Wednesday, 30 November 2016

My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh + Giveaway


My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh
First published in America by Story Rhyme in October 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Right now I'm living at Brookside, a place for people like me. I've met a kitty girl, a brooding beautiful boy, one who can't be touched, and others. My new friends. Strange people. People like me. I've always been different, but lately, more so. My hands sometimes don't seem to be attached to the rest of me. I cut up all of my clothes. I'm hot, so hot, all of the time. If I sleep, a wizard haunts every dream. I don't sleep. Sometimes I want to run, but where do you run to when you're trying to escape your own mind? I don't know if I'll ever be the same. I'm smart. I'm nice, sometimes. I just want to be normal(ish). But, right now, my friends are all strange... Like me.

I was very impressed with My Friends Are All Strange and think that this novel is far more than just Young Adult fiction. Narrated by seventeen year old Becca, it relates her mental breakdown in a school cafeteria and resultant stay in a Californian mental health facility. Reading this novel from Becca's point of view allowed me understand exactly what she was experiencing, her confusion and fear, and her anger. We get to know Becca well and I liked Lesh's rounded depiction of the other characters too. Kat's situation is particularly poignant. This book doesn't get anywhere near as dark as The Bell Jar, mostly due to the facility having a far more enlightened approach to mental health care! However there are disturbing moments and strongly portrayed characters that I became emotionally attached to as I read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by M C Lesh / Young adult fiction / Books from America


And now for the Giveaway!

This week's Giveaway prize is an ebook copy of My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh. The ebook is available in the winner's choice of epub or mobi format. Each blog on the Xpresso Books Tour has been awarded a copy to give away so check out all the tour stops to increase your chances of winning!

The Giveaway is open worldwide and previous Literary Flits giveaway winners are welcome to enter. Entries must be submitted through the Gleam widget below by midnight (UK time) on the 7th December and I will randomly pick a winner on the 8th. If the winner does not respond to my email within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize and, yes, I will be checking that entrants did complete whatever task they said they did.

If you'd like the chance to win My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh, here's the giveaway widget:

My Friends Are All Strange ebook giveaway

Good luck!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A Change Of Heart by Mark Benjamin


A Change Of Heart by Mark Benjamin
Self published on the 29th May 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Smashwords

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bullied his entire life, orphaned university graduate, Gabriel Harper, is bitten by a Royal vampire moments before sunrise, transforming him over the course of six terrible and exhilarating nights into a hybrid - human by day, vampire by night. Just as he learns to come to grips with what he has become, the Silver Legion, a covert vampire-hunting organisation, kidnap him and his three friends, forcing them to join their clandestine crusade. However, the Silver Legion remain unaware of Gabriel's nature until it is too late.

A Change Of Heart starts out well. The descriptions of Gabriel's attack by vampire is exciting and I enjoyed the anticipation of learning how he slowly changed, day by day, from entirely human to part-vampire. We meet Gabriel's friends and his dysfunctional adoptive parents which provides interesting background. The political machinations of both vampires and Legion are intricate with lots of betrayals and power struggles.

The novel is written with an unusual structure of short chapters being written in the third person, but with each from the viewpoint of a different character. Sometimes we jump person within half a page, other times we might stick with someone for three or four pages, and with a large cast I did sometimes find it difficult to remember who was who. I stuck with it though! There is a good overall storyline here and ideas about personal identity. The ending is too much geared towards a sequel for my taste, but for fans of horror fantasy, I think A Change Of Heart would be a welcome addition to the genre.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Mark Benjamin / Fantasy / Books from England

Monday, 28 November 2016

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini


And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini 
First published in May 2013.

I registered my copy of this book on BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ten-year-old Abdullah would do anything for his younger sister. In a life of poverty and struggle, with no mother to care for them, Pari is the only person who brings Abdullah happiness. For her, he will trade his only pair of shoes to give her a feather for her treasured collection. When their father sets off with Pari across the desert to Kabul in search of work, Abdullah is determined not to be separated from her. Neither brother nor sister know what this fateful journey will bring them.
And the Mountains Echoed is a deeply moving epic of heartache, hope and, above all, the unbreakable bonds of love.

And The Mountains Echoed starts off with an interesting fable which is then reflected in the lives of young brother and sister Abdullah and Pari. Their story is beautifully told, poignant and ultimately heartbreaking. However this is only half of the book and I was disappointed by the melange of other tenuously connected tales that followed. Each is, of course, well-written and could have made good novels in their own right, but I felt that the disparate ideas within one book made for a confusing sprawling structure. It was often difficult to identify which character we had jumped to. And The Mountains Echoed is still certainly a good book, but I had thought both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns were brilliant so this one does pale significantly in comparison.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Khaled Hosseini / Contemporary fiction / Books from Afghanistan

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin


Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin
First published as Turietsky Gambit by I Zakharov in Russian in Russia in 1998. English translation by Andrew Bromfield published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 2004.

I registered my copy of this book on BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Russo-Turkish war is at a critical juncture, and Erast Fandorin, broken-hearted and disillusioned, has gone to the front in an attempt to forget his sorrows. But Fandorin's efforts to steer clear of trouble are thwarted when he comes to the aid of Varvara Suvorova - a 'progressive' Russian woman trying to make her way to the Russian headquarters to join her fiancé. Within days, Varvara's fiancé has been accused of treason, a Turkish victory looms on the horizon, and there are rumours of a Turkish spy hiding within their own camp. Our reluctant gentleman sleuth will need to resurrect all of his dormant powers of detection if he is to unmask the traitor, help the Russians to victory and smooth the path of young love.

