Saturday, 21 April 2018

On The Cold Coasts by Vilborg Davidsdottir


On The Cold Coasts by Vilborg Davidsdottir
First published in Icelandic as Galdur by Forlagid in Iceland in 2000. English language translation by Alda Sigmundsdottir published by AmazonCrossing in 2012.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:


The Book Depository : from £5.74 (audio CD)
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : from : £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £0.01 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

When a fleet of one hundred English ships is caught in a horrible storm off the cold coasts of fifteenth-century Iceland, twenty-five ships are lost. For Ragna, the daughter of a respected family and betrothed to Thorkell, her relationship with one of the seamen washed ashore results in pregnancy. Now barren due to a traumatic childbirth and stigmatized as a fallen woman, she is left with no prospects for marriage when the betrothal is ultimately canceled.

A decade later, Ragna becomes a housekeeper to the new English bishop in North Iceland, where passionate and ambitious Thorkell is a priest and steward. They embark on a fervent but doomed love affair as priests cannot marry and Ragna will not be a concubine. Little does Ragna know but her host, the bishop, is instigating the conflict between the English and Nordic settlers to his own gain, with a devastating impact on his housekeeper. As sweeping as it is intimate, On the Cold Coasts is a powerful, enduring story of love and personal sacrifice.

I'm going to start by saying On The Cold Coasts is an ok story. For the £1 I spent on the Amazon ebook, it was quite good value, but there were several things that niggled and prevented a higher rating and more enthusiastic response.

Firstly, the synopsis gave me to understand that the book would follow the life of Ragna, a woman in fifteenth century Iceland. This is kind of true, but I felt the majority of the scenes actually focused on Men Doing Important Things while Ragna was relegated to the sidelines or even off into the kitchen. Her torrid romance with Thorkell left me pretty cold too. He occasionally notices she exists and they sleep together, which apparently is enough for her to consider him the love of her life. I know social standards were different back then, but this woman is excelling in a responsible job while raising a son singlehandedly. I just didn't buy that, romantically, she would allow herself to be so ignorantly treated!

Iceland itself is well described and I got a good sense of the religious struggles of the time. Various branches of the Church all believe Iceland's trading profits should be theirs and the English (of course!) Bishop is one of the most sly. Overall though, I think On The Cold Coasts just wasn't rich enough a historical novel for me. I do like to be swept up in lots of period detail and this story was more action-focused. So, yes, an ok read, but it's no Burial Rites!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Vilborg Davidsdottir / Historical fiction / Books from Iceland

Friday, 20 April 2018

The Little Book Of Hygge by Meik Wiking


The Little Book Of Hygge: The Danish Way To Live Well by Meik Wiking
First published by the UK by Penguin in September 2016.

How I got this book:
Won in a giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:


The Book Depository : from £5.29 (HB)
Wordery : from £8.23 (HB)
Waterstones : from : £7.99 (HB)
Amazon : from £0.52 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That's down to one thing: hygge.

'Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight...'

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

I managed to overstretch myself with book reviews this month and rather than facing the problem head on by steadily working through everything that's rapidly becoming overdue, I briefly chose the Head In Sand approach by picking up The Little Book Of Hygge instead. It wasn't even on my reading list! Won while we were travelling, my sister forwarded it onto me today. Appropriately it turns out that maintaining connections with friends and family is part of Hygge and probably the aspect I am worst at. Reclining on my vintage chaise longue (complete with its hand crocheted blanket made by Moi!) in order to read a book is strongly Hyggeligt. So is drinking frequent cups of tea and eating cake (baking my own cake is extra Hyggeligt!). Stressing about unwritten book reviews is not at all encouraged. I think I have finally found the lifestyle label that actually suits how I love to live!

