Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Sour Apple by Jerzy Szyłak and Joanna Karpowicz


Sour Apple by Jerzy Szyłak and Joanna Karpowicz
First published by Timof Comics as Kwaśne jabłko in Polish in Poland in 2017. English language translation by Bartek Biedrzycki and Pawel Timofiejuk published by Europe Comics on the 18th April 2018.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Europe Comics : from $4.99 (ebook)
Amazon : unavailable
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

By all appearances they are a happy couple. Married, religious, hardworking. What happens behind closed doors, however, is a secret, even to those closest to them. “Kwaśne jabłko” (Sour Apple), written by Jerzy Szyłak and illustrated by Joanna Karpowicz, tells a story of domestic abuse, a story of a victim and persecutor. This story of violence spiraling out of control brings no hope, instead playing on emotions and powerful illustrations, painted with acrylic on canvas-textured paper, to create a unique atmosphere of horror. It is violence as seen by a painter.

In truth, no one would like to hear this kind of story, and yet such stories are told, and need to be told. They need to be told because they happen to real people, be they old or young, educated or uneducated, pious or atheist. None of these people wants to take a bite from the sour apple in the basket. However, it happens to some. That is why such stories must be told.

I read Sour Apple several days before putting this review together which is unusual for me because I usually know pretty much what I want to say about a book within a day or so. This one has had me repeatedly changing my thoughts and opinions. Sour Apple is an unflinching story of domestic abuse behind closed doors. We see an unnamed woman change from a happily married bride, grateful to God for her good fortune, to a perpetually fearful and isolated wife who is left only with her God to talk to. Even the prospect of bringing a child into this violent household does not spur her beyond only dreaming of escape. Karpowicz's graphic artwork forces the reader to practically see every punch and bruise, yet without us being allowed to intervene. This makes for a horribly powerful reading experience.

I felt very uncomfortable with Sour Apple's seeming acceptance of the woman's predicament and at times also wondered if I was supposed to be 'enjoying' seeing the damage inflicted upon her. Is the story saying that married women should endure whatever their husbands choose to inflict upon them? The husband repeatedly apologises, but in reality makes no attempt to change his behaviour and the wife appears to shun any attempts at outside assistance. I saw that this abuse would potentially continue unchanged for years which is reflective of many such relationships in real life, but I wanted a positive resolution for this story. Instead I am still unsure as to how I am meant to react to this work.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jerzy Szylak and Joanna Karpowicz / Graphic novels / Books from Poland

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Dead Is Better by Jo Perry


Dead Is Better by Jo Perry
Published by Fahrenheit Press in 2016.
Get a 20% Off Coupon when you Buy Direct from Fahrenheit Press!

How I got this book:
Received a free ebook via a publisher's promotion

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £6.95 (PB)
Wordery : from £5.63 (PB)
Fahrenheit Press : from $1 / £0.99 (ebook)
Amazon : from $2.70 / £1.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Charles Stone has just woken up dead. Well he’s pretty sure he’s dead, what with the bullet holes in his chest and all. He also appears to be totally alone in the after-life except for the ghostly dog who seems to be his new companion. Unable to interact with the world of the living other than watching and listening, he and the dead dog (whom he names Rose) have nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it. 

When Charles and Rose try to unravel the circumstances of Charles's death, they uncover a criminal who is raking in millions of dollars by cruelly exploiting, and sometimes killing, his victims. 

But what difference can a ghost make? 
And what does the damn dog have to do with any of this?

Dead Is Better is an unusual take on the cosy(ish) mystery genre in that its protagonist, the unfortunate Charles, narrates from beyond the grave and because he doesn't initially have any idea what he is meant to do. Stuck in some kind of limbo existence, Charles and his new silent dog friend gently float around Los Angeles following what may or may not be leads (no pun intended). This story was very different to my normal bookish fare and, while I mostly enjoyed the story, there just wasn't really enough for me to get my teeth into. I felt that Charles' detachment from the world at large carried on to me as a reader so I wasn't able to get into the story as much as I would have liked to. Another problem for me is that Dead Is Better has short chapters, each of which begins with a death-related quote from another book or famous person. I initially liked the quotes idea, but soon found that I had to deliberately skip them because they kept dragging me out of the main story. It's difficult to maintain atmosphere when it feels like reading two books simultaneously! As a light mystery tale, Dead Is Better was diverting, but I don't think the premise is strong enough to carry on into a further series.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jo Perry / Crime fiction / Books from America

