Thursday, 15 November 2018

Angel In The Shadows by Walter Lucius


Angel In The Shadows by Walter Lucius
First published in Dutch in the Netherlands by Luitingh Sijthoff in 2017. English language translation by Lorraine T Miller and Laura Vroomen published in the UK by Dead Ink in April 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a copy from its publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Check for Angel In The Shadows in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Farah Hafez raised her head and stared into the camcorder's reflective black hole.

'Now say what I want you to say. And do it convincingly. You can save this girl's life.'

That's when the words came. Unexpected and forceful. Like vomit.

'I, Farah Hafez, support the jihad against President Potanin's criminal regime.'

He smiled coldly and pulled the trigger anyway.

-----------------------------

After investigating what appeared to be a simple hit-and-run, journalist Farah Hafez became caught up in a web of crime and corruption that led to her kidnap. Detained in Russia, she was forced to pledge her allegiance to a terrorist group on camera.

Now sought by international security and members of the criminal class alike, Farah flees to Jakarta to continue her investigation while her friends and allies attempt to clear her name from across the globe.

If Farah is ever going to regain her freedom, she needs to discover the root of the evil that bought her here. The problem is that discovering this might cost her the only she has left - her life.

Angel In The Shadows is the second of Walter Lucius' Heartland Trilogy of international spy thrillers. I loved the first, Butterfly On The Storm, which I read last year so was delighted to be offered a review copy of this second installment. Lucius again takes in a wide variety of locations with his characters travelling to Russia, South Africa and Indonesia chasing corruption on a global scale. I enjoyed the glimpses we got of daily life in such far flung locations, however I didn't feel that this second story was anywhere near as exciting as the first. The tangled threads were quite difficult to simultaneously keep in my mind as the story jumps from character to character, continent to continent. I didn't feel as though many of those characters were as strongly defined either so I was sometimes confused as to who people were, especially if they hadn't put in an appearance for a while. I was disappointed by a few too many standard thriller tropes too. There's innocent-children-in-an-orphanage, lots of unbelievably-fast-forensic-analysis, a smattering of computer-hacking-shenanigans, and a just-in-the-nick-of-time-escape seemingly every five minutes. For a beach read thriller, Angel In The Shadows would probably be a good choice, but having been so enthralled by those aspects that made Butterfly On The Storm different from the usual mass-market thriller fare, I wanted more from Angel In The Shadows. It's certainly not a bad novel, but as a sequel, I felt it let me down.


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Books by Walter Lucius / Thrillers / Books from the Netherlands

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Janitor and the Spy by S W Ellenwood + Q&A


The Janitor and the Spy by S W Ellenwood
First published in America in July 2015.

Check for The Janitor and the Spy in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Smashwords
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Add The Janitor and the Spy to your Goodreads

Baby wipes are not the best at cleaning up blood or what happened to Thornhill in Amsterdam.

They told Thornhill it would be a simple spy mission that he was more than eager to take on, but of course, it wasn't.
It didn't take long after meeting the contact for Thornhill to question if he or anyone else connected to him was going to be able to make it out of Amsterdam alive. Passing strangers on the streets became potential hitmen and dinner with criminals became safe heavens as Thornhill seeks to find answers from an old man named Golay.



Author Q and A

-I’d like to ask what inspired the Amsterdam setting?
During the early stages of planning and writing I was listening to Imagine Dragons first album, Night Vision, a lot. Those who have listened to the album or a couple of songs will know where this is going. For those who haven’t let me explain. They have a song on that album called Amsterdam. I know, super anticlimactic. If it helps, it wasn’t the only reason. Because of the subject matter I knew any major city could work but I wanted a city that was foreign to Thornhill so he would be more observant than if it was in his country of origin. I wanted this heightened observation so the reader could have a better view of not just the city but also Thornhill and his interaction with new people in a new place. 

-Which spy novels/authors do you particularly enjoy?
John le Carré is probably be my favorite spy author. When I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy I honestly got lost several times in the plot and characters but found myself reading faster in the third act as most of it, not all, started to click in my head. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy doesn’t hold the readers hand but it showed me the importance of that, respecting the reader and making them do a little leg work helps make the revelations much more impacting to them.