My difficulty in reviewing The Little Book Of Hygge is in separating my enthusiasm for the lifestyle from my thoughts on the book itself. Certain aspects such as the overall idea, the inspirational photographs, the inclusion of recipes and crafts, and Wiking's gentle humour were definite positives for me. I also liked the sort-of science which identified similar concepts across Europe and the thoughts on the history of hygge. What didn't work so well for me was the repetition of ideas. Self help books are meant to be motivational and I accept that repetition is a strong part of reinforcing new habits, but by about two-thirds of the way through I started to feel that there were rather more pages available than material to fill them!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Meik Wiking / Self help books / Books from Denmark

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Sons Of Gods by Arthur J Gonzalez + Excerpt + Giveaway


Sons Of Gods by Arthur J Gonzalez
Published in America by Fahrenheit Publishing in January 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from £0.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add Sons Of Gods to your Goodreads

Long ago, the wrath of the three God brothers marked the onset of the Great War. The other Gods watched in horror, until they, too, were forced to take sides. Their beloved Mt Olympus collapsed, ruin was brought to all Divine, and the Age of Darkness gripped the world in its clutches. But a group of Gods was wise, and before their impending deaths, they had crafted a pact, committing to one day rebuilding the Territories – the Heavens, Seas, and the Underworld. It would usher in the world they protected and honored out from its darkness. And from it would rise the new Greats: the Sons of Gods.

Cienzo has always had an affliction for metal and fire; never did he anticipate it would one day translate to wielding dormant powers. It is during a journey to fulfill a promise to his dying sister, that he is plunged into a dark and magical world, and where great responsibility is bestowed upon him.

Is he worthy of assuming the throne of the Territories? Can shattering steel and splitting fire change his mind?

Excerpt

“Cal,” he said softly. “Trust me.”
Caleseus glared into Cienzo’s eyes. There was a small glimmer of something he had never seen before in them. The trip had surprised everyone, even Caleseus, a creature that had survived a world of extinct enchantment. But even this reality was incredibly untouchable for anyone’s imagination to conjure. Something grand was happening, Caleseus could feel it too.
“I did not see what your eyes did,” Caleseus continued. “But I promised Kayana to look after you. For me to do so, I must trust you. You have my word.”
Cienzo gave a nod. Caleseus nodded back, a slight bend in his step. And in that small moment, a world of understanding had been exchanged between the two. Cienzo sensed it at his core. Cal no longer accompanied him for the sake of Kayana. He might say so, but his earlier hesitation had been replaced, swapped by the belief that something great waited to expose itself. The world was changing, and together, they would encounter it.
“Now that that’s settled,” Zendaya said, gesturing for Cienzo to climb aboard Phobos. “Can we get on?”
Cienzo climbed Phobos’s back, grappling the jutting skin of the beast to pull himself upward. He flopped onto the velvet-cushioned seats. His heart raced as he strapped himself in. I’m about to take flight. His fingers trembled. What would it feel like? Never had he thought it a possibility to travel by air and not by land.
What else had he missed out on? The possibilities seemed inestimable.
Zendaya took her place beside him. She did not waste time strapping herself in. A sign of adeptness. Cienzo moved the same way around metal and fire. “Ready?” she asked.
He blew out a breath. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Our adventure begins.” She leaned forward and petted Phobos’s neck. The creature let out a moaning growl. “Let us fly,” she said. “Our time is now.”
Phobos’s wings launched outward like giant sails on a ship; so vast and dominating they veiled the view of the mammoth, frosted willow. She flapped lightly until they hovered just slightly in the air; the braided chain of the metal hung from her neck as it tugged on the cabin that held the centaur and the nymph. Then Phobos clenched her razor talons around the outcropped handle of the cabin’s domed roof and whisked them into the air as one would a pail of water.
Phobos plunged skyward toward the glittering moon. The beating, cold wind of flight tickled at Cienzo’s skin. A new sensation for his senses to query, for wind was an absent thing in Thilos. The pillow clouds broke away against the angles of his face; the collisions turning them to dust in the night.
He looked down as they soared over the crown of Thilos. The sinkhole swirled less furiously, the giant net sparkling against the moonlight like its own constellation.
The flames of firelight from the rescued houseboats flickered below them. The higher they ascended, the more a sense of freedom swelled in his chest. It was a feeling of invincibility, of infiniteness. He felt an air of the God that Zendaya claimed him to be.
Everything at this altitude was peaceful. Pain, he thought, was a disease of the land. He thought of Isla then and how much she would have enjoyed this adventure. In the sky, the moon offered tranquility, a melody to soothe away worry. Out in the deep distance, the Forcaian Mountains skewed the steamrolled horizon. Stars continued their tango around its peaks.
The Sea of Air blanketed the borders of Thilos and foaming waves fed the coastlines. From here, even the dangerous ocean seemed harmless and docile, as it was once made to be.
Zendaya eyed Cienzo as he inhaled the skies. His hair wildly slapped at the clouds. He felt her stare and turned his face. I probably look like a child. Eyes opening to a world that is only just unraveling around me. A deep longing shifted within him and his mind scrambled for peace.
“You think too much,” she said, the wind pummeling at her words. Her eyes remained unwavering. “The Skies will forever be yours to marvel over. For now, you should rest. Soon we will arrive.”

