Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Over Glassy Horizons by Nico Reznick

Over Glassy Horizons by Nico Reznick
Published in the UK by B*Star Kitty Press in September 2015.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection features poems written over the past fifteen years, covering such themes as bureaucratic injustice, the indulgence of heartbreak, the tragedies of ageing, the perils of giving power and fame to the wrong people, and the terrifying possibility that we might all be unwitting test subjects for our cats' psychology experiments. 

By turns caustic, irreverent, tragic, philosophical, anarchic and occasionally even sentimental, this first collection features twenty-five poems from an emerging talent, including the popular 'Whimper', a poem for our times in response to Allen Ginsberg's seminal 'Howl'.

I was blown away by Nico Reznick's first novel Anhedonia so was eager to take advantage of a temporary free download of this volume of her poetry entitled Over Glassy Horizons. The twenty-six poems span fifteen years of her writing and a wide range of subjects from advice to other poets to sexual frustration to the mindlessness of modern life to Piers Morgan's American reinvention of himself. I did find the whole collection to be a bit hit and miss for me and didn't feel I completely understood works like 41, but others are surprisingly vivid and inventive.

My personal favourites are Goldfish Smile which examines perceptions of freedom, Starting Over where a couple move house but fail to make a new start, and Paisley Lassie which is a very moving portrait of an elderly woman in a nursing home. Reznick also penned a long poem, Whimper, in response to Allen Ginsberg's famous Howl which I hadn't previously read but have now found online in order to really appreciate Whimper.

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Books by Nico Reznick / Poetry / Books from England

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Nocturne by Heather McKenzie + Excerpt + Giveaway

Nocturne by Heather McKenzie
Published by Clean Teen Publishing today, the 20th March 2018.

Where to buy this book:

Add Nocturne to your Goodreads

I am hunted. A pawn in a vicious game. The only way I can protect the ones I love… …is to disappear.

Finally free of her father, Kaya has the one thing that keeps her heart beating—Luke.

Blissfully content in his arms, everything seems perfect…until their world is shattered by a deadly invasion. When an old ally comes to the rescue, Kaya wants none of it. She is devastated to learn the identity of her attacker, and that she must do something truly heartbreaking if she wants to save the ones she loves. Sacrificing everything and sinking into bottomless sorrow, Kaya finds solace in an unlikely friend—one who shows her a different kind of love, and helps her discover an inner strength she never thought possible.

A heart-pounding journey of self-discovery, Nocturne is the transformative second installment of The Nightmusic Trilogy by Heather McKenzie.


I flew out the door into the cool night, took four steps, then stopped—the latest enlightening news about my father had sent me over the edge. Tears burst from my eyes. The last shred of hope I’d been hanging onto that Henry wasn’t all bad had been completely obliterated; he was an actual monster.
I dropped to the curb and put my head in my hands. The rain started falling, lightly dusting my shoulders at first, then becoming a downpour just to add to my misery. I became soaked head to toe, but I didn’t care. I stayed where I was, wishing the rain would melt me into a puddle that would drain into the gutter and then just disappear into the earth…
“You left something in my truck,” said a voice from out of nowhere.
At the edge of my vision was Ben, rain coming down even harder now and pouring off his cowboy hat in rivers. He was holding out a paper bag, which was now soaked. It was the muffin I hadn’t eaten.
“I didn’t want it to go to waste,” he added, eyeing me with concern, then glancing at the café window where I could feel many sets of eyes on my back.
I dropped my gaze back to the gutter. My body didn’t want to move, and I still held out hope that the rain might just wash me away. Ben said something, and then he hauled me up and turned me to face him. He lifted my chin, and I had no choice but to meet his eyes. The rain plastered my hair to my face, mixing with the tears that were spilling out of me with blinding force.
He gave me a weak smile. “I tried to leave. Got in my truck and was ten minutes out of town, but then I realized…” He paused, fumbling for the right words. “I could really use some help at my ranch. Now, the job doesn’t pay much, but you’ll have your own room and all the food you can eat. You’ll be dry.”
He waited patiently for an answer, but I was so grateful that all my words caught in my throat. He tossed the paper bag with the muffin into the garbage. After a quick glance at the internet café and the white-haired waiter watching from the doorway, his hand firmly latched onto mine. I had the sense I wasn’t being given a choice, I was going wherever this cowboy wanted me to.
“I’m taking you home now,” he said over the downpour.
Home. Home was in Luke’s arms….
The rain was falling in sheets. Since I wasn’t about to turn into a puddle and dissolve, I let the cowboy lead the way.

