Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack by H M Naqvi

The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack by H M Naqvi
Published by Grove Press on the 12th March 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Winner of the inaugural DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, H.M. Naqvi follows his critically-lauded debut Home Boy with The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack, an enthralling novel about one unforgettable and gloriously unaccomplished man, his impending death, and the history and life of his bustling, shape-shifting city.

Abdullah, bachelor and scion of a once prominent family, awakes on the morning of his seventieth birthday and considers launching himself over the balcony. Having spent years attempting to compile a "mythopoetic legacy" of his beloved Karachi, the cosmopolitan heart of Pakistan, Abdullah has lost his zeal. A surprise invitation for a night out from his old friend Felix Pinto snaps Abdullah out of his funk, and saddles him with a ward--Pinto's adolescent grandson Bosco. As Abdullah plays mentor to Bosco, he also attracts the romantic attentions of Jugnu, an enigmatic siren with links to the mob. All the while Abdullah's brothers' plot to evict him from the family estate. Now he must to try to save his home--or face losing his last connection to his familial past. Anarchic, erudite, and rollicking, with a septuagenarian protagonist like no other, The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack is a joyride of a story set against a kaleidoscopic portrait of one of the world's most vibrant cities.

Let me start this review by saying that I enjoyed spending time with Abdullah. The genre of elderly-men-looking-back stories can be rather hit and miss for me, but here I appreciated Abdullah's wry sense of humour and the way his first-person narration gives 'Currachee' a wonderful sense of life and energy. It felt refreshingly unusual to read about someone who never really made much of his life, but isn't bitter about it. I loved the warmth of his relationship with his young nephews. What failed for me in this book however was the overwhelming volume of footnotes. At times there are several irritating little numbers on a single page which each refer to a different section of tiny red font on another page. In a print book, with a finger marking each page, this might have been manageable. On my Kindle though, it swiftly became so annoying that I simply skipped most of the footnotes. Consequently I suppose I only therefore read about three-quarters of the book! I'm not going back in just to read the footnotes though.

The actual narrative line is a little confusing, possibly due to those missed footnotes, and I admit that The Selected Works Of Abdullah The Cossack probably suffered in being the book I read right right after The Old Drift. While The Selected Works isn't a bad novel at all, it just didn't have such an innovative spark. Writing this a day after finishing, elements of the story and characters are already fading from my mind which is a shame as the jazz club settings particularly are still memorably strong.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by H M Naqvi / Contemporary fiction / Books from Pakistan

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Life and Other Dreams by Richard Dee

Life, and Other Dreams by Richard Dee
Published by 4Star Scifi on the 15th February 2019.

Add Life And Other Dreams to your Goodreads

Rick lives here on Earth now, with Cath. His life is boring, writing adverts for cat food and exotic holidays. When he’s asleep, he dreams vividly. In his dreams, he lives as Dan, spending his time with his wife Vanessa. They live six-hundred years in the future, half a galaxy away. They’re explorers, searching for valuable minerals on Ecias, an alien paradise.

Dan has no dreams about Rick’s life, he lives on Ecias, loves his life and Vanessa.

When the two worlds overlap, Rick starts to question what is real. Events in his waking and sleeping lives are mirrored, similar people inhabit both and coincidences mount up. Then disaster strikes in each world at the same time. In his dreams, Dan is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Meanwhile, after one coincidence too many, Cath thinks that Rick’s dreams are hiding an affair and leaves him.

Is Rick going crazy, or can he be living in two places, in two times, at once? If not, then which one of them is the reality? Will one life carry on when the other is on hold?

Richard Dee's fast-paced, edgy science fiction -cum- psychological thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page!

