Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Watching Aliens by Elancharan Gunasekaran + #FreeBook

Watching Aliens by Elancharan Gunasekaran
Self published in Singapore in September 2016.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook via Smashwords

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Watching Aliens is beautifully spread across 500 pages. The work is a combination of short and full-length poetry. A versatile collection that embodies the observation of humans. Actions, feelings and situations that may seem so alien to us are in fact, things so common. We humans, in this digital age have lost what is commonly known as, personal touch. Watching Aliens, is inspired by Jack Kerouac's modern haikus and the need for an inclusive society in this current age of rapid modernisation.

Reading through Watching Aliens was an unusual poetry experience for me because the work itself is mostly written as a series of haiku, three to a page. Some appear to be linked together over several pages to create a longer work on a single theme, others provide just a glimpse or a snapshot of the poet's thought before he moves on - almost stream of consciousness writing. These haiku are not titled and they flow without a break in long chapters until, occasionally, I was surprised by a single long poem. I have taken screenshots of each poetry style to show what I mean:

The work reminded me, strangely, of Rust Is A Form Of Fire by Joe Fiorito although it is so long since I read that book that I can't now put my finger on why I connected the two! I think it is the sense I felt of detachedly watching human action and interaction from the perspective of an outside observer. Watching Aliens has an almost hypnotic rhythm and often quite abstract imagery which focuses on feelings and emotions rather than physical sensations or visual descriptions. I couldn't always identify with Gunasekaran's observations - and sometimes failed to understand his meaning at all - but generally I felt I could appreciate the work. He explores social themes such as the treatment of migrant workers and homelessness, as well as personal feelings of love and relationships. I liked the breadth of subjects and Gunasekaran's ability to flow from one to another. Watching Aliens also includes a series of striking monochrome artworks, I believe as chapter markers, and these are fascinating. Most are simply created yet impart strong emotions and provide a breathing point for the reader.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Elancharan Gunasekaran / Poetry / Books from Singapore

Monday, 10 December 2018

Song of Sacrifice by Janell Rhiannon + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Song of Sacrifice by Janell Rhiannon
Will be self published on the 26th December 2018.

Add Song Of Sacrifice to your Goodreads

The heart of the Trojan War belongs to the women. Mothers and daughters; wives and war prizes, whisper to us across time… …remember our songs alongside the mighty men of myth.

As the Age of Heroes wanes, the gods gamble more fiercely with mortals’ lives than they ever have before. Women must rely on their inner strength and cunning to survive the wars men wage for gold and glory.

Clytemnestra of Mycenae struggles for control of her life after Agamemnon ruthlessly rips it apart. Leda of Sparta survives a brutal assault by Zeus, shouldering a terrible secret in silence. Penelope raises Ithaka’s sole heir alone, praying for Odysseus’ swift return. Thetis, the sea nymph, despairs of her son’s destiny and resorts to forbidden magic to save him. Hecuba of Troy mourns the loss of her second son to a dark prophesy. And Shavash of Pedasus prepares her daughter to marry the greatest warrior who ever lived.

In a world where love leads to war and duty leads to destruction, the iron hearts of heroines will conquer all.

Sing, Muse, sing their song of sacrifice…

Replaces Song of Princes as the first book in the Homeric Chronicles.


The Homeric Chronicles is an epic saga spanning many years and kingdoms between Greece and Troy. It’s Greek Mythology (historical fantasy) for adults due to language, sex, and violence.

Song of Sacrifice (available 12/26/2018) is the first book in the series, followed by Rise of Princes (available 3/1/2019).

Each chapter orients the reader by geographic place and sequence. The first book was named for all the sacrifices the Greek and Trojan woman made for the sake of their families and the gods.

SEVENTEEN, sacrifice of Cassandra
1270 BCE
(**trigger warning for chapter 17** non-consensual sex/rape. It is not glamorized, but illustrates the power difference between a mortal and a god.)