Meet the Author

Heather McKenzie is the Canadian author of The Nightmusic Trilogy. Also a professional singer/songwriter with five albums to date, she told stories through music for years before falling in love with novel writing. Heather pulls from her extraordinary experiences as a musician to fuel her passion for creating Young Adult fiction. She is a rocker at heart, a mom of three and an aspiring painter.

Author links:
Website ~ Twitter ~ FacebookGoodreads

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 29th March, the prize is a Clean Teen Publishing mystery box (ebooks if the winner is outside the US).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Books by Heather McKenzie / Romance fiction / Books from Canada

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Prince Of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Prince Of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
First published in Spanish as El principe de la Niebla by Editorial Planeta in Spain in 1992. English language translation by Lucia Graves published by Little, Brown in 2010.

One of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn.

This young adult horror story was Zafon's first published novel and it reads like a classic adventure tale similar to those I remember from my early teens. The unidentified setting was originally intended to be southern England. Its descriptions are detailed enough for me to be easily able to envisage the immediate surroundings of the village and coastline, while remaining vague enough on the regional location that the book could be imagined into many locations. In the convenient vanishing of parental influence and other genre staples, there are nods to Famous Five-type stories, but I liked that Zafon certainly has his own tale to tell here. Our three teenage heroes, two boys - Max and Roland - and one girl - Alicia - must contend with a recalcitrant lighthouse keeper and the violence of nature, before they even start to fight back against the malevolent Prince of Mist. I didn't like the inherent sexism of Alicia's role seeming primarily to be bait and to need rescuing, but other than that I enjoyed reading this novel. It's a light tale and a fun afternoon's diversion.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon / Young adult books / Books from Spain

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Mary Shelley: Daughter of Earth and Water by Noel Gerson

Mary Shelley: Daughter of Earth and Water by Noel Gerson
First published by William Morrow and Company in 1972.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a story of love and of genius. Of faith and of rebellion. 

Mary Wollstonecraft was fifteen when, in 1813, she met the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. A disciple of Mary’s famous father, the philosopher William Godwin (her mother was the great feminist Mary Wollstonecraft), Shelley himself was only twenty, though he was married and soon to be a father. Mary and Shelley fell in love the next summer; and several months later they ran away together. Thus began one of the most tragic, poignant, and, in all respects, brilliant relationships between a woman and a man that has ever been recorded. 

Shelley went on writing the poetry that was to make him one of the immortals. And Mary, as the result of a contest to see who could produce the best tale of the supernatural, wrote the classic Frankenstein. She was nineteen when she completed Frankenstein, which was at first published anonymously because of the prejudice at the time against female writers.

Though they married in 1816, following the suicide of Shelley’s wife, Mary and Shelley were for all their time together considered scandalous for their behaviour; in fact, they were both quite prudish and disapproved, for example, of the celebrated sexual exploits of their friend Lord Byron. Their lives were dogged by tragedy: suicide in both families, the early deaths of their first two children, and, finally, the death by drowning of Percy Bysshe Shelley at the age of twenty-nine.

Mary Shelley was one of the most remarkable and celebrated women of her time, and for all her happiness with her husband, life was not kind to her. But she never went under, and her story is touching, real, inspiring.

I downloaded a copy of this biography of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley when I saw it advertised in an Endeavour Press e-mail newsletter. The book was first published in the 1970s and has now been re-released as an ebook. I thought it made an interesting companion to Glorious Apollo, the novel about Byron I had then recently read as there are crossovers where Byron and the Shelley's lives intertwined. I read this book for the Endeavour Press virtual Historical Fiction Festival which took place place from the 18th to the 22nd April 2016.

