

Sinclair by Julia Herdman #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

 

Volume one in the Tales of Tooley Street

Sinclair

After a surfeit of Tudor novels, my preferred era for historical fiction is the Victorian age, but I am beginning to discover the rich seam of social life, politics and sexual tension in the Georgian age.

In Julia Herdmans’ novel, we meet Edinburgh surgeon James Sinclair leaving his unhappy life in Edinburgh for a rewarding future with the East India Company. Luckily for the reader he is thwarted in this plan and instead takes a partnership in a surgeon/apothecary business in south London. The story reveals the suffering of so many patients in those days and the sometimes unhelpful remedies provided. Sinclair is a caring, astute doctor who does his best for his patients and trains his apprentices well, but he is somewhat inadequate in his understanding of women.

There are several other fascinating characters in this novel, particulary Charlotte Leadam, recently widowed and struggling to survive without entering into an unhappy pecuniary marriage. As the plot progresses the families of Charlotte and Sinclair become enmeshed and his selfish behaviour threatens them all. Against the background of the social life of London, Yorkshire and Edinburgh the story tells of evil doings and generous spirits.

This is the first book of a family saga and its satisfying conclusion, though possibly too perfect, sets the scene for more interesting developments in a following volume. This was a book I opened each evening with great interest as I got to know this talented, enigmatic man and hoped that he would sort out his life.

You will find Sinclair at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Julia Herdman

Julia Herdman has always liked things nice girls shouldn’t mention in polite conversation – politics, religion, sex and money. She studied history at university because of it.
In her early teens she was devouring Jean Plaidy and Winston Graham novels by the dozen. At university she moved onto first hand testimony including the Roman classics, Norse sagas and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Now her interest and inspiration is in the development of the urban middle class, particularly the development of the medical profession in Edinburgh and London.

Her Tales of Tooley Street series is inspired by a real family of Apothecary Surgeons, the Leadams, who lived and worked there from the late 18th century to the mid 19th century.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery by Jennifer S Alderson #TuesdayBookBlog

Kathmandu

Down and Out in Kathmandu is the first adventure of Zelda Richardson.  I came to it having already met the determined Zelda on her second adventure in The Lover’s Portrait.  In this earlier story, Zelda has just left her secure IT job in Seattle to volunteer as an English teacher near Kathmandu for 3 months.  Nepal proves to be a culture shock and the work a hard task for a young woman with no teaching experience or training.  She must live with a Nepali family who live a more western life than she had expected and yet she has to adapt to a very different diet including freshly slaughtered goat.

But first Zelda encounters Ian, an Australian backpacker who has taken a break in his teaching career to find pleasure and marijuana in Kathmandu.  They spend time together exploring the city, but part when Zelda commences her volunteer work.  With his dreadlocks and casual attitude, Ian seems less appealing than Zelda, but gradually I warmed to him.

The third character in the novel was a surprise.  Tommy is an unpleasant wastrel, bumming around in Thailand but wishing to return to Toronto as a successful man.  He decides to make his fortune by double-crossing the Greek, a gangster for whom he smuggles jewels.  He is doomed to fail but what can this have to do with Ian and Zelda?

The three threads are drawn together towards the end of the story after we follow Zelda’s failure as a teacher and her anger at the way the Rana family try to use her to further their ambitions for their children.  Jennifer Alderson’s knowledge of Kathmandu bring the poverty, dirt, danger and beauty to life and add credibility to the dramatic later chapters.  It is events in the city which most caught my imagination but Zelda’s experiences based on Jennifer’s life are very interesting.  I would like to have read more about her experiences but this would have weakened the structure of the dramatic events.

A very readable story set in a fascinating world and a great introduction to this likeable heroine and I will follow my interest in Nepal and Thailand by reading Jennifer’s book Notes of a Naive Traveler

You can find Down and Out in Kathmandu on Amazon UK or Amazon US

 

JenniferSAldersonAuthorPhoto_Twitter-300x300

Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After travelling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

Jennifer’s travels and experiences colour and inform her internationally-oriented fiction.

Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand.

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveller and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment, another art-related travel thriller (working title: Smuggler’s Deceit) will be released in the Autumn 2017.

Her travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, is now available as paperback and eBook. It is a must-read for those interested in learning more about, or wishing to travel to Nepal and Thailand.