HECUBA ARRANGED HER daughter’s long, dark tresses into braids beaded with gold and tied with silver cords. She’d known this day would arrive and rip the fragile joy from her heart. I am losing another child to Apollo … “Stand my sweet girl.”
“Yes?” Hecuba said, as she wrapped the golden belt of coins around her daughter’s hips, arranging the soft pleats to perfection.
Placing a soft hand on her mother’s, she squeezed her fingers gently. “Were you thinking of him just now?”
Hecuba’s hands never stopped arranging Cassandra’s gown. “Who, my dear?”
“Mother, you know who I mean.”
Without meeting her daughter’s inquiring gaze, Hecuba stood.
“The Forgotten Prince,” Cassandra spoke aloud the only name she knew for the brother she’d never known.
Hecuba’s regal bearing straightened. “No.”
“Mother, I can feel your sadness.”
Sighing in defeat, the queen’s shoulders relaxed. “Apollo’s snake made you too wise for one so young.” Recalling the sight of her beautiful twins entwined with a giant snake licking at their ears, Hecuba shuddered. As horrified as she was, it was more frightening to think that now she would have to turn her daughter over to the god. The union with the snake had sealed their fates as seers. There was no turning back. Apollo had spoken.
“I will pray that the god answers your prayers,” Cassandra said.
“What prayers can bring the dead to life? Not even the gods have that power. The dead are to dust and their souls to Hades.”
“I will pray that your sadness is lifted. That you will smile and be happy.”
Hecuba shook her head. “Pray for no such thing, daughter. Grief is the only way left for me to love him. My heart aches for the loss of that sweet face.” Clutching at her breasts, a tear slid down her cheek. “These still ache because I only briefly suckled him. No, dearest daughter, don’t pray that my grief is lifted. I need it to survive.”
“As you wish it, Mother.”
“This morning is your day. No more unhappy words. Let’s rejoice in your joining the order of the god. Are you frightened?”
“A little,” Cassandra admitted.
Hecuba embraced her daughter. She inhaled the sweet essence of her hair and the gentle shoulders of a girl not yet a woman. Tears stung the queen’s heavily kohl-lined eyes, clinging stubbornly to her lower lashes. She pulled back, holding her daughter’s shoulders in each hand. “I’ve never been more proud of you than this day. I think I have not loved you so much as this moment.”
“I’m glad I make you proud, Mother.”
The queen took her daughter’s face between her hands and met her eyes. “No matter where the god leads you, where this journey takes you, I will always remember my little Cassandra splashing in the fountain, giggling with me at noon naps, and her sweet, gentle kisses on my cheek. Know this, my love. And forget it not. Forget me not.”
“I’ll remember. I promise.”