Meet the Author

Arthur J. Gonzalez is a Young Adult author of the Photo Traveler series. Originally born in Miami, FL, you can now find him living on the West side in Los Angeles. If he’s not drinking coffee or playing with his adorable Schnoodle, Sookie, then he’s probably enjoying a nap. Also, he forgets the lyrics to nearly every song.

Author links:
Website ~ Twitter ~ FacebookGoodreads



And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 26th April, the prize is a $25 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Arthur J Gonzalez / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop


The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop
Self published in America in February 2011.

Literary Flits Spotlight Giveaway Winner

Where to buy this book:


The Book Depository : from £8.95 (PB)
Wordery : from £8.94 (PB)
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from £2.94 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add The Last Letter to your Goodreads

Katherine wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t found the letter...

Katherine Arthur's mother arrives on her doorstep, dying, forcing her to relive a past she wanted to forget. When Katherine was young, the Arthur family had been affluent city dwellers until shame sent them running for the prairie, into the unknown. Taking her family, including young Katherine, to live off the land was the last thing Jeanie Arthur had wanted, but she would do her best to make a go of it. For Jeanie's husband Frank it had been a world of opportunity. Dreaming, lazy Frank. But, it was a society of uncertainty—a domain of natural disasters, temptation, hatred, even death. 



Ten-year-old Katherine had loved her mother fiercely, put her trust in her completely, but when there was no other choice, and Jeanie resorted to extreme measures on the prairie to save her family, she tore Katherine’s world apart. Now, seventeen years later, and far from the homestead, Katherine has found the truth – she has discovered the last letter. After years of anger, can Katherine find it in her heart to understand why her mother made the decisions that changed them all? Can she forgive and finally begin to heal before it’s too late?



Meet The Author
Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Author links:
Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kathleen Shoop / Historical fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Heirloom by Camillea + Free Book


Heirloom by Camillea
Self published in 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Available for free download from Payhip

How I got this book:

Downloaded the ebook from Payhip

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HEIRLOOM is a collection of 10 poems about lambs, mothers, and sleeping gods. Poems on finding the ancient in our skin.

I was woefully underprepared for April being Poetry Month but fortunately Daniela at Nocturnal Devices is on the ball! (To be fair, it's National Poetry Month in the US and here in the UK we just get one National Poetry Day in the autumn, so I'm joining in with the Americans!) In this post here, Daniela highlighted fellow blogger Camillea's chapbook, Heirloom. Happy to accept her recommendation, I downloaded the book straight away.

Heirloom is short yet powerful collection and it took me several slow reads to fully immerse myself into these poems. Camillea uses unexpected imagery to create her works so I couldn't take any easy route through the interpretation. I had to really think about almost every line (which, I admit, I often don't when reading poetry), however, by the end I appreciated having made the effort. Camillea focuses on the experience of women and the poem Biography Of The Mother is superb. I felt this poem was about the idea of an ancient Woman, but also generations of women living similar experiences and the power of this gender line being often unrealised.