Gerson obviously did a lot of research for Daughter Of Earth And Water so was able to both describe many aspects of her life and to discount theories put forward in previous works. He talks about the inspiration for and writing of Frankenstein as well as Mary's other novels, stories, translations and poetry. I had no idea that she was such an accomplished and intellectual author, easily the equal of her poet husband. Gerson goes into detail about the scandal of the Shelley's early pre-marriage relationship and the philosophical influence of Mary's father, William Godwin, which enabled her to live such a relatively free life for a woman at that time. I was amazed at, and little jealous of, their extensive European travels, especially as everyone seemed to be permanently on the verge of bankruptcy, but the tragedies they endured would try anyone's sanity.

Gerson's writing style is a little dated as is to be expected and the book is let down by frequent typos which I think are caused by automated reading of faded print in an original copy. Mary's friend Tom Medwin gets renamed Toni Medwin, and letters often start with 'my clear'. None of the typos make the book difficult to understand, but the carelessness is distracting and all the instances would be easy to catch and correct if the final copy had been proofread.

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Books by Noel Gerson / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Full Circle by Regina Timothy

Full Circle by Regina Timothy
Self published in December 2017.

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads
One of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, Samia-Al-Sayyid an Iraqi immigrant is living a quiet life in New York City after she fled her home to avoid imminent death.

She works hard for her cold, heartless, high-strung boss, loves her seventeen-year-old-son, and cherishes the close friendship she has formed with her best friend Susan.

Nothing can go wrong, or so she thinks – until the estranged brother she left back in Iraq shows up on her door step. Then she finds herself in a cab, on her way to the hospital to identify her son, a terror suspect who has blown the city, and with it her boss’ husband, and her best friend’s son. With everything lost, she is forced to flee to Iraq where she confronts her past. Will she make peace with her past? Can she get forgiveness for all the damage she has caused?

Full Circle is a contemporary fiction tale of friendship, family, and hope. It explores the devastation of loss, the great capacity to forgive and the lengths our loved ones will go to protect us.

Full Circle is quite an emotional rollercoaster of a novel. It tackles strong themes including sexual assault, racial intolerance, terrorism, the experiences of soldiers returning home, single parenthood, bullying, and the social alienation of teenagers. I did at times wonder whether so much misfortune could believably befall a relatively small cast of characters, although in this story some events have a depressing inevitability as they follow one after another. We can see where the characters are headed and, as readers, are powerless to change their fate.

Samia has turned herself from a powerless child in Iraq to a strong woman in America. She works dead-end jobs to get by, but has provided opportunities for her son who is preparing to start at university. I liked Samia. She doesn't expect great things from life, but works hard and has a serene sense of dignity about her which I admired. I wasn't so convinced by her boss, Melisa, who didn't always come across as a fully rounded character, or by Melisa's PA, Susan, who occasionally behaves as though she is Melisa!

Full Circle has good ideas and I liked the overall narrative. There are issues with pace. Sometimes we jump in time for no apparent reason while other scenes overstay their welcome. Also a lot of the dialogue felt overly formal to me. However, looking past these problems, I think Timothy has interesting things to say through her characters and I predominantly enjoyed reading this book.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Regina Timothy / Contemporary fiction / Books from Kenya

Friday, 16 March 2018

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler
Self published in the UK in November 2017.

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads
One of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Took advantage of a free launch download offer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The year is 2024.
A mysterious virus rages around the UK.
Within days, 'bat fever' is out of control.
Patient Zero is a collection of nine short stories featuring minor characters from the post apocalyptic Project Renova series. All stories are completely 'stand alone'.

1. Jared: The Spare Vial
Jared has two vaccinations against the deadly virus: one for him, one for a friend...

2. Flora: Princess Snowflake
The girl with the perfect life, who believes in her father, the government, Christian charity and happy endings.

3. Jeff: The Prepper
What does a doomsday 'prepper' do when there is nothing left to prepare for?

4. Karen: Atonement
She ruined her sister's last day on earth, and for this she must do penance.

5. Aaron: #NewWorldProblems
Aaron can't believe his luck; he appears to be immune. But his problems are far from over.

6. Ruby: Money To Burn
Eager to escape from her drug dealer boyfriend's lifestyle, Ruby sets off with a bag filled with cash.

7. Meg: The Prison Guard's Wife
Meg waits for her husband to arrive home from work. And waits...

8. Evie: Patient Zero
Boyfriend Nick neglects her. This Sunday will be the last time she puts up with it. The very last time.