-How did those eyecatching book covers came about?
While I was writing the first book in college I had reconnected with a childhood best friend Jake who, at the time, was in the graphic design program. I already had a vague idea about the silhouette of a head with a scene from the book on the inside and wanted all the covers to have a similar theme to it. With that in mind I knew I needed the same artist for all of the covers to achieve this. I can’t remember how I brought it up to Jake but he was on board in a heartbeat. The first cover he did for the first book had the silhouette down perfectly. The inside scene was the only beach scene and he beautifully set it up to try and imitate features of the face in the scenery. It was great but I wasn’t sold on it and suggested we use another scene. He agree and he decided to use the scene in the first chapter of the book and started showing me sketches and I knew he was on the right track. A few months later he showed me the finished cover, minus the font, and I was sold! The second cover we talked over several different scenes but the talks were more about the background of the cover behind the silhouette. We thought about it being a table and the silhouette being burned into the table but backed off that idea thinking it was too much of a departure from the theme we established in the first cover. He then came up with the idea of using a map of Hong Kong as the background. The scene departed more from being an actually scene to more of feels and themes of what the protagonist would face on his continuing journey. For the second one I also decided to not have a book description or an author picture on the back of it, something I’m leaning to do in future books. I wanted to put more weight on the cover drawing the reader in to open the book and to give Jake more real estate to be creative because I believe covers should be treated and viewed as works of art interrupting the theme and story of the book it is representing. 

Meet the author

S. W. Ellenwood is thankful to have a close-knit family of two parents, a brother, and two sisters. A homeschooler who graduated college from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, Ellenwood loves all forms and genres of stories and was inspired by  The Lord of the Rings films and his parents to write. You can find Ellenwood writing his next novel at the local coffee shops or playing table top games with his best friends.

Author links: 
Website ~ Twitter




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by S W Ellenwood / Thrillers / Books from America

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Shapes Of Dogs' Eyes by Harry Gallon


The Shapes Of Dogs' Eyes by Harry Gallon
First published in the UK by Dead Ink in November 2015

How I got this book:

Received a copy from its publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Check for The Shapes Of Dogs' Eyes in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Convinced that London s young-professionals are being controlled by their dogs, a homeless bartender embarks on a drunken campaign to rescue his peers from domesticity. Sofa-hopping across a Hackney overrun with hungover musicians, craft brewers and their canine masters, he slips further into fantasy the more obsessed he becomes with setting himself, and everyone else, free. But after falling in love with a young actress, the thing he s fighting against may have become what he wants most of all.

The Shapes of Dogs Eyes explores the philosophies of love, homelessness, and a restless sense of uncertainty in a modern London as brittle and unmoored, as familiar and as chimerical, as the characters that move through it.

The Shapes Of Dogs' Eyes is an odd eyecatching title which encouraged me to check out this book's synopsis. Set in modern-day London, we are introduced to the pub scene of Hackney and thereabouts by our homeless sofa-surfing bartender narrator. In between pulling pints of craft beer and euthanising cockroaches, he thinks he has discovered an insidious plot whereby dogs are taking over the lives of their owners. Or maybe he's just imbibed one too many today.

I loved the language in The Shapes Of Dogs' Eyes. If Gallon hasn't ever been a Hackney bartender, I would be amazed. His understanding of his characters and insightful observations on their lives are put across in sharp evocative prose which made me want to be visiting this part of London as I read, walking those streets and inviting loathing by ordering coffee in one of the pubs! I admit that I didn't completely understand the whole dogs' plot idea, but the interaction imagery of these dogs and their owners is frequently superb. An unexpected delight!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Harry Gallon / Contemporary fiction / Books from England

Monday, 12 November 2018

Hearts Among Ourselves by A Happy Umwagarwa


Hearts Among Ourselves by A Happy Umwagarwa
Published by Dog Ear Publishing on the 5th September 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Check for Hearts Among Ourselves in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Karabo is a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the life of her father and sisters, and now she is left alone and lonely in the midst of wounded hearts of Rwanda. She does not know the whereabouts of her mother.
When Karabo goes to live with her paternal uncle Kamanzi, a colonel in the new army, she meets Shema, another genocide survivor, one of her uncle’s young escorts. Shema’s charm gives Karabo some jingling. She will surrender her heart to him, but it’s complicated —Shema knows only a part of her story. Shall she reveal the other part of the story to him? She is bamboozled.

Hearts Among Ourselves is a story of love, hatred, and the intersection of the two. Karabo and Shema, two grieving orphans, grow up in a torn society—caught between the world of the living and the dead, and the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis.

Some say love is like water—it flows with everything on its way. Will Karabo and Shema be swept up in its current or tossed to the shore?


A Happy Umwagarwa has a unique voice which truly allowed this story to come to life for me. Her unusual use of Emglish gives a particularly authentic feel to Hearts Among Ourselves and helped me to feel almost as though I were reading a memoir rather than a novel. Narrated in the first person by Karabo, a young Rwandan genocide survivor, we see her grow from orphaned child to confident young woman while coming to terms with her country's past and finding her own place within a very changed society.