THE COOL MORNING light gave way to the warm afternoon as the procession to Apollo’s temple wound through the maze of the stone paved streets of Troy. Throngs of citizens watched as the Princess Cassandra made her pilgrimage to the god. Flower petals like soft rain fell about her head; their honeyed fragrance filled the air. The people rejoiced that a royal daughter would serve the most revered god and by default serve them with her beauty and influence.
Cassandra counted each step with growing anticipation and fear. There were exactly seven platforms of seven stairs each leading to the main entrance between seven rows of enormous pillars. Once inside, attendants led the princess to a dimly lit private chamber. Inside, a bowl of flames licked the air at the feet of an enormous golden statue of the god.
“Remove your clothing,” the high priestess commanded.
Cassandra’s heart raced. Her tongue nervously passed over her lips. “Why?”
The high priestess pressed her lips tightly together. Her face a wrinkled mask of disdain? Anger? “The god commands it of us all,” she replied evenly.
The princess reached up and unfastened the golden pins holding her gown at the shoulders. It floated silently to the floor. Embarrassed, she wrapped her arms across her bare breasts and squeezed her thighs closer together in a futile effort to conceal the dark patch of hair from the high priestess. “What do I do now?” Cassandra asked.
“Lay on your back before the god.”
Cassandra looked down at her feet. “There’s no covering or rug? I’m to lie on the bare floor?”
“Nothing of this world shall touch your flesh, only the hands of the god. After you’re confirmed.”
“For your virginity.”
Cassandra’s eyes widened. “I am a virgin. I swear. I—”
“All young women make such proclamations. Who would admit their defilement at the feet of the god? Now, lie down before him.”
Cassandra’s knees shook as she knelt on the cold marble, never once taking her arms from her breasts. She lay down as commanded. The high priestess placed a warm palm on her lower belly and used her other hand to spread Cassandra’s legs. Tears of humiliation burned behind the princess’ closed eyes. The elder woman’s fingers pressed into her privates with difficulty, before she felt a slight sting and a burning sensation. The woman withdrew her hand and wiped a small amount of blood on a piece of linen.
“Apollo will be pleased. You are intact and smaller than most initiates.” She took the cloth smeared with Cassandra’s blood and placed it in the bowl of fire at Apollo’s feet. The flames hissed and spewed white smoke into the air.
The soft-falling footsteps of the high priestess disappeared, leaving the Princess of Troy alone. Cassandra allowed her tears to slide down her cheeks where they pooled in her ears. Her entire body shivered, as the dark marble floor chilled her bare skin. Time passed slowly and she drifted to hazy sleep to escape the unknown.
A warm breath blew across her shoulder, startling her.  She tried to sit up, but a heavy, hot hand pressed her shoulder back down. A masculine voice whispered gently into her ear, “Close your eyes. Don’t open them unless I command.”
Cassandra’s eyelids obeyed the command. She tried to cover her privates with her hands, but her body no longer responded to her wishes. What is happening? He can see me. Mama, what’s happening? Why did you bring me here? Even though she couldn’t see him, the heat of his observation burned her skin.
“You are confirmed?” the voice asked.
With a quivering voice, Cassandra replied, “Yes.”
“I am pleased.”
“You are Apollo?”
“Who else would I be?” Apollo said. “Don’t talk. I want to look at my offering. Make certain it pleases me.”
Apollo’s warm touch slid over every inch of her. He ran his fingers across her breasts, cupping each one. “Satisfactory.” Apollo slipped his hand between her thighs, pressing his fingers into her opening, testing her virginity. Cassandra squirmed against Apollo’s intimate probing.  “You’re … not ready to accommodate a god.”
Cassandra squeezed heavy tears from her eyes. “Apologies.” Her voice vanished into the vast chamber.
The god moved over her naked body like a wave of hot air. “No need for such mortal expressions to me.” Tiny tongues of flame swirled across her skin, burning and enticing her to writhe against them. Her body vibrated with the heat. She fought to keep her eyes shut. She fought to stifle a scream. Terror filled her. For the first time, she realized that being taken by a god would not be what the weaving women spoke of. There would be no gentleness or caressing her to shaking legs.
The marble beneath her shook and slowly her body rose from the floor. Her head fell back, suspended by nothingness. Her hair tumbled like a waterfall spilling onto the marble. Burning hands grabbed her thighs and spread them forcefully apart. Her arms were useless to help her. They weighed as two anchors at her sides. The heat of Apollo moved between her open legs. He slowly pushed a searing flame into her sacred cross. Cassandra howled with agony. Her body twitched and arched in protest of Apollo’s invasion of her most intimate places. When he was finished, she felt the hot liquid of their union seeping from her and pooling beneath her bare buttocks.
“Your reaction is most displeasing.” Apollo’s disappointment echoed in the chamber.
The god’s hold on her released, so Cassandra pulled her legs closed and sat painfully upright. The marble floor beneath her had risen into a large altar.
“Open your eyes.”
Cassandra obeyed, but kept her focus directed away from the direction of Apollo.
“Look upon the magnificence you spurn with your mortal fear.”
Her eyes traced a path along the floor toward the sound of Apollo’s voice. She glanced up and beheld the most beautiful creature she’d ever seen leaning casually against his own statue. He stood unashamedly naked and taller than any man she’d ever known—even Hektor himself would be dwarfed by such size. She averted her gaze from his fiery member. The god’s skin shimmered like liquid gold. His eyes burned bright blue and orange. His hair curled perfection of honeyed crystal veined with silver.
Cassandra met his gaze. “I’m sorry I haven’t pleased you.” Thank the other gods. Now, I can go home. I want my mother.
“Dry your eyes. I have no pity for mortal fear. What do I care for your sentiments? I don’t. I take what is owed me. I take what I want. Sometimes, I’m satisfied. This time, unfortunately for you, I am not.”
“Am I to be rejected?”
Apollo stroked his chiseled chin with long elegant fingers. “No. No. No, you will serve me, simple mortal. I grant you the foresight you desire.”
Cassandra bowed her head. “I’m grateful.” The words burned her in the back of her throat.
“You may not be, considering your words will always fall upon deaf ears.”
“Why do you hand your blessing with a curse?”
“It will make the games … much more interesting.”
“The games?”
“Mortals,” the god sighed in exasperation. “You intrigue from afar, yet up close you tend to bore. Your prayers and supplications are our greatest entertainment, and I admit, a source of competition.”
Understanding dawned on Cassandra. “We are nothing but pawns to you? Our lives … meaningless to you?”
“Now, by the balls of Zeus, she sees.”
“What’s to become of me?”
“You’ll be trained, here, in my temple. Serve me. Obey me. Submit to me without question.”
Tears stung her eyes. “And if I refuse?”
Apollo’s laughter rang sweetly through the chamber. “You’re one to question. There’s no right of refusal, unless you wish a plague or two to sweep the citadel.”
Cassandra realized reasoning with Apollo would be futile. She knew submission must come. She couldn’t bear it if her disgust and disillusionment for Apollo should bring harm to Troy. I’ll protect Troy no matter what he commands. Serving the god would not be the joyful serenity she believed it would be. “I accept your blessing, Apollo.” She lowered her head. “I give my full obedience to the god.”
“There it is! My docile mortal has finally figured out the game. You may end up pleasing the god … in time.”
When Cassandra looked up, he was gone. She glanced about the chamber. The fire was out. The light had dimmed and she felt suddenly chilled. Within moments the high priestess entered, followed by three young female attendants. The first carried a bowl, the second a towel, and the last a fresh chiton. They looked so young, younger than she. Had they also been subjected to Apollo’s assault? She shuddered at the thought.
“Step down, Cassandra. You must be cleansed,” the high priestess commanded.
Cassandra slid from the altar. “Is it always this way? With Apollo?”
“Only the chosen are bound to Apollo as you now are. The rest serve in peace.”
“What do you mean … serve in peace?”
“Spread your legs so you may be washed clean of your blood and the god’s flow.”
She looked down at her thighs and saw her blood mingled with pale silver liquid—the contrast a beautiful mess, smearing her legs with the visible evidence of how the god raped her and stole her virginity. A single thought horrified her. “I will not conceive a child from this, will I?”
“Only if the god wishes it.”
As the maids busied themselves bathing and dressing her, tears once again welled and spilled down Cassandra’s cheeks. Her life was no longer her own. Her body was no longer her own. Her mind would no longer be her own. Apollo would be life and torment for her. She would curse and serve him until her death.

Meet the Author 

In graduate school, Janell focused on the ancient history of Greece and Rome. Hooked by the “sword and sandal” world, she studied everything she could about mythology and Alexander the Great.