9. Martin: This Life
Life after life has taught the sixty year old journalist to see the bigger picture.

People who only like to read a series in its proper order had better look away now because I started Terry Tyler's Project Renova series with Book Three! Actually I believe Patient Zero is more of a companion volume to the first two books, Tipping Point and Lindisfarne, and can be read independently without ruining the others' story arc. I certainly hope so!

The nine stories in Patient Zero each feature a different character, all of whom are in some way affected by a disease epidemic sweeping across the UK. Despite all the stories being short, I felt I got a good sense of the overall chaos and panic as well as understanding the situations of the people Tyler introduces us to. There's lots of excitement and tense scenes, but alongside strong character portrayals so there is more to these dystopian tales than just action.

On the strengths of Patient Zero I am intrigued to find out more and have already bought myself a copy of Tipping Point. Expect its Literary Flits review soon!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Terry Tyler / Short stories / Books from England

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz

Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz
First published in Polish in Poland in various collections during the 1930s. English language translation by Madeline G Levine published by Northwestern University Press today, the 15th March 2018.

My 1930s read for my 2017-18 Decade Challenge

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Collected Stories is an authoritative new translation of the complete fiction of Bruno Schulz, whose work has influenced writers as various as Salman Rushdie, Cynthia Ozick, Jonathan Safran Foer, Philip Roth, Danilo Kiš, and Roberto Bolaño.

Schulz’s prose is renowned for its originality. Set largely in a fictional counterpart of his hometown of Drohobych, his stories merge the real and the surreal. The most ordinary objects—the wind, an article of clothing, a plate of fish—can suddenly appear unfathomably mysterious and capable of illuminating profound truths. As Father, one of his most intriguing characters, declaims: “Matter has been granted infinite fecundity, an inexhaustible vital force, and at the same time, a seductive power of temptation that entices us to create forms.”

This comprehensive volume brings together all of Schulz's published stories—Cinnamon Shops, his most famous collection (sometimes titled The Street of Crocodiles in English), The Sanatorium under the Hourglass, and an additional four stories that he did not include in either of his collections. Madeline G. Levine’s masterful new translation shows contemporary readers how Schulz, often compared to Proust and Kafka, reveals the workings of memory and consciousness.

It's only half way through March, but I am pretty confident that Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz is going to be my book of the month! I absolutely loved his rich language and gorgeously vivid descriptions, deep prose and frequently bizarre storylines. Originally written in the 1930s these stories have a sense of history about them. I could picture the unnamed town as Schulz's protagonist wends his way through its streets. Kafka is namedropped in the synopsis and I did notice ideas that could have been inspired by him, particularly in certain elements of Father's daily life which sometimes reminded me of The Metamorphosis. I was also reminded of the Daniil Kharms short story collection I read last year in the often absurd turns Schulz's stories take.

Although each story is essentially independent, repeated themes, characters and locations made reading this book feel more to me like reading a novel than a short story collection. Schulz focuses in particular on the changing seasons, his Father character's dementia and the daily routine of maid Adela. He notices the natural world in its urban setting, giving frequent chapters over to detailed descriptions of plant life, especially wild growing weeds. He also uses repetition of particular words and phrases to great effect in linking the stories. Motifs from one tale spring up again and again to reinforce ideas and impressions.

Bruno Schulz uses lots of words, writes beautifully dense prose and, to me at least, is all about atmosphere, description and character. I don't expect this book to appeal to readers who prefer action, tightly-plotted storylines and concise ideas. Instead this collection is more a slow-flowing river. There is a lot happening, but its obscured and you have to sit watching a while before you begin to move with the current. Personally I loved getting swept up and away!

Forgotten by the great day, all the herbs, flowers and weeds multiplied luxuriantly and silently, gladdened by this pause that they could sleep though outside the margin of time, on the borders of the endless day. An immense sunflower, held up on a powerful stem and sick with elephantiasis, awaited in yellow mourning dress the final, sad days of its life, sagging beneath the excess growth of its monstrous corpulence. But the naive surburban bluebells and the modest little muslin flowers stood there helpless in their starched pink and white little shirts, with no understanding of the sunflower's great tragedy. (from Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz)

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Bruno Schulz / Short stories / Books from Poland