Some of my favourite lines, clipped from different poems, include
"For when I speak loneliness fluently
my own name sounds unfamiliar"
"i will never teach
you to hold a gun, but i will teach you to hold your tongue steadier than
your grandfather’s pistol, and sharper than the lashings on your daddy’s back"
"was your love ever just breadcrumbs,
and your body only a dandelion path home?"
Camillea has a great turn of phrase! I accept that I didn't completely understand every poem, but loved the feeling of these words washing over me as I read and catching different glimpses of meaning with each reading. If you're looking for a strong poetry collection to read this Poetry Month, give Heirloom a try.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Camillea / Poetry / Books from the Philippines

Monday, 16 April 2018

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga + Giveaway


Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
First published in the UK by The Women's Press in 1988.

How I got this book:
Bought the paperback from World Of Books via Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £6.11 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.10 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £0.91 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatizes the 'nervousness' of the 'postcolonial' conditions that bedevil us still. In Tambu and the women of her family, we African women see ourselves, whether at home or displaced, doing daily battle with our changing world with a mixture of tenacity, bewilderment and grace.

"I was not sorry when my brother died. Nor am I apologising for my callousness, as you may define it, my lack of feeling. For it is not that at all. I feel many things these days, much more than I was able to feel in the days when I was young and my brother died, and there are reasons for this more than the mere consequence of age. Therefore I shall not apologise but begin by recalling the facts as I remember them that led up to my brother's death, the events that put me in a position to write this account. For though the event of my brother's passing and the events of my story cannot be separated, my story is not after all about death, but about my escape and Lucia's; about my mother's and Maiguru's entrapment; and about Nyasha's rebellion - Nyuha, far-minded and isolated, my uncle's daughter, whose rebellion may not in the end have been successful"

After such a striking first paragraph, I had high hopes for Nervous Conditions and I wasn't disappointed. First published in the 1980s, I was interested - and somewhat disappointed - to realise that a lot of the issues Dangarembga's characters face are still being written about as present day problems in novels thirty years later. Young Tambudzai is a child at the beginning of our story. She doesn't understand her mother's warning advice about her fate as a woman and instead strives to equal her spiteful brother, Nhamo. Nhamo is selected to follow in his uncle's footsteps and be educated at the Mission School. Uncle Babamukuru is the shining light of the extended family. Educated away from his family by white missionaries, he later was even able to study for five years in 1960s England, as did his wife Maiguru, and their children were partially brought up there. Babamukuru has a beautiful house, a good car and the job of Headmaster at the school. Everyone wants their children to emulate his success, but Dangarembga slowly pulls back a curtain to reveal what such Westernised success has destroyed.

Dangarembga illustrates how the culture clash of colonialism was to the extreme financial detriment of many black people unless they were the 'lucky' few chosen to live within while educational programmes and the like. In order to benefit however, those people had to forgo their traditional culture and replicate the restrictive white examples set them. What I found difficult to reconcile in my mind though was that the portrayal of black life is one of grinding poverty and constant labour, especially for the women. I often felt like yelling at the female characters to walk away and stand up for themselves, but of course - and as a couple of them discover - there is rarely anywhere to walk away to. Maiguru cannot use her academic brilliance in employment and having university degrees casts her as a loose woman. Obviously! Tambudzai might strive to equal and even surpass her brother, but what will she actually gain by that in a country where both black and white see excessive education as wasted on women.

I liked that Dangarembga doesn't attempt to offer easy solutions to her characters' predicaments. As a reader, I sometimes thought I saw an obvious solution, but I would soon realise I hadn't taken everything about a particular situation into account. I strongly felt for the women trapped in a certain traditionally proscribed existence and especially for those who had a glimpse of genuine alternatives (the niece partly raised in the UK for example) I couldn't begin to truly understand what they went (and are still going) through.


And now for the Giveaway!