Umwagarwa uses Karabo's story to explore questions of ethnicity and identity in a deep and interesting way. I think everyone knows that the 1994 genocide was Rwandans of Hutu ethnicity massacring Rwandans of Tutsi ethnicity. However Umwagarwa introduces characters who don't fit conveniently into such a simplified narrative. I learned that Rwandans take their ethnic identity from their father so Karabo identifies as Tutsi, however her mother was Hutu. Taken in by a paternal uncle, a Tutsi, after her family was killed, Karabo has to deal daily with hatred expressed towards Hutus. She is, of course, painfully aware of her own dual ethnicity, but this fact is wilfully ignored by people around her and Karabo feels unable to acknowledge it even to the man she loves.

The love story aspect of Hearts Among Ourselves is, unfortunately, what I didn't like about the novel. It is an Irritating Love Triangle, especially because I couldn't actually understand why Karabo was so enamoured of either potential partner. Both seemed overly full of themselves and insensitive to Karabo's emotions! So I struggled to empathise with this which was a shame as Karabo's deliberations do continue at length. Looking past the romance though, I found Hearts Among Ourselves offered a valuable insight into Rwandan culture and the ongoing efforts of her people to reconcile.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by A Happy Umwagarwa / Contemporary fiction / Books from Rwanda

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Thalidomide Kid by Kate Rigby + #Giveaway


Thalidomide Kid by Kate Rigby
First published by Bewrite Books in February 2007.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Check for Thalidomide Kid in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Smashwords
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Add Thalidomide Kid to your Goodreads

Daryl Wainwright is the quirky youngest child of a large family of petty thieves and criminals who calls himself ‘Thalidomide Kid’.

Celia Burkett is the new girl at the local primary school, and the daughter of the deputy head at the local comprehensive where she is bound the following September. With few friends, Celia soon becomes fascinated by ‘the boy with no arms’. 

The story of a blossoming romance and sexual awakening between a lonely girl and a disabled boy, and their struggle against adversity and prejudice as they pass from primary to secondary school in 1970s Cirencester. The story deals with themes and issues that are timeless.


Thalidomide Kid is the second of Kate Rigby's novels I have enjoyed reading (the first being Far Cry From The Turquoise Room). Thalidomide Kid is set in the 1970s so about a decade before I was in my late-primary early-secondary school years, however a lot of the school and home situations reminded me of my own childhood. I also connected to Thalidomide Kid because a 'Thalidomide Man' lived along our road when I was growing up. I remember him being quite a bit older (although he couldn't have been That much older obviously and, like Daryl, his arms were very short. I didn't notice so much that he was different because, to my child's mind, he was normal for him, but I was absolutely fascinated by his adapted car!

The novel's atmosphere reminded me of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green. There are lots of nods to toys and fashions of the era and Celia Burkett's family are certainly more affluent than mine. We were the McDougall's flour and Silver Spoon sugar strata. My Mum had a similar opinion of ITV programming though! I liked the portrayals of both Celia and Daryl, both of whom came across as likeable people with the touching naivete of youth. I appreciated seeing how they mature over the course of the story. I did feel that the pace dragged at times with excessive repetition slowing the story. Also I had expected from the title that Daryl would take the leading role, but we seemed to see more from Celia's perspective and that of her family which was a shame as Daryl's clan sounded like a right shower!

I think Rigby has penned a genuine and empathetic story in Thalidomide Kid. Its 1970s-era setting means various characters make a lot of spiteful and nasty comments concerning disability, race, sexuality and gender. These are of course shocking to read, but are authentic to the time and I didn't feel that Rigby ever glamorised or promoted such behaviours in her characters. Instead, in the case of disability sterotyping at least, we see Daryl rise above both his disability and the stigma of his family background. Thalidomide Kid felt to me like a positive portrayal as well as an interesting and entertaining novel.

Meet the author

Kate Rigby was born near Liverpool and now lives in the south west of England.  She’s been writing for nearly forty years. She has been traditionally published, small press published and indie published.

She realized her unhip credentials were mounting so she decided to write about it. Little Guide to Unhip was first published in 2010 and has since been updated.

However she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka!(2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s magazines.

Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).

Her novel Savage To Savvy was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) Quarter-Finalist in 2012.

She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories, in an erotic anthology published by Pfoxmoor Publishing and more recently in an anthology of Awkward Sexcapades by Beating Windward Press.

She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now re-Kindled as Did You Whisper Back?). She has re-Kindled her backlist and is gradually getting her titles (back) into paperback.

Author links: 
Website ~ BlogFacebook ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub ~ Pinterest


And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win 1 x signed copy of Thalidomide Kid.
Open internationally until the 14th November.

*Terms and Conditions –Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then RRR reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time RRR will delete the data. RRR is not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway






Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kate Rigby / Historical fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan


The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan
First published in the UK by Grove Press in May 2007.