I had quite high hopes for Turkish Gambit and had looked forward to a swashbuckling historical tale. Unfortunately I found the book rather dull. There are lots of lengthy conversations, but little in the way of descriptive writing about the country and period. I found it difficult to keep track of who everyone was too. Our heroine Varvara is well defined, but sleuth Erast Fandorin mostly kept himself to himself and it wasn't until the latter stages of the book that I thought the many other men in the cast began to differentiate themselves. The spy plot at the centre of the tale is nicely done, but the advertised romantic element is practically nonexistent. Varvara never seems particularly concerned for her fiance! Turkish Gambit does have interesting moments, however I think I must have missed the point with this book because it is one in a popular series of a dozen Fandorin novels and at times I wasn't sure I would finish even this one!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Boris Akunin / Historical fiction / Books from Russia

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Your Flight To Happiness by Toni Mackenzie


Your Flight To Happiness by Toni Mackenzie
First published in the UK by Inner Depths in June 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Your Flight to Happiness is a self-help book with a flying theme, taking the reader on a journey which will enable them to release negative thinking and limiting beliefs, and create emotional freedom and happiness from within. Chapter one tells of how the author found herself at an all time low point in her life, her 'plane crash'. She then guides the reader through the seven steps she used to rebuild her life and learn how to fly again. So many people believe they will be happy at some time in the future - when they get a new job, meet a new partner, go on holiday, buy a new outfit, lose weight... The truth is, happiness does not come from outside experiences or other people, happiness ultimately is an inside job!

I appreciated the down to earth and chatty style Mackenzie employs in Your Flight To Happiness. Understanding how and why she had learned the techniques and philosophies she offers to readers helped me to envisage their potential effectiveness. I have not yet actually tried any of the suggested exercises, but I can see how they would work because they are all clearly explained and I think the mindfulness steps would be useful for me. Through simple ideas like a rubber band memory aid to more involved concepts such as deep meditation, Mackenzie aims to help her readers find inner happiness. This book doesn't claim to get you everything you have ever wanted, but instead to allow you to appreciate what you already have and use that as a grounding for future emotional strength and resilience.

Mackenzie is strongly influenced by Eastern philosophy and I liked her inclusion of relevant quotes by famous historical thinkers. There are also blank pages for readers to note down their own Thoughts. These are, of course, not much use in the ebook, but I imagine would be a good addition to the physical book edition. (Note: if you buy the ebook, get yourself a little notebook to use as you read!) The overarching aeroplane metaphor is good too and made for a nice hook from which each Step could hang. I wasn't completely convinced by later ideas such as conflating the positive or negative energies of electrons with positive or negative emotions. However overall I found Your Flight To Happiness to be a potentially inspirational and useful book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Toni Mackenzie / Self help / Books from England

Friday, 25 November 2016

The Memory Box by Margaret Forster


The Memory Box by Margaret Forster
First published in the UK in August 2000.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Swapped for at Lumburn Court campsite

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Catherine's mother died when Catherine was just a baby girl, leaving nothing but her perfect reputation to live up to. Or so she thought. But then Catherine finds a box addressed to her, filled with objects seemingly without meaning - three feathers, an exotic seashell, a painting, a mirror, two prints, an address book, a map, a hat, a rucksack and a necklace. And while she's busy playing detective trying to find out who her mother was, she finds out more about herself than she ever really wanted to know. Secrets are discovered, truths uncovered, and Catherine realises that maybe there was something more to her mother, something that her familiy has kept from her. How long a shadow can a dead woman cast?

I was interested to see how Forster would develop her premise of a woman discovering her lost mother some thirty years later, through the contents of a gaudy hat box. Catherine's mother, Susannah, died when she was just six months old. Her father remarried and Catherine had always rejected the idea of her birth mother, instead insisting that her stepmother, Charlotte, fulfilled that maternal role perfectly. Knowing she was dying, Susannah carefully chose, wrapped and boxed eleven items instructing that the box be given to Catherine. However, through various circumstances, Catherine didn't get the said box until after her father, stepmother and grandmother had died too. With a prickly aunt being the only person left who actually knew Susannah, Catherine is left unravelling the myth of her perfectly happy mother's perfect life single-handedly.

The Memory Box is an incredibly introspective and introverted novel which is quite unusual and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Catherine examines her own life, seeing her choices differently in the light of what she learns about her biological mother. Forster uses her characters to develop a fascinating discussion of motherhood in its many forms and influences. Did Charlotte's constant presence mould the young Catherine to a greater extent than Susannah's genes? Is Catherine's rejection of close friendships and of motherhood for herself a result of her early abandonment?

For me, this novel was a page turner all the way through and I never lost interest in Catherine's quest. Some of her intuitive jumps were too convenient to be believable which why I have only awarded four stars, however overall I very much enjoyed The Memory Box and look forward to discovering more of Forster's work.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Margaret Forster / Women's fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
First published by Algonquin Books in October 2003.
One of my WorldReads - Nigeria book choices.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought Purple Hibiscus from the Children's Society charity shop in Garstang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer. When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili’s father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.
This extraordinary debut novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, is about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred – the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and real life is lived.

Purple Hibiscus is a Nigerian-set coming of age novel following fifteen-year-old Kambili over the months after a military coup in Nigeria is the catalyst for massive change in the country and also in her oppressive home life. I was reminded a little of the obsessively religious patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible who, like Eugene here, puts ridiculous strains onto his family in the name of his God. Eugene however has been so brainwashed by a particularly sadistic strain of Catholicism that he is simply vicious to his wife and children. I found several of the abuse scenes in Purple Hibiscus difficult to read and what makes it more so is Kambili's apparent quiet acceptance of her treatment. It is not until she experiences life with her aunt instead of her parents that she finds a hint of self-respect and courage.

I love Adichie's descriptive prose which really brings urban and rural Nigeria to life for me. She has a wonderful eye for detail and creates realistic complex characters that I could easily believe in, even when I didn't like them! The menace of the political instability surrounds every scene meaning that there is always a sense of unease - within the family or within the country, perhaps one is a microcosm of the other? The contrasts between our rich central family's lifestyle and that of their poor village back home are shocking. Even the forced frugality of Aunt Ifeoma, awaiting her university salary which hasn't been paid, made me realise how much I take for granted. At least our caravan generally has reliable power!