The Homeric Chronicles series is dedicated to merging dozens of Greek myths, including Homer’s epics, with plays, history, and archaeology. Her intent is to raise the heroines’ voices equally alongside the heroes, opening up a traditionally male focused genre to a female audience.

She lives in CA and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She has a pack of two big dogs and two cats.

Author links:
WebsiteFacebook ~ TwitterGoodreads 

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

One Winner will win a $50 Amazon gift card.
Open Internationally until the 20th December.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Janell Rhiannon / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
First published in the UK by Heinemann in October 1911.

Z for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge and my 12th read for my Classics Club Challenge.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook via Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Zuleika Dobson is a highly accomplished and superbly written book whose spirit is farcical,' said E. M. Forster. 'It is a great work--the most consistent achievement of fantasy in our time . . . so funny and charming, so iridescent yet so profound.'

Originally published in 1911, Max Beerbohm's sparklingly wicked satire concerns the unlikely events that occur when a femme fatale briefly enters the supremely privileged, all-male domain of Judas College, Oxford. A conjurer by profession, Zuleika Dobson can only love a man who is impervious to her considerable charms: a circumstance that proves fatal, as any number of love-smitten suitors are driven to suicide by the damsel's rejection. Laced with memorable one-liners ('Death cancels all engagements,' utters the first casualty) and inspired throughout by Beerbohm's rococo imagination, this lyrical evocation of Edwardian undergraduate life at Oxford has, according to Forster, 'a beauty unattainable by serious literature.'

My primary reason for choosing to read Zuleika Dobson was that its title begins with the letter Z and I am rapidly running out of time to complete this year's Alphabet Soup Challenge! When I saw the novel acclaimed as one of Modern Library's Top 100 Novels it occurred to me that it would be ideal for my Classics Club Challenge as well - and its low Kindle price decided the purchase! While reading, the era and style reminded me of Aldous Huxley's Chrome Yellow which features a similarly upper class cast and wickedly observed humour.

Beerbohm was primarily an essayist and caricaturist - I believe this is his only novel - and this comes across throughout the work. Individual characters, especially among the supporting cast, are vividly portrayed. I loved the aloof Warden, the unfortunate Mr Noaks, and the wonderful Mrs Batch. Beerbohm's love of Oxford shines through as well. I've only visited the city for one day, but he obviously knew its streets and colleges very well. He captures the sense of history in both its serious and its dafter incarnations. The story itself is silly, but entertainingly so and, for a novel written over a century ago, there aren't many diversions into pretentious speeches or philosophy so Zuleika Dobson is a well-paced read.

I am not convinced I would include Zuleika Dobson in my own Top 100 Novels list, but I am glad to have found an opportunity to read it and would happily recommend the novel as an amusing and diverting read - particularly if you need a Z!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Max Beerbohm / Humorous fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Light Of The Fireflies by Paul Pen

The Light Of The Fireflies by Paul Pen
First published in Spanish as El brillo de las luciernagas by Plaza And Janes in Spain in 2013. English language translation by Simon Bruni published in America by AmazonCrossing in April 2016.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For his whole life, the boy has lived underground, in a basement with his parents, grandmother, sister, and brother. Before he was born, his family was disfigured by a fire. His sister wears a white mask to cover her burns.

He spends his hours with his cactus, reading his book on insects, or touching the one ray of sunlight that filters in through a crack in the ceiling. Ever since his sister had a baby, everyone’s been acting very strangely. The boy begins to wonder why they never say who the father is, about what happened before his own birth, about why they’re shut away.

A few days ago, some fireflies arrived in the basement. His grandma said, There’s no creature more amazing than one that can make its own light. That light makes the boy want to escape, to know the outside world. Problem is, all the doors are locked. And he doesn’t know how to get out…

I read Daniela at Bookiverse's enthusiastic review of The Light Of The Fireflies a while ago which reminded me that I had this novel awaiting reading. I actually borrowed it from my partner through our linked Amazon accounts and he had been critical of the story's overall plausibility so I went into reading the book with a middling level of expectation!

This is certainly a gripping thriller. I loved Pen's descriptions of the family and their underground existence. Telling the story from different time points worked well for me. We think we understand what has happened to force this family into such extreme circumstances, but then a jump back in time reveals far darker events. I could see where my OH would have stepped back from believing, however by simply accepting that these parents could have made such an outrageous decision, I could remain invested in what they did. It is shocking to imagine how people could be driven to such lengths and I especially hated how the parents treated their daughter. At times I think this novel could be considered a horror book. There were plenty of breathtaking and scary moments for me and I begrudged occasionally having to set the book aside because I was so eager to find out how everything would be resolved.

Thinking back now in order to write this review I accept that there are hang-on-a-minute aspects that didn't quite sit right and I could have done without the final section altogether. Despite that though, The Light Of The Fireflies is an exciting novel and unlike anything I usually read so I appreciated its novelty.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Paul Pen / Horror fiction / Books from Spain

Friday, 7 December 2018

Tangled Vines by Megan Mayfair

Tangled Vines by Megan Mayfair
Published by Crooked Cat Books on the 3rd December 2018.