Monday, 18 June 2018

The Devil's Elixirs by E T A Hoffmann


The Devil's Elixirs by E T A Hoffmann
First published in German in Germany in 1816. English language translation by Ronald Taylor first published by John Calder in 1963.

My second Classics Club Challenge read.

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £6.49 (PB)
Wordery : from £5.63 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (HB)
Amazon : from $1.47 / £0.01 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

The son of a heinous sinner, Medardus is brought up in a monastery to atone for his father's wicked ways. However, after succumbing to temptation, Medardus himself is lured into a life of sin. A labyrinthine plot sees him embarking on a fantastical journey into the world, meeting his doppelganger, involving himself in a game of double impersonation, and becoming embroiled in murderous intrigues at the Vatican, before the mysterious curse hanging over him and his family is finally explained. First published in 1815, "The Devil's Elixirs" is a macabre masterpiece of German literature, and is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the Romantic movement, or the genres of fantasy and horror which it spawned.

Labyrinthine is certainly the word for the plot of this dark mystery! Its narrative snakes around, sometimes circling, sometimes doubling back on itself, so I was often absolutely bewildered as to whether I was following Medardus or his doppelganger, yet The Devil's Elixirs keeps up an excellent pace throughout so I found it a gripping read. In fact, considering this novel is now over two hundred years old, there is a remarkable lack of superfluous chat and diversions. I guess even Hoffmann had to keep his mind on the journey or he would have lost the thread himself!

Narrated in the first person by Medardus, an ambitious young man who is prone to vanity and pomposity, The Devil's Elixirs could be set in pretty much any time period from the mid-medieval until its actual time of writing. It has a kind of timeless, dark fairytale quality and I was reminded of my teenage Dennis Wheatley-reading phase - I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Wheatley had read Hoffmann. I loved supporting roles such as the irrepressible Italian barber-dwarf Belcampo and the Prince who flits from fad to fad in order to keep himself entertained. The female characters are, perhaps unsurprisingly for a book of this vintage, less convincing and their only being seen though Medardus' eyes renders them too stereotypically for my 21st century tastes - essentially mother figures or temptress virgins. However, if you can get past The Devil's Elixirs reflecting social standards of two centuries ago (and not just towards women) then it is an intriguing and engrossing light-horror mystery.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by E T A Hoffmann / Horror fiction / Books from Germany

Sunday, 17 June 2018

A Taker of Morrows by Stephen Paul Sayers + Giveaway


A Taker of Morrows by Stephen Paul Sayers
Published in America by Hydra Publications on the 31st May 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $5.02 / £3.77 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add A Taker Of Morrows to your Goodreads

RG Granville has his whole life in front of him…but only twenty-four hours to live it.

Beyond life’s boundaries, an enduring battle between good and evil determines the fate of earthly souls. Here, ‘caretakers’ guard and protect against the evil and vengeful ‘jumpers’ who slip back and forth between worlds to prey upon the living.

For one man, news of his impending demise sets off a deadly chain of events fueled by a jumper’s burning vengeance. Now he’s in a race against time to stop an unrelenting evil unleashed upon the earth. And if he’s to protect his family, and the world, he must breach the tenuous boundary between life and death to confront a killer—and a shocking secret from his long-buried past.



Q&A with Stephen Paul Sayers, author of A Taker of Morrows

Q: What’s your new novel, A Taker of Morrows, about?
A: It’s about a man who’s visited by a stranger, who tells him he’s got twenty-four hours to live. You see, deaths are scheduled and schedules must be kept. In his desperate attempt to stay alive, he discovers the world isn’t what he thought it was, that it’s actually a battleground between the forces of good and evil from the afterlife, a place where ‘caretakers’ protect earthly souls and ‘jumpers’ prey on them…and now he’s become the prey. And if he’s to keep himself and his family alive, he must straddle the boundary between worlds and face the secrets of his past.

