Tuesday, 23 January 2018

My Name Is Salma by Fadia Faqir

My Name Is Salma by Fadia Faqir
First published by Doubleday in March 2007.

M for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Salma becomes pregnant before marriage in her small village in the Levant, her innocent days playing the pipe for her goats are gone for ever. She is swept into prison for her own protection. To the sound of her screams, her newborn baby daughter is snatched away.

In the middle of the most English of towns, Exeter, she learns good manners from her landlady, and settles down with an Englishman. But deep in her heart the cries of her baby daughter still echo. When she can bear them no longer, she goes back to her village to find her. It is a journey that will change everything - and nothing.

Slipping back and forth between the olive groves of the Levant and the rain-slicked pavements of Exeter, My Name is Salma is a searing portrayal of a woman's courage in the face of insurmountable odds.

I loved the non-linear narrative in this novel which swirls between Salma's different lives in the Levant, in a Lebanese convent, and in England. I felt the device gave a wonderful sense of her confusion and sense of alienation. A seemingly innocuous sight or scent sends her mind wandering into poignant memories of a home to which she can no longer return. Salma is a complex character. I enjoyed spending time with her and understanding her dreams and ambitions, yet I often didn't like how she acted. My Name Is Salma is an interesting novel for its genre in that it doesn't overly glamorise British life or villify life in the Middle East. Both are presented as having their good points and their grim sides. The descriptions of Exeter are frequently very depressing and remarkably accurate!

I liked that Salma's struggles with fitting into a new society and learning the English language are sensitively portrayed. Her landlady, Liz, embodies much of the traditional British nostalgia for a 'glorious' and entitled past and attitudes such as her exploitation by her BNP supporting employer show a disturbing level of hypocrisy. Salma's longing for her vanished child is a strong theme throughout the novel and I thought this part of the storyline's resolution was perhaps the least convincing aspect. However I could understand why Faqir chose to conclude her novel like this. From a literary perspective it works although I wondered how genuine such a scenario would be.

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Books by Fadia Faqir / Contemporary fiction / Books from Jordan

Monday, 22 January 2018

Guest Review: Where The Dark Fish Swim by Mark Bishop

Where The Dark Fish Swim by Mark Bishop
Self published in December 2016.

Where to buy this book:

Guest review by Mark Fieldsend
Today's Guest Review is by author Mark Fieldsend who I met when he got in touch to offer a copy of his thriller Pigeon Street. I am looking forward to reviewing that for you in February. In the meantime Mark is sharing his review of Where The Dark Fish Swim

Mark's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where The Dark Fish Swim is a letter from Michael, a deeply troubled father, to his estranged son, Huck, written as they travel together toward the end of a journey Michael set out on to make peace with his past. Michael tells Huck of the six people who mattered most to him in his life and how, in turn, he has gone to visit each of them. He also begins to explain why he abandoned Huck and his mother and why, very soon, he will need to do it again. And, of course, he tells Huck of the dark fish.

Mark says: Mark Bishop’s debut novel is a dark and brooding drama which drags you towards its destination with a mixture of intrigue, hope and foreboding. Like one’s own mind does when trying to piece together events from the past, the story follows a non-linear path to its moving conclusion, skipping seamlessly between events and characters. This approach has the desired effect of keeping you guessing as to where it’s heading and, at the same time, keeps the pages turning.

Bishop writes with an easy style that appears to come easily, the narrator’s voice consistent and convincing. Bishop also demonstrates a knack for the playful, including just the right amount of lighter moments to provide balance.

You know a book must be good when you find yourself not minding that the person you're waiting for is running late, almost to the point of wishing a train-delay on them so you can get to the end. This is a situation I found myself in when reading Where The Dark Fish Swim. It is a confident and accomplished debut, that bodes extremely well for the future.

Thank you Mark!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Books by Mark Bishop / Thrillers / Books from England

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Trial by John Mayer + Free Book

The Trial (The Parliament House Books #1) by John Mayer
Self published in January 2015.

The Trial is on promotion This Weekend!
Get your Free Copy on the 20th / 21st / 22nd Jan 2018!