I think I liked Purple Hibiscus the most of Adichie's books that I have read so far, but it's only my third title so I still have lots more to discover!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / Contemporary fiction / Books from Nigeria

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Little Voice by Joss Sheldon


The Little Voice by Joss Sheldon
Self published today, 23rd November 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”
Dear reader, My character has been shaped by two opposing forces; the pressure to conform to social norms, and the pressure to be true to myself. To be honest with you, these forces have really torn me apart. They’ve pulled me one way and then the other. At times, they’ve left me questioning my whole entire existence. But please don’t think that I’m angry or morose. I’m not. Because through adversity comes knowledge. I’ve suffered, it’s true. But I’ve learnt from my pain. I’ve become a better person. Now, for the first time, I’m ready to tell my story. Perhaps it will inspire you. Perhaps it will encourage you to think in a whole new way. Perhaps it won’t. There’s only one way to find out… 
Enjoy the book,
Yew Shodkin

One of my most highly anticipated bookish experiences is discovering a new favourite author and I am especially happy when they are indie authors. If you read my Month In Books round-up posts on my Stephanie Jane blog you will already know that I made such a discovery in October with the superb Occupied by Joss Sheldon earning my Book Of The Month accolade. I was delighted therefore when Sheldon got in touch again to ask if I would be interested in reviewing his new book, The Little Voice. I was only too pleased!

Sheldon has a talent for observing aspects of society and mirroring them back to readers in a thought-provoking way. Occupied looked at immigration. The Little Voice examines how we condition our children. The book is written in the style of a memoir with Yew describing how a little red creature in his head was the cause of much of his 'bad' behaviour as a child. Parents and teachers encouraged him to overcome the red creature's malevolent influence, but was the resultant well behaved automaton really the best Yew that Yew could be? Is creating an ordered society more important than allowing individual happiness?

I liked how sociological and psychological theories and experimental results are included within the text and loved Sheldon's portrayal of young Yew. I found myself wishing I had had his nerve as a child - those classroom settings were certainly similar to my own experiences! Fiction that makes me think deeply isn't always the most convincingly written as characters can become overly preachy, but I thought The Little Voice had a good flow and pace throughout. I could understand and appreciate why Yew made the choices he did and his ultimate destination is certainly enticing.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Joss Sheldon / Novellas / Books from England

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Alla Osipenko by Joel Lobenthal


Alla Osipenko by Joel Lobenthal
Published by Oxford University Press in November 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository
Buy the hardback from Waterstones

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Alla Osipenko is the gripping story of one of history's greatest ballerinas, a courageous rebel who paid the price for speaking truth to the Soviet State. She studied with Agrippina Vaganova, the most revered and influential of all Russian ballet instructors, and in 1950, she joined the Mariinsky (then-Kirov) Ballet, where her lines, shapes, and movements both exemplified the venerable traditions of Russian ballet and propelled those traditions forward into uncharted and experimental realms. She was the first of her generation of Kirov stars to enchant the West when she danced in Paris in 1956. But dancing for the establishment had its downsides, and Osipenko's sharp tongue and marked independence, as well as her almost-reckless flouting of Soviet rules for personal and political conduct, soon found her all but quarantined in Russia. An internationally acclaimed ballerina at the height of her career, she found that she would now have to prevail in the face of every attempt by the Soviet state and the Kirov administration to humble her.

I hadn't previously heard of Alla Osipenko. Although I do like going to see ballet, I don't know many names other than the really famous dancers so I hoped to extend my knowledge through reading this biography. Unfortunately Lobenthal's writing is very dry, with short journalistic paragraphs and absolutely no sense of flow or beauty to the prose - which struck me as ironic for a ballet biography! The book does mention all the major and minor dance roles undertaken by Osipenko as well as giving details of her personal life, but it's like being faced with a great sheaf of notes that are yet to be properly integrated. There are numerous spelling and grammatical errors on every page too, some making sentences completely unintelligible, so I considered several times whether to actually bother finishing the read. It's a shame as Osipenko must have led a fascinating life, but it is not done justice to in this book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Joel Lobenthal / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Monday, 21 November 2016

Song Of The Vampire by K M McFarland


Song of the Vampire by K. M. McFarland
Self published in April 2013.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a free copy during the All Hallows Reads Facebook party.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In 1989, Quinn Forrester was a successful rock star living a dream with a wife, a baby daughter and a hit record. Little did he know that was all about to end the night he met Giselle ... the mysterious vampire who would change his world forever. Eighteen years later, a chance meeting with Nadia, the daughter he abandoned as a baby the night he was turned, shakes his lonely, tormented world. Quinn and Nadia reconnect and bond, but Nadia’s fate is sealed. Saved by Quinn’s blood, they guide each other through the dark world they have become a part of. As they help each other battle their demons, shocking lies, secrets and deceptions are revealed culminating in the discovery of the truth about the night Quinn was turned.

Song Of The Vampire is the first book in McFarland's Vampyr trilogy and is set in New Orleans, a city I loved when we visited there in Spring 2013. McFarland makes pretty good use of this atmospheric setting and I enjoyed remembering sights such as the St Charles Avenue streetcars and the Mardi Gras bead strings adorning the trees.

Song Of The Vampire is very much a first novel and does have issues with pacing. Some inconsequential scenes are overlong whereas other vital story elements zipped by when much more could have been made of them. I liked the overall story and the untangling of the characters' relationships as each new revelation comes to light. Their dialogue isn't always realistic, especially in mundane conversations, and does go overboard on the lovey-dovey chat - but that might just be my preference! Hopefully, the characterisation will deepen in the next two novels as we discover more about our vampires' lives and world.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by K M McFarland / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera


The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
First published in New Zealand in 1987.