Open internationally until midnight (UK time) on the 23rd April, the prize is my copy of Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Second-hand, yes, but still in good condition!
Entry is by was of the Gleam widget below:


Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga giveaway


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tsitsi Dangarembga / Contemporary fiction / Books from Zimbabwe

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood


The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
First published by Canongate in October 2005.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:


The Book Depository : from £5.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £7.34 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £0.32 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay...

I saw AJ Sterkel's review of The Penelopiad on her blog Read All The Things back in January and thought I might enjoy the book, so was then delighted to spot this reissue on NetGalley a few weeks later. I've had a copy of Homer's The Odyssey sitting on my bookshelf for at least a year now awaiting reading. I don't think I've ever actually read the whole book, although I know the gist of several of Odysseus' adventures, and I admit being put off by its 300-odd epic-poem-in-small-print pages. The Penelopiad's relative brevity was far more enticing!

Atwood focusses on what Penelope might have done and felt during the years Odysseus was away firstly at war and then 'lost' on his famous odyssey home, and has Penelope tell us her side of the story from the afterlife where she is still surrounded by many of the people she knew in life. Of one of her Suitors who still hangs around she says:
"The man was a pest when he was alive and a pest he remains."
Penelope's sense of humour frequently chimed exactly with mine so I appreciated her sarcasm and wry observations. For many years she is effectively a woman abandoned and emotionally alone so, while appearing strong to the outside world, privately she does indulge in an awful lot of weeping - one of the perils of a Naiad mother apparently. Too much water. Penelope is doomed to live in a state of limbo repeatedly hearing rumours of Odysseus' wanderings and minstrel songs of his adventures while never learning when or even if he will return home. I loved the dry interpretations:
"Odysseus was the guest of a goddess on an enchanted isle, said some; she had turned his men into pigs - not a hard job in my view - ... no, said others, it was just an expensive whorehouse and he was sponging off the madam."
I wasn't so enamoured of the Greek chorus of maids who burst into poetry or song every so often. I understood this inclusion as it is reflective of the original Greek sagas and a good way to advance the plot by several years in a few verses, but it didn't have the humour of the prose chapters. The maids themselves are perhaps the most hard done by, realistically so, in this Odyssey retelling. Abused and ill treated by the horde of Suitors, they are then the ones to face ultimate punishment at the hands of Odysseus and his now-adult son. Atwood researched a variety of sources for The Penelopiad and her interpretations of the maids' gruesome end was very interesting to me. Instead of taking the patriarchal tale at face value, she looks at scant clues remaining to offer a different understanding of their, and Penelope's, true roles. It's an idea I would like to see explored more fully.

Overall, I enjoyed much about The Penelopiad. It did feel a bit too much of an Odyssey summary in places and I think a longer historical novel from Penelope's viewpoint might have been more satisfying, but I liked how Atwood envisaged her and her world. I will now (eventually) go into reading The Odyssey itself from an angle other than the one Homer probably intended.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Margaret Atwood / Mythology / Books from Canada

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Territory Of Light by Yuko Tsushima


Territory Of Light by Yuko Tsushima
First published in Japanese as Hikari no Ry­obun in Japan by Gunzo in 1978 and 1979. English language translation by Geraldine Harcourt published by Penguin Classics on the 5th April 2018.

My 1970s read for my 2017-2018 Decade Challenge

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:


The Book Depository : from £9.99 (PB)
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : from £9.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £4.45 (PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

It is Spring. A young woman, left by her husband, starts a new life in a Tokyo apartment. Territory of Light follows her over the course of a year, as she struggles to bring up her two-year-old daughter alone. Her new home is filled with light, streaming through the windows, so bright you have to squint, but she finds herself plummeting deeper into darkness; becoming unstable, untethered. As the months come and go, and the seasons turn, she must confront what she has lost and what she will become.

At once tender and lacerating, luminous and unsettling, Territory of Light is a novel of abandonment, desire and transformation. It was originally published in twelve parts in the Japanese literary monthly Gunzo, between 1978 and 1979, each chapter marking the months in real time.