Where to buy this book:

Add The Trial to your Goodreads

When Glaswegian Brogan McLane completes many years of university education and legal training he crosses that great divide from Glasgow to Edinburgh. 'Called' to the Bar of the Scottish Supreme Court, he becomes a member of the most prestigious club in Scotland; The Faculty of Advocates in Parliament House.

When High Court Judge, Lord Aldounhill, is found dead after a transvestite party in his sumptuous home, those who know the killer close ranks and need a scapegoat – who better than 'outsider' Brogan McLane?

Out on bail with his career on hold, McLane and his band of blood brothers in the Calton Bar in Glasgow need to get ahead of their enemies or McLane will go down for life after Trial. But every time they discover a piece of evidence, it seems there is a mirror image to contradict it.

Through the murky world of Russian controlled transvestite hotels and with some unexpected police and judicial help, McLane battles against 'Low Life in High Places in the Old Town' until the killer is found.

But well protected and knowing all the tricks, will the killer ever stand trial in Parliament House?

Meet The Author

John Mayer was born in Glasgow, Scotland, a war-zone where violence and poverty reigned. In 1963 when he heard The Beatles on Radio Caroline, he decided to change his life. Aged 14 he left school because, in his opinion, he wasn't being taught. For the next year, in all weathers, he cycled 9 miles to and 9 miles from the Mitchell Library in central Glasgow where he devoured books of all kinds and began to understand what more the world had to offer. He became an Apprentice engineer, and soon was teaching men twice his age. In the early 1970s his love of music led him to set up as a Record Producer. He built his own record company trading in 14 countries. After a disheartening court battle with global giants, he left the business world and went back into further education at the University of Edinburgh, becoming an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. There he acted for the downtrodden and desperate as well as Greenpeace International. His specialism was in fighting international child abduction.

John has written non-fiction, legal texts and articles; broadcast to tens of millions of people on US and UK radio, appeared on TV and in print media. Since retiring from the Law, John has enjoyed using his years of very colourful experience to create The Parliament House Books series.

The Trial is the first full length novel in this series. Set in Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is more than a nod to Franz Kafka's book of the same title. The Trial sees crusading Scottish Advocate, Brogan McLane, fight injustices so casually delivered by Low Life in High Places in the Old Town.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

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Books by John Mayer / Crime fiction / Books from Scotland

Saturday, 20 January 2018

What She Left by Rosie Fiore + Extract

What She Left by Rosie Fiore
Published in the UK by Allen And Unwin in August 2017.

Where to buy this book:

Add What She Left to your Goodreads

Helen Cooper has a charmed life. She's beautiful, accomplished, organised - the star parent at the school. Until she disappears.

But Helen wasn't abducted or murdered. She's chosen to walk away, abandoning her family, husband Sam, and her home.
Where has Helen gone, and why? What has driven her from her seemingly perfect life? What is she looking for? Sam is tormented by these questions, and gradually begins to lose his grip on work and his family life.

He sees Helen everywhere in the faces of strangers. He's losing control.

But then one day, it really is Helen's face he sees...


Miranda Cooper is eight. Her mother died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage when she was small, and her step-mother, Helen has now gone missing. She describes what happened when Helen first came into their lives.