This is my 1980s read for the 2016-17 Goodreads / BookCrossing Decade Challenge and one of my WorldReads from New Zealand.
I registered my copy of this book on BookCrossing.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository
Buy the hardback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eight-year-old Kahu craves her great-grandfather's love and attention. But he is focused on his duties as chief of a Maori tribe in Whangara, on the East Coast of New Zealand - a tribe that claims descent from the legendary 'whale rider'. In every generation since the whale rider, a male has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir - there's only kahu. She should be the next in line for the title, but her great-grandfather is blinded by tradition and sees no use for a girl. Kahu will not be ignored. And in her struggle she has a unique ally: the whale rider himself, from whom she has inherited the ability to communicate with whales. Once that sacred gift is revealed, Kahu may be able to re-establish her people's ancestral connections, earn her great-grandfather's attention - and lead her tribe to a bold new future.

I saw the film version of The Whale Rider first so already had an idea of the story before reading the book. I think this was the right way around because, as is usual, there seemed to be more in the book! We read of Kahu from her birth to the revelation of her ancestral powers and I loved that Ihimaera also writes of the Maori tales and legends surrounding the Whale Rider. This gave me a fuller understanding of Kahu's significance within her people. Characters' words are frequently given in Maori which also enhanced my sense of a cultural story. (I didn't actually refer to the Maori-English glossary at the back until I had finished reading because I didn't want to interrupt the flow of Ihimaera's writing.) Mostly it is straightforward to work out a translation or the relevant phrase is explained within the text.

I felt that the Maori traditions of oral storytelling shone through in this novel. We learn about Kahu's great-grandfather's insistence that tribal chiefs must be male, even though the women of her family remember female chiefs in the past, and the moral of following your destiny despite the closed ideas of others is put forward in an inspirational way without overly hammering home the message. This book is intended for a young adult audience so, for me, it was a swift read. It gives a vivid portrait of a close-knit and relatively strong Maori community - in contrast to the poverty-stricken depiction I read of in Katherine Hayton's The Second Stage Of Grief.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Witi Ihimaera / Young adult books / Books from New Zealand

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Aylin by Ayse Kulin


Aylin by Ayşe Kulin
Published in Turkish as Adi: Aylin in Turkey in 1997. English translation, possibly by Dara Colakoglu, published by Amazon Crossing in October 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aylin’s body was found in her garden, her hair immaculately styled as usual. Her death came as a shock—after all, who would have wanted someone so admired and talented dead? Who—among the many she’d helped, the few she’d hurt, and all those she’d left behind—might have been driven to murder? In the course of Aylin’s life, she had been many things: a skinny little girl, a young woman blossoming into a beauty, a princess married to a controlling Libyan prince, a broke medical student determined to succeed. She’d been a seductress, a teacher, a renowned psychiatrist, and a Turkish immigrant remarkably at home as an officer in the US Army. Through it all, she’d loved, been in love, and pursued truth without surrender. Whatever role she’d found herself in, she’d committed to it fully and lived it with her heart, mind, and soul.

Aylin is an affluent Turkish woman, brilliant and beautiful, but incapable of finding the happiness she craves in her life. The novel begins with her freak death - murder or accident? - before jumping back to her childhood and adolescence, the moving forward through her life. I found it difficult to really get into the story and never particularly cared about Aylin herself because of the way her tale was told. A leading psychologist, she failed to recognise basic destructive behaviour patterns in herself so the novel is essentially her jumping from one marriage to the next, but with no sense of love or emotion. Supporting characters like her sister and niece came across much more convincingly to me, but I thought the male characters were frequently flat.

I am not sure if the distance I felt from the characters was due to Kulin's storytelling style or whether the translation from Turkish was at fault. Certainly much of the book is set in America which disappointed me as I was hoping to read about Turkey. I was baffled by viewpoint switches such as suddenly finding myself reading the innermost thoughts of a mute nun, and spent most of the book feeling that I had missed the point.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ayse Kulin / Contemporary fiction / Books from Turkey

Friday, 18 November 2016

Half The Sky by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn


Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Published in America by Knopf Publishing Group in September 2009.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team, husband and wife Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, take us on a journey through Africa and Asia to meet an extraordinary array of exceptional women struggling against terrible circumstances. More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they are girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century combined. More girls are killed in this routine 'gendercide' in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth, it was totalitarianism. In the twenty-first, Kristof and WuDunn demonstrate, it will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world. Fierce, moral, pragmatic, full of amazing stories of courage and inspiration, HALF THE SKY is essential reading for every global citizen.

I guess came to the Half The Sky book backwards as I was an active member of microlending charity Kiva for a couple of years before I got around to buying it in October 2014. By then I had already joined Kiva's Half The Sky team as I was aware of the gist of the book. I am transferring my review over from my Stephanie Jane blog today to celebrate having now lent $3000 within this team!

I'm not completely sure how I feel about Half The Sky now having read it. Its aims are obviously admirable and by appealing to such a wide audience and being bought in great numbers, its message will reach many people who might previously been unaware of the plight of many of our world's women. However, I felt a bit awkward at the patronising tone in some places. Written primarily for an affluent American audience, there is very much a 'them and us' feel to the writing. Abuses happen 'elsewhere' and the apparent importance and influence of American political decisions to life and death in other sovereign nations is unnerving. It reminded me of the power of the former British empire and of how many of our decisions were catastrophic to those on the receiving end.

Also, the emotional manipulation throughout the text is phenomenal! At least the authors are upfront about this. They discuss how experiments have proved that individuals are more likely to donate, and to donate larger sums, to single named individual than to a country or a general appeal. (On reflection, this is also how Kiva works - by putting forward a series of individuals and their stories.) Before and after having made this point, that is exactly what the Half The Sky authors do. Don't expect much in the way of hard facts and figures, but instead there are dozens of anecdotes: stories of first-named women across Asia and Africa who were all horrifically treated, denied medical care, denied education, simply due to their gender. Reading so many tales is a bit like watching the serious bits of Children in Need or Comic Relief. You know you're being manipulated by clever research and editing, but there is a real need too and, by the end, you're pretty punch drunk and overwhelmed.