I loved this novella! It's one of those deceptively simple stories in which nothing really happens, but during its course we see how everything changes. Our story begins as our unnamed young mother and her toddler daughter move into a fourth floor apartment and ends a year later when they leave. Recently separated from her husband, the mother has to learn how to live alone, how to make her own decisions, and how to cope with the demands of her job and caring for her daughter.

I didn't realise until I came to write this review that Territory Of Light was written in the 1970s. Several aspects of the woman's relationship and deference to her estranged husband annoyed me to the extent I was muttering 'Stand up for yourself!' at my Kindle. However, for a woman to be contemplating divorce and initiating the proceedings herself forty years ago, especially in socially conservative Japan, is a strong statement of her increasing confidence and independence.

I was swept along by Tsushima's prose which is beautifully artistic in its descriptions. She focuses on light and colour to bring settings such as the apartment, the street and the park to life. Simple scenes such as cherry blossom petals falling onto a little girl are stunning and I was envious of the apartment - until the nets went up at least! The woman obviously struggles to cope and I could empathise with her determination to do her best even as she flounders.

Territory Of Light is a short book which I devoured in an afternoon, mainly because I just didn't want to set it aside and return to the real world! How people coped waiting for the original monthly magazine instalments is beyond me! I am now suffering quite a book hangover and plan to search out more of Tsushima's writing as soon as I finish this review. Hopefully this is not the only one of her books to have been translated.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yuko Tsushima / Novellas / Books from Japan

Friday, 13 April 2018

El Hacho by Luis Carrasco


El Hacho by Luis Carrasco
Published in the UK by Epoque Press on the 22nd February 2018.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £7.99 (PB)
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : from £7.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £1.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

The brilliant debut novel by Luis Carrasco, El Hacho is a timeless evocation of inheritance, duty and our relationship to the landscape that defines us. Set in the stark beauty of the Andalusian mountains it tells the story of Curro, an olive farmer determined to honour his family tradition in the face of drought, deluge and the lucrative temptations of a rapidly modernising Spain. Wonderfully crafted, El Hacho is a poignant and compelling story of struggle and hope.

I'm generally wary (and often downright sceptical) of a synopsis that starts with such high praise for the novel it describes, but in the case of El Hacho I can agree that 'brilliant' is completely justified! This novella beautifully evokes the hard lives of its rural Andalusian farming family and I loved spending the few hours with them that it took to read El Hacho. Having seen the dry Spanish landscapes that Carrasco describes, I could easily imagine this countryside. Even if I had not been there though, the descriptions are so vivid and detailed that every field and path springs to life.

Curro himself is a man completely at one with his land and, as he says, who could never envisage himself anywhere else even though the work to maintain his farm is back-breakingly hard. I did not envy him or his wife, Carmen, their seemingly endless labour, but I found myself hankering after their peaceful, natural home! Carrasco's understated prose complements Curro's taciturn ways perfectly and I particularly loved the strong bond between Curro and Carmen. This is a lovely read and a wonderful insight into a fast vanishing way of life.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Luis Carrasco / Novellas / Books from England

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The Tiger And The Acrobat by Susanna Tamaro


The Tiger And The Acrobat by Susanna Tamaro
First published in Italian as La Tigre e l'Acrobata in Italy by La nave di Yeseo in 2016. English language translation by Nicoleugenia Prezzavento and Vicki Satlow published by Oneworld in 2017.

How I got this book: Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : from £6.01 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £2.77 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Little Tiger is not like other tigers. She is curious about the world and always questions everything, not content to simply follow in her mother’s footsteps and spend her days hunting around their home in the snow forests of Siberia. Instead, she embarks on a remarkable journey, intent on discovering the secrets of the Earth and eventually finding the creature she has heard most about: man. 

This captivating story of a brave young tiger who refuses to give up on her dreams is a celebration of the power of nature and the beauty of innocence, and is a testament to the courage it takes to be true to ourselves. 