Meet the author

Richard Dee is a native of Brixham in Devon. He left Devon when he was in his teens and settled in Kent. Leaving school at 16 he briefly worked in a supermarket, then went to sea and travelled the world in the Merchant Navy, qualifying as a Master Mariner in 1986. Coming ashore to be with his growing family, he used his sea-going knowledge in several jobs, working as a Marine Insurance Surveyor and as Dockmaster at Tilbury, before becoming a Port Control Officer in Sheerness and then at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich.

In 1994 he was head-hunted and offered a job as a Thames Estuary Pilot. In 1999 he transferred to the Thames River Pilots, where he regularly took vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and upriver as far as HMS Belfast and through Tower Bridge. In all, he piloted over 3,500 vessels in a 22-year career with the Port of London Authority.

Richard is married with three adult children and three grandchildren.

His first science-fiction novel Freefall was published in 2013, followed by Ribbonworld in 2015. September 2016 saw the publication of his Steampunk adventure The Rocks of Aserol and of Flash Fiction, a collection of Short Stories. Myra, the prequel to Freefall was published in 2017, along with Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café, a murder mystery set in space and the start of a series featuring Andorra Pett, an amateur detective. Sequels to Ribbonworld and The Rocks of Aserol have been published, together with a second Andorra Pett story, Andorra Pett on Mars. He also contributed a story to the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection. Richard is currently working on prequels, sequels, and new projects.

You can find out more about Richard on his website. Head over there to see what he gets up to, click the FREE STUFF tab or the PORTFOLIO tab to get all the details about his work and pick up a free novel or short story.

Author links: 
Website ~ FacebookTwitter

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Richard Dee / Thrillers / Books from England

Friday, 22 March 2019

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
Published in the UK by Vintage yesterday, the 21st March 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.

In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives – their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes – form a symphony about what it means to be human.

From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines – this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with colour and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.

The Old Drift is the first Zambian-authored novel I have read and, now enthused by Serpell's inventiveness and vision, I can't wait to discover more! This certainly won't be a novel to appeal to all readers, but if, as I did, you loved One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Where The Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky, you will probably adore The Old Drift. Serpell tells the story of a nation from 1904 until the 2020s through the interweaving lives of numerous people. Her tale begins as historical fiction, slides into magical realism, plays around with notions of ancient Greek choruses, and finishes with a science fiction flourish. And I thought it all melded together brilliantly!

It is sometimes difficult to keep track of the characters' varying connections and relationships, but I didn't feel this was necessarily a problem because I appreciated my 'aha' moments when I would suddenly realise how the current protagonist warranted their focus. Perhaps a sibling, or an aunt, or a lover to someone we met twenty years ago (in the previous chapter!) Characters such as Sibilla, who is swathed in her own hair, or former afronaut Matha, who has cried constantly for decades, are vividly drawn and I am sure will be memorable. Serpell's women lead the way through this story in a very real way. I actually loved reading as much about their occasional menstrual mishaps as about the world-changing events in which they participate. For a literary fiction author to present her women in such an authentic way felt wonderfully liberating and inspiring to me. In fact, had I got the call to a SOTP rally today, I'd have run all the way there!

Serpell's blending of genres felt fresh. I am in awe of her storytelling talent and the clarity she achieves in what is a complicated narrative. I thought the inclusion of the Chorus was an interesting idea. It allows the reader a moment to relax every now and then, but also provides a framework for both the stories and their underlying philosophy. This was especially effective for me because the Chorus' message felt like it resounded so well with my own lifestyle: don't stagnate, but don't rush around either. Take the time to drift!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Namwali Serpell / Historical fiction / Books from Zambia

Thursday, 21 March 2019

The Pieces of You and Me by Rachel Burton + Excerpt

The Pieces of You and Me by Rachel Burton
Published by HQ Digital on the 21st February 2019.

Add The Pieces of You and Me to your Goodreads

They say time can heal all wounds…

When Jess and Rupert parted ways, it was the end of a great love story that might have been. Now ten years later, the very different paths they have taken in life will bring them back together for a chance meeting.