I am glad I have read Half The Sky. Similarly to The Rape of Nanking, its success is to get the world talking. It has reinforced my commitment to Kiva and I will now also be searching out other deeper books on the topics raised. Suggestions of other titles will be gratefully received.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn / Reportage / Books from America

Thursday, 17 November 2016

I Am The Ocean by Samita Sarkar


I Am The Ocean by Samita Sarkar
Published by Blossoms Books in March 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Samita Sarkar thought she was destined to spend her entire life running. Never giving herself a moment’s rest, she studied hard and graduated from university with top grades, and then promptly began a tireless job search. But although she thought that she had done everything by the book, life still hadn’t given her any answers. She knew that God had a plan, but what was it? Stricken with anxiety while facing midsummer heat and sizable life decisions, the thrifty twenty-something Canadian—who had never before travelled for travel’s sake—purchased a discount bus ticket for what she thought would be a few weeks of reprieve in The United States. Embarking on her journey with nothing but a small suitcase, a broken handbag, a killer manicure and a copy of "The Bhagavad Gita," Samita would spend her days wandering streets and beaches, and her nights in jostling buses or on cramped couches. Marvelling at the beauty around her, Samita finally discovered what the world has to offer to those who stop running, while learning lessons that would set the course of the rest of her life."

It takes a while for Sarkar to settle into her style in this travel memoir so I didn't really get into her writing until she reached Savannah, Georgia. (She previously visits New York and Washington.) Her adventurous solo journey is undertaken by bus and she stays with CouchSurfing hosts which reminded me of Clara Bensen's journey in No Baggage. It was interesting to read about Sarkar's changing attitude to herself and her future as she travelled because this is something I have also experienced myself. From her initial assumption of a school-university-employment path, her realisation that following this traditional route isn't always the 'best' way is a direct result of how travel can widen horizons. Sarkar is strongly religious and incorporates her Hare Krishna faith into her memoir, its importance seeming to become stronger through her journey. Occasionally I did feel as though her evangelising took over making the book more of an advert than a memoir, but otherwise this gives a nice glimpse of Savannah and of Miami, Florida.


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Books by Samita Sarkar / Biography and memoir / Books from Canada

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Devil's Chimney by Tin Larrick + Giveaway


Devil's Chimney by Tin Larrick
Self published in May 2012.

Where to buy this book:
Download the ebook for free from Smashwords

How I got this book:
Bought from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"It is 2001. The seaside town of Eastbourne is being battered by a tidal wave of violence. The collapse of Devil’s Chimney, a chalk tower at the foot of Beachy Head, has awakened old superstitions and opened old wounds that most would rather forget. Constable Chalvington Barnes is an ambitious young cop with his sights set on the top. His latest collar, a serial night creeper terrorising his sleeping victims with a knife, is an arrest that earns Barnes his ticket into CID. With a bit of breathing space, the CID congratulate themselves on a job well done - and their complacency is punished when a young police officer is brutally murdered.

With the prime suspect protected by an apparently concrete alibi, the ensuing investigation thrusts Barnes to the centre of a web of greed, corruption and chaos. When the scum that lurk in the shadows of Devil’s Chimney turn the tables on the police and start taking over the streets, Barnes must fight to protect those he loves. But the answers he wants are closer to home than he realises."

Back in 2013 I had been on the lookout for more Eastbourne-based fiction since I enjoyed reading The Generation Club by Annette Keen earlier in that year. A name that kept cropping up was Tin Larrick and I had several recommendations to read this police thriller. So I took advantage of our then recent Kindle purchase to download the novel and discover what all the fuss was about!

Tin Larrick is a former police officer so I guess he certainly knows what he is talking about when it comes to process and procedures. I liked his descriptions of various areas of Eastbourne and recognising a place as a story unfolds is very helpful in bringing the tale to life. I even learned quite a bit that I didn't already know, appreciating the little snippets of information about the town's history. The plot itself cracks along at a good pace and I never lost interest. I did find some of Barnes' escapades a bit far fetched - why is revenge always so personal in thrillers?! - and the hero appears to be virtually indestructible, but, all in all, this is a good novel and I was impressed enough to also purchase Tin Larrick's second book, Lone Shark.


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Books by Tin Larrick / Crime fiction / Books from England

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

IA: Initiate by John Darryl Winston


IA: Initiate by John Darryl Winston
Published by Purple Ash Press in April 2014.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Won an ebook from the author in a Goodreads giveaway

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

IA: Initiate is a supernatural thriller set in the mean streets of America. A seemingly random act of gang violence sends "Naz" Andersen on a quest to find answers surrounding his dead parents and leads to a series of discoveries about his supernatural abilities. Naz tries to stay out of the way at his foster parent's home, but he walks in his sleep. He is unable to keep the fact that he hears voices from his therapist. He attempts to go unnoticed at school and in the streets of the Exclave, but attracts the attention of friends and bullies alike. His efforts to protect his little sister make him the target of malicious bullying by the notorious street gang, Incubus Apostles. Naz is an ordinary thirteen-year-old, or so he thinks. He harbors a secret that even he is oblivious to, and a series of ill-fated events reveal to him telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Now he must navigate newly found friendship and gang violence, and face the full force of the world around him. The only way he can survive is to discover the supernatural world within.

IA Initiate is set in a slightly futuristic dystopian cityscape. The Exclave is recognisable as the rough end of any present-day Western city, yet is given a sense of difference through interesting use of language and descriptions of elements such as the hyperstores and the Helix train. The Market Merchants reminded me of the Chinese stores in practically every Spanish town - everything you could possibly want even though you don't know you need something until you see it there!