One of my WorldReads from Australia

How I got this book:
Bought the audio book via Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Check for The Unknown Terrorist in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon US / Amazon UK

After a one-night stand with an attractive stranger, pole-dancer Gina Davies finds herself prime suspect in an attempted terrorist attack on Sydney. Hunted by the police, her face stares back at her on the unremitting 24/7 news cycle. She is soon running away from her dreams for a better life and witnessing every truth turn into a betrayal.

The Unknown Terrorist is a startlingly prescient novel that drums with the cadences of city life; where fear invades individual lives, pushing one woman ever closer to breaking point.

The Unknown Terrorist is a fairly standard thriller which employs the mass media and an unscrupulous journalist as its evil. Our supposed heroine, Gina, also named throughout as The Doll, is hounded to madness over the period of just a few days by drummed up hysteria and the cynical machinations of anonymous powerful men in suits.

I was interested in the descriptions of Sydney, having never been to Australia. However, Flanagan's vision of the city is hardly tourist friendly! I liked his frequent mentions of the various immigrant populations, showing a country made up of many layers of cultures, much like Britain, and the way this was set against rampant hostility towards Muslims was also sadly familiar as this attitude is also widespread over here. The main characters never leapt from the page for me though which made it difficult for me to really invest in their story.

I'm not sure this book had decided what it wanted to be. It doesn't have the pace-at-all-costs approach of slick American thrillers, but the occasions where it tries for literary fiction fail too because of their isolation. My audio version was nicely narrated and passed a week of bus journeys, but I had hoped for a deeper novel and was ultimately a bit disappointed.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Richard Flanagan / Thrillers / Books from Australia

Friday, 9 November 2018

Children Of The Ghetto: My Name Is Adam by Elias Khoury


Children Of The Ghetto: My Name Is Adam by Elias Khoury
First published in Arabic as Awlad al-Ghittu, Ismi Adam by Dar al-adab in Lebanon in 2012. English language translation by Humphrey Davies published by MacLeHose Press in October 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Check for My Name Is Adam in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Who is Adam Dannoun?

Until a few months before his death in a fire in his New York apartment - a consequence of smoking in bed - he thought he knew.

But an encounter with Blind Mahmoud, a father figure from his childhood, changed all that. From Mahmoud he learned the terrible truth behind his birth, a truth withheld from him for fifty-seven years by the woman he thought was his mother.

This discovery leads Adam to investigate what exactly happened in 1948 in Palestine in the city of Lydda where he was born: the massacre, the forced march into the wilderness and the corralling of those citizens who did not flee into what the Israeli soldiers and their Palestinian captives came to refer to as the Ghetto.

The stories he collects speak of bravery, ingenuity and resolve in the face of unimaginable hardship. Saved from the flames that claimed him, they are his lasting and crucial testament.

I don't know how to begin to review this intense, dark, complex and emotional novel! I nearly didn't read past the first fifty pages as our egocentric narrator, is incredibly irritating, however he also tells a compelling story and once I found myself swept into this fictionalised account of the Israeli invasion and massacre of Palestinians in the city of Lydda I couldn't look away. I hadn't previously heard of Lydda. My knowledge of Palestine had been limited to a hazy knowledge of British interference there in the early 20th century and then oblique portrayals such as Joss Sheldon's Occupied. I now have a shocking awareness of the inception of post-war Israel and the disturbing similarities between how Jews had been treated across Europe, and how they then treated the Arab population in Palestine.

Khoury has written My Name Is Adam from the perspective of an aging man who was born in or near Lydda a few weeks before the city was invaded. Adam doesn't know his true parentage so aligns himself with a trio of potential fathers, all heroes in one way or another. Interestingly to me he doesn't seem to make any attempt to identify his birth mother, although Manal, the woman who raised him, fulfils the maternal role. Our narrator wants to be a glorified writer, but cannot find a story to tell until he is directed towards the story of Lydda. I could have done without his initial circular waffling on this point and the 'found notebooks' device didn't work for me either as I felt they just added a blurry layer that wasn't needed. I understand including the telling of the story of lovesick poet Waddah Al-Yaman, but all the protestations about not having had an affair with his Korean student were wearying to say the least! This novel isn't an easy read for several reasons. It's ultimate subject matter is horrific - ethnic cleansing and genocide. It also uses the story-within-a-story device for multiple overlapping stories, and neither of the narrators are men with whom I could easily empathise. That said, I still think My Name Is Adam is probably a masterpiece. That it is titled as the first Children Of The Ghetto book intrigues me because I have no idea how Khoury could follow this, but I am determined to read that second novel when it appears!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Elias Khoury / Contemporary fiction / Books from Lebanon