But with so much left unsaid about the break up neither ever recovered from and with each keeping their own devastating secrets, will they finally be able to make the fractured pieces of their love for one another whole again?


This scene is the morning after Jess’s best friend Gemma’s wedding. Gemma invited Rupert to the wedding – the first time the couple had met properly after bumping into each other in a pub in York a few weeks earlier…

‘He kissed you!’ Gemma asked, eyes wide open, hangover forgotten.
‘Well technically we kissed each other,’ I said. ‘But I think he started it.’
‘I want all the details,’ Gemma said.
‘Gemma, listen,’ I replied. ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t come back to the reception last night. I should have let you know I was going to bed at least.’
‘Oh to hell with that.’ She grinned at me. ‘Just tell me everything that’s going on with you and Tremayne.’
‘Let her have some privacy, Gem,’ Caitlin said kindly.
‘Well are you seeing him again?’ Gemma asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I said quietly. The initial euphoria of the kiss was beginning to wear off and the reality of the situation was starting to hit me. What was happening? Where would it go? Could we really salvage what we used to have, particularly as neither of us had broached the subject of why we split up in the first place? I’d been thinking about “what if?” for years and yet now it was here I had no idea what to do with it.

Meet the author

Rachel Burton is the author of the international ebook bestseller The Many Colours of Us.

Rachel spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but now lives in Yorkshire with her fiance and their three cats. The main loves of her life are The Beatles and very tall romantic heroes.

She is always happy to talk books, writing, music, cats and how the weather in Yorkshire is rubbish. She is mostly dreaming of her next holiday....

Author links: 
BlogInstagram ~ FacebookTwitter ~ Pinterest

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Rachel Burton / Women's Fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women by Sarah Bargiela and Sophie Standing

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women by Sarah Bargiela and Sophie Standing
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers tomorrow, the 21st March 2019.

C for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge reads and a 2019 New Release Challenge read

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Autism in women and girls is still not widely understood, and is often misrepresented or even overlooked. This graphic novel offers an engaging and accessible insight into the lives and minds of autistic women, using real-life case studies.

The charming illustrations lead readers on a visual journey of how women on the spectrum experience everyday life, from metaphors and masking in social situations, to friendships and relationships and the role of special interests.

Fun, sensitive and informative, this is a fantastic resource for anyone who wishes to understand how gender affects autism, and how to create safer supportive and more accessible environments for women on the spectrum.

I love reading in order to discover more about the world around me and also to discover more about myself. I often find myself questioning how I would react if I were to experience fictional situations in novels or genuine ones in memoirs and biographies. Occasionally, I don't get the chance to ponder though. A book will figuratively smack me between the eyes and I'll just know it's talking about me. The last book to do that was Susan Cain's Quiet. Now Camouflage has had exactly the same effect. This is me!

I chose Camouflage from NetGalley because when I saw it was a graphic novel about autistic women I realised that I couldn't actually think of a single one. I recall several novels with male characters on the autism spectrum, but women? It turns out that, much like heart attacks I think, women generally experience autism in a more low-key way to men and so our symptoms are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. In this short book women briefly explain how they came to realise that they were autistic, how the condition has been a hindrance or sometimes a benefit, and how they have learned to mask their symptoms especially in social situations. So much of this is very Very familiar!

I would have loved for Camouflage to have been a longer and more in depth book. However that isn't its intended purpose so I will need to look for further reading on the subject. Here, instead, we get a stunningly illustrated introduction to female autism. Sophie Standing's drawings raise the book to the standard of a graphic novel, although it is definitely nonfiction, and I loved her almost vintage style. This is a beautiful little book and one that I am particularly grateful to have encountered.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sarah Bargiela and Sophie Standing / Graphic Novels / Books from America and England

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

The True Queen by Zen Cho

The True Queen by Zen Cho
Published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on Thursday, the 21st March 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fairyland’s future lies in doubt . . .