Naz Anderson is our thirteen year old protagonist, a head-down, stay-unnoticed kind of boy, orphaned and devoted to his younger sister, Meri. Winton's creations of both Naz and Meri are well done making it easy to envisage these children and to empathise with them. We learn of the trauma in their past and how Naz in particular is having problems due to these events. Other characters around them are more hazy, but may develop further in sequel(s) to this novella.

IA Initiate kept me interested throughout and I like Winston's understated style of writing. This is very much a YA novella, written by a teacher, and I thought it occasionally veered too close to overt moralising, but I enjoyed the read nonetheless. His created world has a hint of scifi without being bafflingly different and there are enough intriguing open threads to tempt me into its sequel, IA Boss. However, IA Initiate has a good story arc in its own right and A Proper Sense Of An Ending!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Darryl Winston / Young adult books / Books from America

Monday, 14 November 2016

March by Geraldine Brooks


March by Geraldine Brooks
First published by Viking Press in 2005. Won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Audio edition narrated by Richard Easton published by Penguin Audio.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Downloaded the audiobook from AudioSYNC

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Set during the American Civil War, ‘March’ tells the story of John March, known to us as the father away from his family of girls in ‘Little Women’, Louisa May Alcott’s classic American novel. In Brooks’s telling, March emerges as an abolitionist and idealistic chaplain on the front lines of a war that tests his faith in himself and in the Union cause when he learns that his side, too, is capable of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near-fatal illness in a Washington hospital, he must reassemble the shards of his shattered mind and body, and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through.
As Alcott drew on her real-life sisters in shaping the characters of her little women, so Brooks turned to the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, an idealistic educator, animal rights exponent and abolitionist who was a friend and confidante of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The story spans the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, through to the first year of the Civil War as the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats."

I liked the idea of filling in the missing year of the Little Women's father and especially chose to buy a copy of Louisa May Alcott's classic recently as I wanted it to be fresh in my memory when listening to March. Geraldine Brooks has done a great job of aligning her story with Alcott's and I enjoyed spotting nods to the original. She has also taken a far wider view of 1860s America providing an overview of the Civil War and the societal divides which led to it. I am sure that March has been impeccably researched and every minute, superbly narrated by Richard Easton, rang with authentic detail, however I didn't find myself as captivated by this book as I had hoped I would be.

For starters, March himself is infuriatingly and patronisingly 'right on' at every opportunity, even though his actions frequently fail to back up his holier than thou words. I almost cheered when fever finally struck him dumb - not the opinion I should have had, I know! Marmee, his wife takes over storytelling for the last couple of hours however and it was interesting to hear her take on events of which we had previously heard from him. 'Don't assume' I think would be the overriding message! Overall, I am glad to have had the opportunity to listen to this audiobook. I did learn a little more about America's Civil War than I had previously known and I liked Brooks' writing style, but I think the book could have done with a stronger storyline. As it was, I felt Brooks was trying to show as many aspects of the War as she could and having March flit from pillar to post to enable this didn't really work for me.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Geraldine Brooks / Historical fiction / Books from Australia

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Three Days In Damascus by Kim Schultz


Three Days In Damascus by Kim Schultz
Published in the UK by Palewell Press on the 30th October 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"THREE DAYS IN DAMASCUS is a memoir about a three year fight for a chance at love with an Iraqi refugee the author met in Syria. While traveling to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to interview Iraqi refugees and hear some of their stories, Kim never expected to fall in love with one of them. But that is exactly what happened. This is the story of one American woman and one Iraqi man set against the backdrop of the Iraqi refugee crisis. Through actual Iraqi refugee interviews, a whirlwind middle-eastern love story and the consequently doomed, intercontinental relationship told through texts and emails with civil war, revolution and an arranged marriage as the backdrop, we learn of culture and devastation, desperation and redemption, while still never losing hope.
While there are roughly 65 million refugees worldwide, approximately five million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes since the U.S led invasion of their country, most of them fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Since Syria is currently in the midst of a violent civil war, the Iraqis there are left in an extremely dangerous position— stuck between a rock and a hard place with nowhere to go. This timely memoir examines the lives of dozens of these Iraqi refugees trying desperately to survive in a world blind to their plight and one Iraqi in particular: Omar.
Told through a strong narrative and a surprisingly comedic lens, the reader travels with the author through this unknown, sandy terrain breaking assumptions, stereotypes and expectations — in a journey that ultimately ends in the most traditional assumption one could imagine: a Middle Eastern man agreeing to an arranged marriage. And after three years of trying to “save” Omar and salvage a life for/with him, she discovers maybe he wasn’t the one who needed saving."

Following on the heels of four other recent reads surrounding aspects of the Middle East's refugee crisis, Three Days In Damascus approaches the topic from a different perspective, that of a Westener trying to do something, anything, to alleviate the intense suffering she witnesses. Kim Schultz describes her month as part of an artistic group researching Iraqi refugees lives in order to present their stories to Americans back home, raising awareness of the humanitarian disaster unfolding. During this time she met one Iraqi refugee, Omar, who didn't tell her his story. Instead these two very different people formed an strong and immediate bond which led to three years of struggling to be together.

I was interested to discover Kim's artistic viewpoint, particularly in describing her weeks spent with Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and of the lack of open discussion of the crisis in America. Kim obviously struggled to contain her emotions on many occasions and I wonder if this intense starting point was what led to her extreme tenacity in fighting to maintain a relationship across thousands of miles, both in physical and cultural distance. Her frustrations at technological problems severing their communications served to clearly illustrate just how much of what we take for granted is denied to refugees in their limbo existence. Perhaps I could have done without quite so many Messenger transcriptions, but Three Days In Damascus is certainly a worthwhile addition to current literature highlighting refugee experiences and awareness.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kim Schultz / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson


Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson
First published in Swedish in Sweden as Till dess din vrede upphor by Albert Bonniers Forlag in 2008. English translation by Laurie Thompson published by MacLehose Press in 2011.
I registered my copy of this book on BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"In the first thaw of spring the body of a young woman surfaces in the River Torne in the far north of Sweden. Rebecka Martinsson is working as a prosecutor in nearby Kiruna, her sleep troubled by visions of a shadowy, accusing figure. Could the body belong to the girl in her dream? Joining forces with Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson will need all her courage to face a killer who will kill again to keep the past buried under half a century of silent ice and snow."