In a broader sense, it’s really a story about the nature of life and death, and the eternal price paid for what we carry in our souls.


Q: What inspired you to be a writer?
A: I never set out to be a writer, but after a challenge from my daughter, Kaylee, I decided to write her a novel. I figured I’d write something for her, give it to her some holiday or birthday, and it would collect dust on her bookshelf. But when I started writing, a switch turned on inside me, something I’d never felt before, igniting a passion I didn’t know I had. It helped me finally figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up.
But more importantly, it has solidified a real bond between my daughter and me. She’s an amazing writer who has a full length novel under her belt at age seventeen. We now have this shared thing we do together. We talk about story ideas, read each other’s work. She gave me this great idea in A Taker of Morrows that became a key to the series in my opinion. So, she’s my inspiration.

Q: Why do you write in the genre that you do?
A: My brother and I watched horror movies all the time when we were kids. I think the 70s and 80s were a golden age of horror movies – and we got really into it. That’s also when I discovered Stephen King, and I read just about everything he wrote. That was my base, and no matter what different literary roads I may travel, I always veer back into the genre. Even the horror books I read today transport me back to childhood and reignite those feelings again.

Q: What do you enjoy reading and who are your favorite authors?
A: I have so many authors I love reading in so many genres. I grew up on a steady diet of Stephen King and Peter Straub, so I got a good horror base. I’m also a big fan of a new generation of horror writers, Joe Hill, Paul Cornell, J. Lincoln Fenn, and Paul Tremblay, so I definitely get my fill. I also love writers of suspense and thrillers, especially Jo Nesbo, Dennis LeHane and Randy Wayne White. I’ve recently discovered Melissa Lenhardt’s “Jack McBride” mystery series, which sort of borders on chick lit, and yet I really like it. So, bottom line, I read just about anything.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from your work?
A: Horror and thriller fiction should be entertaining, number one. I want readers of my work to feel as if the time spent between the pages was a good investment. If they can escape from their world for a few hours, connect to my characters, and feel like they’ve made some friends they’re going to miss when they turn the final page, then I’ve done my job.

Q: On a lighter note, what are the top five things on your bucket list?
A: Hopefully, I’m not in ‘bucket list’ territory yet, but here goes:
1. Cage dive with the Cape Cod great white sharks
2. Stroll across the Abbey Road crosswalk
3. Drive to Graceland in an RV
4. Own a 1967 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible
5. Gain the advantage over my Gibson SG

Excerpt from A Taker Of Morrows:

“Hello, Robert.” The stranger advanced toward him. “You’re late.”
RG steadied himself against the entryway table as his heart lurched in his chest, the air thickening like a smothering rag over his face. With gradual boldness, he slid his arm against the wall and triggered the light switch. “What the hell—?”
“I feared we’d missed each other,” the man interrupted. “That would have been a shame. You see, we have a problem to discuss.” His face hardened as he stepped forward, shoes clicking on the hardwood floor.
RG’s pulse quickened. “Who are you?”
“I wish I didn’t have to be here, Robert.” The stranger unfolded his hands from behind his back and stepped forward, “but I have a job to do.”
As the man advanced, RG backpedaled, snatching the old-school, wooden baseball bat stashed behind the coat rack. He never imagined grabbing the lumber for anything other than Tuesday night softball, but now found himself flapping it back and forth in a hardwood batter’s box.
The man took another step. “Death has come for you,” he said, shaking his head, “and no Louisville Slugger will stop it.”

Meet the Author

Stephen Paul Sayers grew up on the sands of Cape Cod and spent his first thirty-five years in New England before joining the University of Missouri as a research professor. When he’s not in his laboratory, he spends his time writing and devouring his favorite forms of genre fiction—horror, suspense, and thrillers. His short fiction has appeared in Unfading Daydream. A Taker of Morrows is his debut novel and the first in the planned Caretakers series.