Add Tangled Vines to your Goodreads

Amelia O'Sullivan is a photographer who has always viewed herself through the wrong lens. When her marriage publicly crashes around her, she flees to the safety of her aunt's country property to pick up the pieces. Can she adjust her focus to what she really wants from her life?

Born into a wealthy and powerful family, Frederick Doyle may seem like a man who has it all, but behind the scenes, a bitter business feud threatens an irrevocable family split. As he fights for control of the winery he'd built from the ground up, he finds a supportive ally in Amelia and becomes increasingly beguiled by her creative spirit.

Jill McMahon is a successful novelist suffering from writer's block over her latest manuscript. Finding her niece, Amelia, at her door, reminds her of the bonds of family, but in seeing Amelia and Frederick's relationship grow, a long-forgotten and painful secret threatens to re-surface.

Can Amelia, Frederick and Jill untangle themselves from their pasts or will history simply repeat itself?

Meet the author

Megan’s stories are about families, intrigue and love. Every book contains a bit of humour and a lot of heart.

Megan lives in Melbourne with her husband and three children, and has a background in public relations and higher education.

She drinks far too much coffee and has an addiction to buying scarves. She interviews with other authors for her blog series, Espresso Tales, and loves a bit of #bookstagram.

Her debut novel, The Things We Leave Unsaid, was released by Crooked Cat Books in 2018. Tangled Vines is her second novel.

Author links: 
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Megan Mayfair / Romance fiction / Books from Australia

Thursday, 6 December 2018

The Darkness That Divides Us by Renate Dorrestein

The Darkness That Divides Us by Renate Dorrestein
First published in Dutch as Het duister dat ons scheidt by Contact in the Netherlands in 2003. English language translation by Hester Velmans published in the UK by World Editions International in April 2015.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Growing up in a peaceful Dutch village with her eccentric mother and their two endearing male lodgers, Lucy is the popular leader of the pre-school set—until a bizarre crime rocks her world. After her mother has served time for murder, Lucy, her mother and her ‘uncles’ leave the village to start over in the Outer Hebrides. But even in this remote corner of the world, the past has a way of catching up with her…

The Darkness That Divides Us is written in three sections which chart the growing up of Lucy. The first section is narrated by an unknown preschool child and enables to see Lucy from the outside, so to speak. The second and third sections are narrated by Lucy herself when she is twelve years old and when she turns eighteen. I loved that the sentiments and understanding of each section is appropriate to the age at which Lucy is depicted, although the language used is adult, of course. This allowed me to see Lucy as the child she should have been even though the events that occurred when she was just six years old pushed her, in some respects, into a maturity beyond her years. Dorrestein has a brilliant understanding of the pack mentality of young children, especially their spite and their lack of awareness of the potential consequences of their actions. She also vividly portrays Lucy's loneliness and her internalising of blame which should have been apportioned to the adults around her.

In the first section we get a wonderful view of the shiny new housing estate in which Lucy's unorthodox family setup is initially a central focus, but soon becomes the focus for blame as every other family turns against them in the aftermath of the murder. In order to preserve their own self-justification, we see the mothers tutting over Lucy's apparent neglect yet without any one of them stepping out of their self-imposed lines to help her. Instead the bullying attitudes of the children are reinforced by their parents' behaviour towards this Otherness that they perceive as a threat. All the time, as readers, we don't know the truth of what has occurred and have only a child's understanding of the adults' half-hidden conversations. This makes for a tensely gripping novel that I could hardly bear to set aside for a minute!

I did fear that removing Lucy and her household from this hothouse would destroy Dorrestein's perfectly rendered atmosphere, but in fact the claustrophobia of the tiny Hebridean community they join contrasts gorgeously with her descriptions of the wild windswept island. The story changes as Lucy's advanced age allows her to pick up more clues from what her mother and 'uncles' avoid saying which, in turn, enabled me to stretch my ideas of What Really Happened. That Dorrestein could keep me guessing right to the end made The Darkness That Divides Us a truly compelling novel. I loved its insightful portrayal of different human relationships and the deceptive lengths people will go to in the belief that they are protecting their loved ones - even though the result of such protection may well be more damaging than if honesty had prevailed from the start.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Renate Dorrestein / Mystery fiction / Books from the Netherlands

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Unexpected America by Wanjiru Warama + #Giveaway

Unexpected America by Wanjiru Warama
Published by Athomi Books in November 2016.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook via Smashwords

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ms. Warama leaves Kenya in a huff and heads to the United States where she doesn't know a soul. From the first day, she realizes she has to learn to live all over again in a new culture she knows nothing about. Loneliness debilitates her until she meets "Mr. Savior" who becomes not only her savior but her lover and abuser. Money runs out and she has to housekeep and babysit to buy a ticket back home. She keeps her tribulations hidden from her family and friends as the idealized American lifestyle turns into a mirage, which Warama plods along like one tethered, hoping her persistence pays off.