I couldn't put this book down and stayed glued to it almost from start to finish, reading the entire novel in a single afternoon and evening! I loved Larsson's prose which brings her settings and characters vividly to life - yes, even the dead ones! - while still maintaining a gripping pace. I don't think there was a dull moment throughout the book. Larsson set Until Thy Wrath Be Past in a small town to the North of Sweden so we get a very different view of the country and people to the more usual Stockholm-based Scandi-Crime fare. The very first person we meet is a murder victim, several months after the crime took place, so she is a ghost, but this was presented in such a matter of fact way that, for me, the device worked surprisingly well without ever becoming whimsical. Both our lead detective and our prosecutor are women and neither are burnt-out alcoholics which makes a refreshing change. They do, of course, have Issues and, as this is not the first in the Rebecka Martinsson series, there were moments where my lack of back-story knowledge affected understanding of these, but the crime narrative is completely self-contained so I didn't feel that I missed anything from that. I admit I wasn't completely convinced by the feasibility of the ending, but the journey to get there was excellent and both my partner and I enjoyed the book very much. So much so in his case that he has already bought another novel in the series. Praise indeed!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Asa Larsson / Crime Fiction / Books from Sweden

Friday, 11 November 2016

Slater's Sussex by James Trollope


Slater's Sussex by James Trollope
Published by the Towner Gallery with Eastbourne Borough Council and the Arts Council on 27th April 2013.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the paperback from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the paperback from Towner Gallery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"This is the first book to explore the life and work of Eric Slater, a colour woodcut artist who enjoyed international success in the 1930s but died in obscurity in 1963. He was one of a group of British print makers who adapted Japanese techniques to suit Western tastes. There are over 50 illustrations including 17 full colour plates. Most of his prints depict the Sussex landscape near his home in Seaford. As well as a list of his known works, there is a suggested walk through the countryside which inspired him."

I loved Eric Slater's artwork when it was included in the Point Of Departure exhibition at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne in 2012. His woodcut prints were created during the 1930s and, as he lived much of his life in Seaford, several depict scenes local to where I then lived. The evocative images included in Point Of Departure had been chosen by James Trollope, an expert on Slater's work, and I was delighted to discover that James had also written a book about this artist. I treated myself to one of the first copies available!

I particularly love the seventeen full page colour reproductions of Slater's prints. Seeing them all together gives a wonderful feel for his work and of the period in which he created them. My favourites from the Towner exhibition are there as well as other landscapes and floral still life images. James Trollope has penned a fascinating biography of Eric Slater and also describes the Japanese technique he used. Slater's Sussex is an interesting read and I know I will pick it up to see the prints again and again.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by James Trollope / Arts and culture / Books from England

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Wasp Days by Erhard von Buren


Wasp Days by Erhard von Buren
First published in German in Switzerland as Wespenzeit by Rotpunktverlag in 2000. English translation by Helen Wallimann published by Matador in July 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Summertime. While his wife and daughters are away on holiday, the husband – a librarian by profession – back home at work in the stultifying heat of a provincial Swiss town, indulges in reminiscence. With light amusement he recalls old love affairs. Memories come back of student days in Zurich and academic research in Paris, of starting family life, of trifling matters and crucial turning-points. But again and again the narrator also returns to the present; he describes his work at the library, life in his small town, acquaintances old and new and finally, in the autumn, a journey with his wife to China.
The author's ironic but amiable look at life in all its diversity, the combination of laconic recounting and academic recollection, day-dreaming sequences and conscious remembering make for an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating read."

Wasp Days is an unusual book which I wasn't sure whether I would like or not. It took me a while to get into von Buren's previous novel, Epitaph For A Working Man, and I experienced the same adjustment time with Wasp Days. The first chapter is an older man reminiscing about women who had been his lovers in his youth and its sets our narrator up in a particularly unlikeable light, or so I thought anyway! Essentially a perpetual small-scale academic, he sees himself as something of a catch despite relying on his wife, Eva, to whom he is unfaithful, to organise anything practical and to finance their family through her career. Eva is the dynamo of the partnership bringing up their daughters, arranging their house moves and providing their social face, while our narrator potters and hides away in libraries.

I did rather envy him his library-closeted life and, as we get to know him better, I could see what initially seemed chauvinistic arrogance actually as sheer bravado. He might have been daring in a small way in his younger days, but now he is dusty and fading, paranoid about his health and almost afraid to step outside of his clearly defined comfort zones. I never felt sorry for him, but found this novel compelling reading as more was revealed. My wanderlust was sparked by reading Wasp Days too. A late voyage to China is briefly described in fascinating detail and I was entranced by Paris scenes. Wasp Days certainly won't be a book for everyone and it meandering pace is sometimes too slow. I liked it though and enjoyed reading this careful portrait of a man of a certain age.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Erhard von Buren / Contemporary fiction / Books from Switzerland

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The MacKinnon's Bride by Tanya Anne Crosby + Giveaway


The MacKinnon's Bride by Tanya Anne Crosby
First published in America by Avon Books in June 1996.

This book is set in Scotland so I am counting it as my fifth book for the 2016 Read Scotland Challenge.

Where to buy this book:
Download the ebook free from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'When laird Iain MacKinnon's young son is captured by the English, the fierce Scottish chieftain retaliates in kind, capturing the daughter of his enemy to bargain for his boy's return. Fiercely loyal to kin, Iain never imagines a father can deny his child--or that he will become Page FitzSimon's savior. "Keep her, or kill her!" FitzSimon proclaims when Iain forces his hand. What can a good lad do, but take the lass home. Even as Page blames her reluctant champion for welching on a bargain with her father, she suspects the truth... the shadows hold secrets... and danger. Now only love can save MacKinnon's fiery new bride.'