The enchanted island of Janda Baik, in the Malay Archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Sakti wake on its shores under a curse, which has quite stolen away their memories. Their only hope of salvation lies in distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal runs a controversial academy for female magicians. But the pair travel via the formidable Fairy Queen’s realm, where Sakti simply disappears.

To save her sister, Muna must learn to navigate Regency London’s high society and trick the English into believing she’s a magical prodigy. But when the Sorceress Royal’s friends become accidentally embroiled in a plot – involving the Fairy Queen’s contentious succession – Muna is drawn right in. She must also find Sakti, break their curse and somehow stay out of trouble. But if fairyland’s true queen does finally return, trouble may find her first . . .

The True Queen is Zen Cho's spelling binding second book. It's set in a sparkling version of Regency London, with a fairy tale twist. And although it's set in the same world as her award-winning novel, The Sorcerer to the Crown, this reads as a standalone.

Unsurprisingly for me, I hadn't read Zen Cho's first Sorcerer To The Crown novel before launching in to The True Queen so I am fortunate that this second book doesn't require readers to have any previous knowledge. I understand that the stories take place within the same world and there is some overlap of characters, but I never felt as though I had missed out on anything by picking up The True Queen first. Indeed I am now tempted to treat myself to The Sorcerer To The Crown!

The True Queen takes place as much in magical locations as in Malay or English ones. I appreciated Cho's deft descriptive writing which allowed me to clearly envisage the places in which our characters found themselves, however I never felt any slackening of pace as we looked around. There are enchanted forests, dank caves and the vast Fairy Court Palace as well as the 'real' places: Muna's Janda Baik island home and the bustle of Regency London. I was less convinced by the historical setting than the magical locations, perhaps because I have read quite a lot of Regency stories over the years - Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer for example - and, while I can't put my finger on anything specifically anachronistic, I sometimes felt as though the language and behaviours in The True Queen were more suited to a later period.

That said, I enjoyed spending time with Muna, Sakti and the characters surrounding them. I worked out the solution to their predicament fairly early on, but that didn't detract from the intricacies of their journey. I think fans of Vered Ehsani's Society For Paranormals series would appreciate reading The True Queen (and Zen Cho fans might like to give Ehsani's books a try!)

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Zen Cho / Fantasy fiction / Books from Malaysia

Monday, 18 March 2019

My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
First published in Nigeria as Thicker Than Water by Qamina in 2017. Republished as My Sister The Serial Killer by Atlantic Books in November 2018.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other...

I loved My Sister, The Serial Killer! Braithwaite's sharp, snappy prose creates vivid atmospheric scenes in just a couple of sentences and I could clearly imagine all her characters from obsessively cleaning Korede to perpetually dozing Yinka. For such a dark story - we now have Nigerian Noir to complete with Scandi Noir - My Sister, The Serial Killer is very funny. The combination of Braithwaite's entertaining humour and short chapters meant that this novel zipped past and I was disappointed to realise I had finished it in just a few hours. I could have happily spent longer with Korede and her sister Ayoola.

Blithe serial killer Ayoola is a fascinating invention and I will be very surprised if her story doesn't reappear as a film version within the next few years. Seemingly unaware of the implications of her actions and incapable of taking responsibility, she flits from one man to the next, always relying on her beauty to save the day. And on her sister of course. Korede and Ayoola are strikingly different physically but I felt both were equally as damaged by the domestic abuse they witnessed and experienced in childhood. Ayoola might be the actual murderer, but is Korede any less culpable for continuing to facilitate her sister's actions. Obviously enabling a sibling to repeatedly commit murder is wrong, but where should the line be drawn between protecting one's family from the world and protecting the world from one's family?

I'm delighted to have discovered Oyinkan Braithwaite. I'd recommend My Sister The Serial Killer to a wide readership and look forward to reading more of her storytelling in the future.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Oyinkan Braithwaite / Crime fiction / Books from Nigeria