Throughout his journey, he has accumulated five guitars, four herniated discs, three academic degrees, two dogs, and one wife, son, and daughter. He divides his time between Columbia, Missouri and Cape Cod writing and teaching.

Author links:
Website ~ Facebook ~ TwitterGoodreads ~ Amazon



And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 21st June, the prize is a $25 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stephen Paul Sayers / Horror fiction / Books from America

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Hanging Women by John Mead


The Hanging Women by John Mead
First published in the UK by Book Guild Publishing in February 2018.

Where to buy this book:


The Book Depository : from £8.46 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.35 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from $4.05 / £2.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add The Hanging Women to your Goodreads

A historical crime thriller set in 1886 Chicago; the power house of America, a sink of corruption and vice which is haunted by riots and gangland killings. A story of weak men and strong women.

Jack Stevens discovers the bodies of two women, Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh, tied together and hung by their ankles in a position resembling the symbol for treachery as depicted on tarot cards. Though retired and now wealthy, Stevens is an ex-sheriff and involves himself in the subsequent investigation.

As a result of Jack`stealing' Philomena's diary and his association with the Pinkerton detective agency, it is discovered that Mary Walsh worked undercover for the Pinkertons, investigating the Knights of Labour (the fastest growing workers' rights movements in America of the late 1800's). The women had been working together, tracing the man who was selling guns and dynamite to the more extremest factions of the workers movement. This led them to Ruby's, a secret `nightclub for deviants', where Stevens and Inspector O'Leary believe the pair fell foul of the man they were looking for, gang leader Joseph Mannheim.

With the May 4th Haymarket riots and bombings looming, Stevens must uncover the truth about The Hanging Women before it's too late.


Meet the author:

John was born in the mid-fifties in Dagenham, London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub, he writes.

His inspiration for his debut novel came whilst attending a lecture in Denver about the history of the American midwest, describing a time and place that was very different from that espoused by popular culture, which started him thinking this would make a excellent period in which to set a crime story.

His book describes how Chicago was a prototype of much that we consider both good and bad in the current age, it had a vibrancy and decadence that allowed a few enterprising individuals to prosper whilst violence and intolerance held back many others. The situation for some African Americans and women was improving but it was still a time when to be anything other than white and male made you a second class citizen.  The city was the manufacturing and transport hub of America, the vast influx of immigrants swelling its already booming population brought great wealth but also corruption and criminality. The midwest and Chicago typified a way of life, the ‘gun culture’ which is a euphemism for individualism, from which much of modern American social values have grown.

John is currently working on a trilogy of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city: a Whitechapel noir.

Author links: 
Amazon ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Mead / Historical fiction / Books from England

Friday, 15 June 2018

Doom Gloom And The Pursuit Of The Sun by Antoine F Gnintedem + Giveaway


Doom, Gloom, and the Pursuit of the Sun by Antoine F. Gnintedem
Category: Adult Fiction, 208 pages
Genre: Biographical Fiction
Publisher: Createspace
Release date: February 7, 2018
Tour dates: June 11 to 22, 2018
Content Rating: PG (No f-words, some mild profanity, and mild religious expletives such as "damn", "hell" and "Oh God!", some depictions of brief sexual content.)

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via iRead Book Tours

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £14.15 (PB)
Wordery : from £14.89 (PB)
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $9.95 / £7.22 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add Doom Gloom And The Pursuit Of The Sun to your Goodreads

Book Description:

The town is famous in the region for its chronic stillness...Consequently, every ambitious person who grows up there eventually leaves in search of better opportunities.

Life in Mbengwi, Cameroon, is not easy for Austin-or for anyone else. While growing up, he bears witness to the worst parts of life and the cruelties of human nature. These things keep his homeland trapped in a cycle of misery and suffering. In a country overrun by poverty, death, unrest, and corruption, he sees no future for himself. The only way to escape the cycle is to flee to a place Austin believes to be free of all these troubles, a place where he hopes his dreams will come true: the United States of America.