Instead of a giveaway competition, this Wednesday I chosen to review a book that its author is giving away so everybody can get a freebie! The MacKinnon's Bride is the first in Tanya Anne Crosby's Highland Brides series and is free as an ebook via Amazon. Click through the links above to download your copy. (If you prefer to read a physical book, low priced copies are available from many independent booksellers via Abebooks and Alibris.)

I did quite enjoy reading The MacKinnon's Bride. I would have preferred a faster pace as there is a lot of unnecessary padding which drags, but the novel has a nice storyline. The ending is, of course, telegraphed from practically the first time Page and MacKinnon meet - and from the book's title of course - but that doesn't detract from its charm. I didn't get much sense of a historical setting other than an odd sprinkling of olde worlde language, forsooth, and there's no great depth to the characters, but for a light romance The MacKinnon's Bride is fun.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tanya Anne Crosby / Romance / Books from America

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

London Overground by Iain Sinclair


London Overground: A Day's Walk Around The Ginger Line by Iain Sinclair
Published in the UK by Penguin Random House in June 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the book from Speedyhen
Buy the book from The Book Depository
Buy the book from Waterstones

Buy my hardback copy on eBay

How I got this book:
Received a copy in a Penguin ThinkSmarter giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Echoing his journey in London Orbital over a decade ago, Iain Sinclair narrates his second circular walk around the capital. Shortly after rush-hour and accompanied by a rambling companion, Sinclair begins walking along London's Overground network, or, 'Ginger Line'. With characteristic playfulness, detours into folk history, withering assessments of the political classes and a joyful allegiance to the ordinary oddball, Sinclair guides us on a tour of London's trendiest new transport network - and shows the shifting, changing city from new and surprising angles.'

I'm not really sure what to make of this book. For a flaneur's memoir, there's little about walking and for a book inspired by a railway line, there's not much about trains either! Sinclair uses the London Overground line as departure point for reminiscences and musings about a variety of subjects, but mostly themed around his own artistic and literary past and friends. I did enjoy diversions into London history and gossip, but for me reading London Overground felt like being a spouse at the annual company dinner. I recognised names of people and places, but mostly felt excluded from the conversation. If you're familiar with Sinclair's previous writing and work, or that of his accompanying friend Andrew Kotting, you might well get a lot more out of this book than I did. As it is, I have noted a few potential books for my TBR list, but am ultimately more disappointed than inspired to follow in Sinclair's footsteps.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Iain Sinclair / Biography and memoir / Books from Wales

Monday, 7 November 2016

Love, Life, Loss And Leaving by Andrew Baguley and Janet Rawson


Love, Life, Loss And Leaving by Andrew Baguley and Janet Rawson
Published by Citsea Press in January 2013.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Authors Andrew Baguley and Janet Rawson have compiled a selection of their most enticing and diverse contemporary stories to thrill, shock and tickle. Where ordinary people react to extra-ordinary events: ‘A roomful of weeping women and him the wrong side of the door.’ ‘You never told me’, she said, ‘where to find the section for Poison Ivy.’ ‘What if it was a larger lady? Could he manage?’"

As it is made up of independent short stories and poems, Love, Life, Loss and Leaving can be dipped into and I found myself returning to the collection on several occasions over the months after I first purchased it. I like the way the book alternates between authors because the different voices compliment each other well. The subjects of the stories appeal to my dark side and there are certainly a few that should not be read too close to bedtime - especially if you're prone to bad dreams. I think my favourite stories are Far Fathoms and Time To Kill by Janet Rawson and The New Jesus by Andrew Baguley.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Andrew Baguley and Janet Rawson / Short stories / Books from England

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Road To Nowhere by Jim Fusilli


Road To Nowhere by Jim Fusilli
Published by Thomas and Mercer in November 2012. Brilliance Audio edition, narrated by Patrick Lawlor published in December 2012.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For years the drifter haunted the background of American life, roaming the side streets and highways that crisscross this vast country. Cool and handsome, with a single teardrop scar and a knack for silence that keeps the world at bay, he is a man alone. That all changes on a rainy night in Chicago, when he witnesses a brutal assault on a young woman. By the time he reaches her, the assailant is gone, leaving a trail that is all too easy to follow. But playing the good Samaritan may be more trouble than it’s worth, when his moment of conscience hurls him into a shadowy world of violence, intrigue and deception.
Caught between duty to his fellow man and the anonymity of life on the road, the Samaritan could walk away. But when his estranged teenage daughter is threatened, he will make his choice—and never look back. By turns violent and insightful, this suspenseful novel from acclaimed journalist and author Jim Fusilli introduces an unforgettable hero to the ranks of contemporary American fiction.

Quite why our unnamed drifter decides he must help Mary-Louise, when he has presumably passed by many other needy people during his years on the road, isn't explained. Neither is where he gets the money for his frequent purchases of new shirts. Fusilli has gone all out to create a darkly mysterious hero, but has made him so enigmatic that I was unable to get a grip on who this man actually is. Consequently, I found it difficult to empathise or even care about much of his self-imposed mission. This is a shame because otherwise the story is pretty good. The trio of female characters are interesting and more real than is usual for hardboiled crime fiction, and I liked the washed-up British ex-spy and the indestructible Carlos.

Fusilli keeps a fast pace throughout and keeping track of detail is important, so I was often irritated by his habit of having whole paragraphs refer to an anonymous 'him' and not identifying which character was the focus. Sometimes 'him' is our hobo hero, but sometimes it isn't and I didn't want to keep jumping back through my audiobook to relisten to sections. With such a sparse writing style, clarity is vital. However, overall Road To Nowhere is entertaining and, at just under six hours, doesn't overstay its welcome. Lawlor does an good job of the narration once his female voices settle down, and his voice is well suited to the book's atmosphere.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jim Fusilli / Crime fiction / Books from America