Anyway, that was a very hard time for our family, and Dad didn’t know what to do, so he had to come back to north London and we moved in with Granny and Grandpa. Dad stopped trying to be a designer and got a job doing client services in the advertising agency, which is different, and you have to wear a suit and go for dinner and drinks and do schmoozing, but you get a lot more money. And after he had been doing that for about a year, he met Helen at work. She had come from Australia to live in England, not too long before Daddy met her. ‘Down Under,’ she said. She didn’t say under what. 
The first time they went on a date, Marguerite and I came too. We all went for a picnic in the park. Helen was kind and pretty, and when we walked in the park, she and Dad each held one of my hands and said, ‘One, two, three, wheee!’ and swung me off my feet, and then Marguerite, who was two, said, ‘Me! Me!’ and they did it for her too. It was nice. Actually, I’m not sure if I remember it, but there’s a picture of us all in the park that day, and Dad has told us the story often. He couldn’t believe a lady from work could be so nice to his two little children. Anyway, Helen started spending more time with us all, and as Dad likes to say, the rest is history. They fell in love and got married, and then Dad got a big promotion at work and bought this house. That meant that Granny couldn’t look after us and pick us up from school because it was too far, and Helen gave up her job to look after us. 
It’s not a secret at school that Helen isn’t actually my mother – the teachers know and everything – but I don’t talk about it to my friends. Marguerite calls her Mummy, but I don’t like calling her Helen, and she isn’t actually my mother, so I don’t call her anything. I like it that everyone at school says she’s the best mum – the prettiest and best at organizing and cakes and stuff, and I don’t say ‘She’s not my mum’ when they say stuff like that. Some of the other children are late, or their school uniform is dirty or they don’t bring their homework on the right day, and that never happens to us. It’s not so stressful that way, with Helen making everything okay. I sometimes wonder what my real mother would have been like – would she have done my hair so perfectly for my ballet exam as Helen does, or would she have been one of those messy, late mothers? Would I have minded if she was my mum? I don’t know. Life has lots of questions we will never know the answers to. 

Meet the author:
Rosie Fiore was born and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She studied drama at the University of the Witwatersrand and has worked as a writer for theatre, television, magazines, advertising, comedy and the corporate market.

Her first two novels, This Year's Black and Lame Angel were published by Struik in South Africa. This Year's Black was longlisted for the South African Sunday Times Literary Award and has subsequently been re-released as an e-book. Babies in Waiting, Wonder Women and Holly at Christmas were published by Quercus. She is the author of After Isabella, also published by Allen & Unwin.
Rosie’s next book, The After Wife (written as Cass Hunter), will be published by Trapeze in 2018, and in translation is seven countries around the world.

Rosie lives in London with her husband and two sons.

Author links: 
GoodreadsFacebook ~ Twitter

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Books by Rosie Fiore / Women's fiction / Books from South Africa

Friday, 19 January 2018

The Antelope Play by Boyd Taylor + Giveaway

The Antelope Play by Boyd Taylor (Book #2 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series)

Category: Adult Fiction, 260 pages
Genre: Political Suspense
Publisher: Katherine Brown Press
Release date: July 25, 2015
Tour dates: Jan 3 to Feb 28, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (Some minor cursing.)

Add The Antelope Play to your Goodreads

Book Description:

When Austin native Donnie Cuinn accepts a job as an associate in a Texas Panhandle law firm, his boredom and disdain for Velda, a sleepy Texas town, is forgotten when he gets caught up in a struggle over water rights, possible radioactive contamination of the nation's largest underground fresh water supply, and the violence of an invading Mexican drug cartel. Along the way, Donnie learns to respect the local rancher, whose brother is at the center of the troubles, and to come to terms with the violent death of his young Mexican wife.

To read reviews, please visit Boyd Taylor's page on iRead Book Tours.

Watch the book trailer for Necessities (Book #4 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn Series):

Meet the Author:

BOYD TAYLOR lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and their Havanese dog Toby. Necessities is the fourth novel in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series. In a former life, Boyd was a lawyer and a corporate officer. A native of Temple, Texas, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in government and an LL.B. from the law school.

Boyd's first novel "Hero" was prescient in its story about fake news. His second novel, "The Antelope Play," dealt with drug trafficking in the Texas Panhandle, an unfortunately accurate forecast. The third, "The Monkey House", involved commercial development of a large green space in the center of Austin, all too familiar to Austin residents. Whether his upcoming novel "Necessities" predicts future events with the accuracy of the earlier books remains to be seen.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends March 7, 2018

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Books by Boyd Taylor / Thrillers / Books from America

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Elza: The Girl by Sergio Rodrigues

Elza: The Girl by Sergio Rodrigues
First published as Elza: A Garota in Portuguese in Brazil by Editora Nova Fronteira in 2008. English language translation by Zoe Perry published by AmazonCrossing in 2014.