Unexpected America was an interesting memoir for me to read because Wanjiru Warama describes her emigration to America in quite a different style. For a start, her choice between whether to study in the UK or the USA is almost arbitrary so she didn't previously have any particular yearning for the country and I could appreciate the culture shock she must overcome during her first months at university. I got the feeling that Warama really hadn't prepared for such an alternative lifestyle which is completely understandable in the circumstances. The memoir does seem to hop around a bit at the beginning, but imparts a good sense of the situations in which Warama finds herself. At times I found myself willing her to be more assertive and stand up for herself, but I can't imagine myself as having been any stronger in such circumstances. That Warama's life eventually turned out as it has is as a result of her perseverance, willingness to keep restarting until she found her niche, and a sprinkling of fortune - both good and bad. Unexpected America is a relatively quick read, but an insightful one nonetheless.

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is an ebook copy of Unexpected America by Wanjiru Warama which I will gift to the winner via Smashwords. This giveaway is not affiliated with either the author or Smashwords.
Open internationally until midnight (UK time) on the 19th December 2018.

Entry is by way of the Gleam widget below.
(GDPR: Gleam will ask for your email address so that I am able to contact the winner. I will then need to pass the winner's email address on to Smashwords to send out the ebook.)

Unexpected America by Wanjiru Warama memoir ebook giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Wanjiru Warama / Biography and memoir / Books from Kenya

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Nutcracker Sweets at Moonglow by Deborah Garner + #Giveaway

Nutcracker Sweets at Moonglow by Deborah Garner
Published in America by Cranberry Cove Press on the 16th November 2018.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The small Montana town of Timberton has a way of bringing magic to the holidays, especially for guests of the local hotel. Resident artist and chef Mist has a way of touching people's lives with exquisite cuisine, imaginative art, and her own ethereal nature. 

When a nearby theatre burns down just before Christmas, cast members of The Nutcracker arrive at the Timberton Hotel with only a sliver of holiday joy. Camaraderie, compassion, and shared inspiration combine to help at least one hidden dream come true. As with every Christmas season in Timberton, this year's guests will face the New Year with a renewed sense of hope. 

*Cookie and candy recipes included!

The Moonglow Series...
Each book may be read as a stand-alone novel, or as part of the series.
Mistletoe at Moonglow, Book 1
Silver Bells at Moonglow, Book 2
Gingerbread at Moonglow, Book 3
Nutcracker Sweets at Moonglow, Book 4

It must be getting on for Christmas again because it's time for my annual visit to the Timberton Hotel in Montana to see what magical delights Mist and her friends will set in motion this holiday season. We missed a few of the hotel's regular guests this year although others stepped into their places and Deborah Garner certainly has swathed her novella in festive cheer and tradition. I felt that this fourth story didn't quite have the depth of the previous three and at times scenes seemed rushed. I wanted to know more about what the art gallery reception entailed and I thought we didn't get as much detail as usual on the guests backstories and interactions with Mist, Betty and the rest of the townsfolk. However, I loved the idea of the finale setpiece! Dreams absolutely can come true at Christmastime, especially for the lucky people who found their way to Timberton!

About the author
Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.

Find the author on the following sites...

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Monday, 3 December 2018

The Storm by Tomas Gonzalez

The Storm by Tomas Gonzalez
First published in Spanish as Temporal in Colombia by Alfaguara in 2013. English language translation by Andrea Rosenberg published by Archipelago Press tomorrow, the 4th December 2018.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From one of Colombia’s most acclaimed contemporary novelists, The Storm is an atmospheric, gripping portrait of the resentments that devastate one family. Twins Mario and Javier do not know how to cope with the hatred they feel for their father, an arrogant man whose pride corrodes everything he touches. Perched on the edge of the Caribbean Sea, the family is trapped in spiral of distrust, love, and fear that belies the lush, calm landscape about them and that explodes over the course of a fateful fishing trip straight into the maw of a brutal storm.

The Storm is an intensely powerful novella which is set, hour by hour, over the course of a single day and night as a father and his twin sons go on a fishing trip. Their suitably macho goal is to bring back food for the eighty or so guests in their successful seafront holiday resort however, like that Playamar complex, this family is a cracked and crumbling edifice that may not last through the night. From the first sentences, such as
"Despite the chill at this early hour, Mario wasn't wearing a shirt. The heat of his resentment toward his father kept him warm enough."
Andrea Rosenberg's expert and sympathetic translation makes sure that Gonzalez's ideas fairly crackle off the page and I loved how we readers see events unfurl from three perspectives. Twins Mario and Javier out at sea in a small fishing boat together with their despised father are physically nearest to the approaching storm, but seem least able to comprehend its threat. On land, a chorus of brief first-person monologues from the Playamar guests show us their carefree holiday attitudes gradually changing to anxiety, especially as word gets around that only the one boat remains at sea. And Dona Nora, the twins' mother, maintains the slimmest grasp on reality as, with her head full of competing voices, she is sent more frenziedly into her own imagined world by the energised air. I thought the melding of these narrative lines turned what at heart is a simple tale into a gripping masterpiece!

Several other reviewers I noticed mention Gonzalez's portrayal of fragile and damaged masculinity as the central theme of The Storm. The father appears absolutely convinced of his superiority to everyone else and yet his need to constantly reinforce this belief with a stream of patronising insults belies him. His sons have grown up past the age where they idolised him, and now his incessant griping leaves them resentful and fractious. They saw their mother mentally destroyed by years of their father's selfish behaviour and yearn for freedom, yet his bullying has cowed them all so much that escape would require some kind of dark miracle.