However, when Austin arrives in this supposed promised land, he is met with a crushing revelation. He finds America to be rife with all the same problems he thought he'd escaped, merely in different forms. Rather than give in to disappointment, he decides to combat these obstacles with a firm resolve. Before long, though, these obstacles threaten to overwhelm him. This realization prompts Austin to rethink how he sees the world and the challenges it throws at him.

I was interested to read Doom Gloom And The Pursuit Of The Sun because I don't know much about Cameroon and wanted to learn more about the country and its culture. Gnintedem writes in a factual style so for me this book felt more like reading an essay than a novel. This reporting style took a bit of getting used to and I was often surprised by abrupt stops or swerves in the story. He also doesn't go in much for descriptive paragraphs or characterisations so, while Austin's life story zips past at an almost thriller pace which is exciting, I struggled to picture the settings or to fully imagine the people surrounding him.

Austin is a wonderfully precocious child and his persistent determination to gain scholarly success leads him to break new educational ground for his family - the first to attend university - and then to forge a new life alone in America. I enjoyed following the ups and downs of Austin's life. This is often a morality tale as much as it is 'biographical fiction'. Austin's shallow attitude to women and sexual carelessness eventually results in an unsuccessful marriage and his lack of financial responsibility nearly leads him to bankruptcy. These near disasters allow us to briefly glimpse an emotional Austin and I would have liked more of this depth.


To read further reviews, please visit Antoine F. Gnintedem's page on iRead Book Tours.


Meet the Author:

Antoine F. Gnintedem is a renowned educator both in the United States and across the world. As a linguistic consultant, he has worked for the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, he has served as an educational assessment expert for leading national and international testing companies. His academic achievements include a PhD in English language and literature and another doctorate in educational leadership.

Connect with the author: Twitter ~ Facebook 

Enter the Giveaway!
Win a copy of Doom, Gloom and the Pursuit of the Sun (print or gifted Kindle - USA only / 1 winner) or a $10 Amazon.com GC (open internationally to wherever Amazon delivers / 1 winner)
Ends June 30, 2018


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Antoine F Gnintedem / Contemporary fiction / Books from Cameroon

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Nowhere To Be Found by Bae Suah


Nowhere To Be Found by Bae Suah
First published in Korean as Cheolsu in South Korea in 1998. English language translation by Sora Kim-Russell published by AmazonCrossing in April 2015.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £5.94 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.99 (PB)
Waterstones : from £6.99 (PB)
Amazon : from $1.33 / £1 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

A nameless narrator passes through her life, searching for meaning and connection in experiences she barely feels. For her, time and identity blur, and all action is reaction. She can't quite understand what motivates others to take life seriously enough to focus on anything--for her existence is a loosely woven tapestry of fleeting concepts. From losing her virginity to mindless jobs and a splintered, unsupportive family, the lessons learned have less to do with the reality we all share and more to do with the truth of the imagination, which is where the narrator focuses to discover herself.

I particularly liked the day when the woman takes chicken to her soldier boyfriend as this episode summed up a lot of the book for me. She treks many miles unsuitably dressed for the cold, is messed around by officials leading to more hours journeying, her boyfriend completely fails to acknowledge the efforts she has made, and yet her ultimate reaction is incredibly conservative considering the provocation. I found this almost-acceptance of her life very sad to read. The somewhat stark use of language reinforces the whole feel of the book for me - it is what it is.

I think I did miss out on some of the subtleties of Nowhere To Be Found by my not having a great knowledge of Korean culture and daily life. The speeches about anti-weapons demonstrations seemed awkward to me. However, the impersonal message that we cannot escape our predestination is an interesting one to ponder. The woman occasionally catches glimpses of herself passing by in a better life, but believes that reality cannot be hers. Her brother wants to try working in Japan but the travel costs seem insurmountable. Her mother is already resigned.

I enjoyed the opportunity to read this novella, actually reading it twice over two days. I think it could be taken very differently depending on the mood of the reader: a positive outlook seeing it as incentive to strive, a negative outlook seeing more of a reason why not to bother. Perhaps Nowhere To Be Found would make an interesting Book Club choice?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Bae Suah / Contemporary fiction / Books from South Korea