E for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Xerxes, a ninety-something survivor of the extinct Brazilian Communist Party, hires an unemployed journalist to write his life story, and most importantly explain his 1935 tragic love affair with comrade Elza Fernandes, code-named The Girl. 

Elza’s tale is one of the most bizarre true stories in Brazilian history: as a beautiful sixteen year old, she was suspected of betraying the Party and, although the charge could not be proved, was sentenced to death by Luiz Carlos Prestes himself. Prestes, the most eminent Latin American communist leader in the romantic era prior to the Cuban revolution, had arrived undercover in Rio from Moscow with a mission of overthrowing the Vargas government.

A strikingly contemporary, post-utopian narrative, Elza: The Girl blends the pace of a thriller with the insightfulness and thorough research of a historical novel, introducing the reader to a world in which emotional, political, and even artistic truths must be reappraised in order to understand our shifting present.

I'll admit I bought Elza: The Girl on a whim. I had an Amazon gift card to spend, the ebook was only £1, and I needed a 5th Brazilian book to make up that country's WorldReads quintet! I was also intrigued by the range of review ratings and comments. This seemed to be a real Marmite book (love it or hate it) and I wanted to find out why. Personally, I liked it!

Elza: The Girl is an oddity by crime genre standards and I think a lot of the poor reviews are caused by inappropriate marketing on the part of the publisher, for the English language edition anyway. The cover art and font, the use of the words 'The Girl' in the title: I thought I had a pretty good idea what to expect, but this book is absolutely nothing like that bandwagon genre at all. Instead, it is partly fictionalised true crime, it's slowly paced, and much of the intrigue is due to 1930s political manoeuvring. If you like true crime reportage, you'll probably like this book. If you're hoping to read something like Gone Girl, you'll hate it!

Rodrigues is an investigative journalist by trade and half the chapters recount the information he uncovered in researching this iconic tale. Court records, newspapers and other publications, he really does seem to have left no stone unturned and I appreciated the thoroughness of his work. Elza's murder is one of those stories everyone (in Brazil at least) thinks they know, but I was amazed how much had been invented or at least warped to suit what important men wanted the public to believe. The murder victim herself is almost irrelevant!

I understand why Rodrigues has fictional characters woven around the factual tale. Large sections of the story can be inferred, but aren't proven so this device allows him to offer opinions and possibilities in an engaging way. I liked the interaction between Xerxes and Molina and the conclusion of their relationship was interesting although, I thought, unnecessarily over-complicated. I do now feel as though I have a much stronger understanding on 1930s political Brazil, how the communism against fascism struggle that swept the globe particularly affected this country, and that set up the Brazilian political landscape for the terrible years to follow.

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Books by Sergio Rodrigues / Crime fiction / Books from Brazil

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Path to the Lake by Susan Sallis

The Path to the Lake by Susan Sallis
First published in the UK by Bantam in 2009.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Viv's marriage to David was not a conventional one, but when he died - in an accident for which she blamed herself - it was as if her whole world had collapsed around her. She escaped by running, mainly around the nearby lake, which was once a popular place of recreation but was now desolate and derserted . It became both her refuge and her dread.

But through the misery she made some unexpected friends - a couple in the village whose family needed her as much as she needed them. And gradually, as a new life opened up, she could confront the terrible secrets which had haunted her and which could now be laid to rest.

My first Susan Sallis novel and on the strength of this tale, probably my last too. I chose it as the main character, Viv, was described as a runner. As a runner myself (at the time of reading) I thought I would identify with her because it's not often novelised women get such an independent and active interest. However, it soon became clear that running was purely a symptom of Viv's grief at her husband's death and, as she began to recover, she swiftly gave it up in favour of babies and obsessional Victoria Sponge baking. 'Proper' things for a woman to do.

The Path To The Lake does have a few good minor characters, particularly Jinx and the monosyllabic Mick Hardy, but the leads are flat and difficult to sympathise with. The supernatural element didn't work for me and I didn't understand the door knob at all. Oh, and the tying-up of loose ends at the end is so contrived as to be laughable. Except it's not funny.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Susan Sallis / Women's fiction / Books from England