I felt increasingly tense through The Storm as there is a certain inevitability to events. The boat and the resort are definitely in the path of this storm, but Gonzalez doesn't ever take the easy route of disaster-thriller. He never allows pace to get away from him and I loved the glimpses of nature, beauty and light we get amid the mayhem. Children rush through the dark to hunt crabs on the beach, and the father spots an orange sunset just visible off to the side of a huge black storm cloud. At the heart of this story though is the wonderful Greek tragedy of this father and his sons. The metaphor of the gathering tempest is perfect to reflect their antagonism towards each other.

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Sunday, 2 December 2018

Christmas At Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell

Christmas At Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell
Published by Choc Lit tomorrow, the 3rd December 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Add Christmas At Black Cherry Retreat to your Goodreads

What if you had nowhere to call home for Christmas? 
When Fee Winter books a winter break at the remote Black Cherry Retreat in the small town of Pine Ridge, Tennessee, it’s with the idea that the peace and quiet will help her recuperate from her hectic life as a photographer.

But what she didn’t bank on was meeting Tom Chambers and his huge, interfering yet lovable family. With them, could Fee finally experience the warmth and support that’s been missing from her own life – and maybe even find a place to call home in time for Christmas?

I don't read much romance fiction so Christmas At Black Cherry Retreat is quite a step from my literary comfort zone. However I wanted a seasonal novel or two to help with getting myself into the Christmas spirit and the cover art on this one is just perfect! The story itself takes place over the months from just before Halloween until just after Christmas so, being set almost entirely in America, this covers the Thanksgiving holiday too. Christmas does just manage sneak a look in at the end. 

I liked the leading characters who meet at Black Cherry Retreat. Fee is an English war photographer who is in quite a bad place mentally and physically as a result of her lover's violent death in Afghanistan. Tom is Black Cherry Retreat's owner and also torn up over a previous relationship as he blames himself for his wife's murder. It sounds like a pretty dark start, but isn't so bleak! Fee and Tom are complete opposites in upbringing, life experience and expectations so this is a classic opposites attract romance story. Britnell has created thoroughly believable characters and I enjoyed reading about their initial attraction, burgeoning friendship and beyond. I just wish everything hadn't been compressed into such an unrealistically short timescale. Britnell deftly portrays Fee as this intensely independent and emotionally damaged woman, then expects readers to believe that instalove will allow her to simply shrug off decades of emotional neglect.

The story includes a number of odd dead ends too. We are introduced to characters who then vanish without any further mention and events that should be emotionally huge pass by in just a couple of pages seemingly leaving no lasting impact. Plus a subplot about Tom's wife's murderer fizzled out leaving me wondering why so much effort had been made to set it up. Overall I felt needed a more plausible storyline in order for Christmas At Black Cherry Retreat to totally convince me. If you can suspend disbelief, it's a heartwarming tale of the redemptive power of love, family and food (lots of food!), but for me there wasn't enough realism to keep me invested.

Meet the author

Angela grew up in Cornwall, England and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee. A lifelong love of reading turned into a passion for writing contemporary romance and her novels are usually set in the many places she's visited or lived on her extensive travels. After more than three decades of marriage to her American husband she's a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after. Over the last twelve years she’s been multi-published and sold over 25 novels. She also writes short stories for women’s magazines. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, the Romance Writers of America and the Music City Romance Writers.

Author links: 
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

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Saturday, 1 December 2018

The Lights of Time by Paul Ian Cross + #Giveaway + Excerpt

The Lights of Time by Paul Ian Cross
Published in the UK by Farrow Children's Books on the 27th November 2018.

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Engella Rhys is alone, adrift and on the run. Pursued by a secret agency, known only as the Hunters, she must stay ahead to stay alive.

As she travels through space-time using dangerously experimental technology, she only has one wish: to be reunited with her lost parents. After a close shave with a Hunter on the streets of New Shanghai, Engella escapes to find herself on a deserted beach. When she meets a kind stranger, who offers her food and shelter, Engella feels safe and protected for the first time in years.

But who is this woman? And why did their paths cross at the most convenient of times?

Engella soon discovers their lives are intertwined in more ways than she could ever imagine.


Early on in the book, we meet Eduardo ‘Eddie’ Reyes – a key character in the novel – who is fascinated by a series of strange lights which appear on the horizon…

2016-JUL-05 19:27 – Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, United States of America

As he rested his head in his hands, Eduardo Reyes watched the patterns of sunlight as they formed on the slopes of Turtleback Mountain. He was supposed to be sweeping but he paused, just for a minute, for a well-deserved rest. The desert was silent except for the occasional howl of a coyote from deep inside the dusk. The stars began to appear, and the warm summer air cooled. A breeze picked up and Eddie was reminded it was time to get back to work.
He gripped the broom and brushed the dust and sand from the porch. Eddie and his mom had their daily routine, which they’d followed for as long as he could remember. 
Maria would close down the restaurant for the night, waiting for the last customers to finish their food. She’d say her goodbyes, clear away the plates and prepare for the next day, before finally locking the glass doors as she left Maria’s Restaurant and Motel for the night. Eddie, however, would tidy the house which sat on the opposite side of Highway 181, a few minutes’ walk away, in preparation for his mom’s return home. He’d empty the trash before meeting her in the kitchen where they’d prepare their evening meal together. They’d talk about their day over dinner, as they shared the left-over food from the restaurant. ‘Waste not, want not,’ Maria would say.
Eddie salivated as he thought about the pecan pie which had been freshly baked that morning. He had already decided the pie had his name all over it. He yawned and turned to the hammock which hung between the two main wooden posts on either side of the porch. He dived in, disappearing briefly into a pile of cushions. Eventually, the swing of the hammock slowed and Eddie noticed the temperature had dropped considerably. He shivered, pulling a chequered blanket over her legs, and made sure to tuck himself in. He placed his hands under his head, satisfied now he’d finally finished his chores. To Eddie, dusk was the best part of the day. He loved the peace and quiet of the desert, and the way the light changed as the sun set: the silhouette of the mountain changing from a light grey to a deep purple.
Soda bubbled out as Eddie lifted the pull-tab of the can he’d placed outside in preparation. He removed the rest of the tab, sending little drops of the soda spitting everywhere. He gulped a mouthful and let out a sigh. Satisfied, his day was now complete.
After opening the camera app on his brand-new smartphone, which Maria had given him on his thirteenth birthday, he used the screen to check his image. The screen was filled with his big brown eyes, and he realised he was holding it a little too close. After adjusting his reach, his face was perfectly framed. He inspected his curly black hair and made sure his curls were still neatly placed, just as he liked them. 
He flicked through the photographs stored on his phone until he reached the picture he was looking for: a falcon pair nesting with their chicks. He had taken this particular shot during a hiking trip in the nearby nature reserve. He was incredibly proud to have taken such a high-quality image, especially as he’d only used a smartphone. His photographs were improving with every hike. This had been the photo opportunity he’d been waiting for, definitely good enough to upload to his various social media accounts, and perhaps even good enough to submit to a wildlife competition.
A flash in the distance caught his attention. The sky was clear and the stars were out in force.
‘There you are again,’ he said. ‘I’ll get you this time.’ This was not the first time he’d noticed the lights. They had appeared regularly over the last few months, flickering across the mountainside. He rummaged through his rucksack until he pulled out a pair of binoculars. By the time he had returned his gaze, the lights were gone.
Eddie surveyed the sky for any sign of a cloud, but there were none. In fact, the sky was perfectly clear. He had no idea where the lights were coming from. 
He waited and watched, and he thought he’d missed his chance. ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘Where have you gone?’
He was about to turn away, but a glint of light caught his eye. 
‘No way!’ Eddie yelled.
The lights were back. And this time, he was looking directly at them. Surprised at his luck, he raced to the edge of the porch. Two streaks of white danced across the horizon, and then, just as suddenly as they appeared, they warped and merged into a single orb of emerald light which, blinking away, then returned just as suddenly.
‘What the hell?’ Eddie said, and he grabbed his phone from his pocket. He flicked through to the camera app and tried to use the zoom function to focus the image. 
The lights were now as clear as day, but by the time he’d managed to prepare the shot, they’d flickered out again. 
Absolutely nothing remained. Only the black of night. 

Meet the author

Paul Ian Cross is a multi-award-winning children’s author and scientist from London, UK.

Paul works in clinical research (developing new medicines) and he’s also involved in science communication; presenting science to non-scientists. He enjoys his science career but he also has a real passion for writing stories! He likes introducing children to the wonders of science, especially reluctant readers. By introducing science creatively, he aims to spark their interest; allowing them to gain confidence with their reading. As a previous reluctant reader himself, he understands how hard it can be. But it’s all about making reading fun and interesting!

Paul’s nephew Hayden influenced his decision to become a writer. He loved seeing Hayden’s reaction when his sister Michelle first read one of Paul’s stories to him!

In his spare time, Paul likes to visit new and exciting places. One of his favourite places is Scotland, especially the Isle of Skye.

Paul’s debut picture book, Praxx and the Ringing Robot, won second prize in the ‘Picture Books 5 and Younger’ category at the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards 2017. The book trailer also won first place in the ‘book trailer’ category at the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards later that year.

Paul’s second book, Planet Scrabbage and the Vegerons, won an honourable mention in both the ‘Picture Books 6 and Over’ and ‘Health’ categories at the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards 2018.

And that brings us to now... Paul is currently working on several new books. Paul’s debut upper middle grade novel will be published in 2018. The Lights of Time is the first novel in a brand-new series: The Chronicles of Engella Rhys.

Paul hopes you enjoy reading his stories as much as he enjoyed writing them!

Author links: 
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ YouTube

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win a Kindle HD Fire 7” and a signed copy of The Lights of Time
Open to the UK only until the 5th December.

*Terms and Conditions –Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then RRR reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to UK entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time RRR will delete the data. RRR is not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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