This is a lovely, gentle read whose ambience reminded me of Silk by Alessandro Baricco and  The Peculiar Life Of A Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault although the stories in each of these three books are very different. Little Tiger herself is a humanised creation so, while she does tiger-like things such as catching hares to eat, this isn't a realistic nature story. I felt it more as a philosophical imagining where the legendary power of tigers represents a facet of life, their isolation from each other is another facet, and their freedom a third. It's a meandering, thoughtful tale which I thought suited me well at the time I read time because I was in that kind of a mood, but I wonder if I might not have enjoyed it so much had I picked the 'wrong' time to read it. There are lessons on life and freedom, appreciating ourselves as we are and striving to fit where perhaps we weren't meant to be. The language is simple and the ideas are deep so this is a relatively quick read that lingers long after I finished the book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Susanna Tamaro / Contemporary fiction / Books from Italy

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Then There Were None by B P Smythe + Free Book


Then There Were None by B P Smythe
Published in the UK by Dolman Scott on the 16th March 2018.

Download a free B P Smythe short story from his publisher, Bloodhound Books or contact him directly to request a review copy of Then There Were None (author links below).

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £5.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £7.27 (PB)
Waterstones : from £5.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £2.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add Then There Were None to your Goodreads

Lydia Perkins is a struggling actress desperately looking for work. Drifting from one unsuccessful audition to the next and always being pipped at the post by younger and prettier actresses for good drama parts that could enhance her career. However, her agent Maurice Weinstock informs her that a fantastic part has just come up for grabs. It’s to play the wife in a TV sitcom. There are four other actresses after the part so he can’t promise anything. Lydia knows the actresses. She will stop at nothing including murder to get the right part for money and fame. Even if it means killing off the competition to land the lucrative TV sitcom role. Lydia knows how to handle a gun. Having grown up on her parent’s farm. She learnt how to shoot helping her father kill foxes and vermin as well as providing game for the Sunday roast. One by one Lydia kills off the opposition. It comes easy for her. She has killed before. Newspaper headlines called it a family tragedy with her parents shot dead by her sister suffering from depression. Only Lydia knows the truth. 

Meet The Author

B.P.Smythe studied engineering at Carshalton College and eventually became a member of the Institute of Quality Assurance. His engineering career took on many roles including toolmaking and being a technical writer for an artificial limb manufacturer. However, he always enjoyed putting pen to paper while raising quality manuals and writing reports. Wanting to expand his writing knowledge, B.P. obtained a Level 3 / NCFE Certificate / PI410 Creative Writing Diploma.

Sow And You Shall Reap is his first self- published novel. He has also submitted numerous short stories for internet competitions, winning £100 as first prize for his A Rose without a Thorn for the Spinetinglers Publishing online magazine and winning £50 first prize for his We’ll Meet Again in the Dark Places online magazine. Two of his other short stories, Love Me Do and My Secret Place have been published in the printed Litro Magazine (Issue 140).

In 2016 B.P. secured a three book deal of short stories from Bloodhound BooksFrom a Poison Pen is his first book of short stories for which he received over fifty positive reviews on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. His second book of short stories, From a Poison Pen Vol II, followed in September 2016.

Author links:
Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by B P Smythe / Thrillers / Books from England

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

No Live Files Remain by András Forgách


No Live Files Remain by András Forgách
English language translation by Paul Olchvary published in the UK by Scribner on the 5th April 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £11.09 (PB)
Wordery : from £10.93 (HB)
Waterstones : from £14.99 (HB)
Amazon : from £7.50 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For readers of The Lives of Others and The Reader, and based on a true story, No Live Files Remain is a beautiful and moving novel of family, lies, betrayal and forgiveness.

He wanted to understand the past.
Now he must live with the truth.

Thirty years after the fall of communism in Hungary, as acclaimed writer, translator, dramatist and visual artist Andras Forgach investigated his family's past he uncovered a horrifying truth. His mother, whom he deeply loved, had been an informant for the Kadar regime. She had informed not only on acquaintances but on family, friends and even her children.

In the eagerly anticipated No Live Files Remain, with rights sold around the world, Forgach gives voice to his deceased mother, holding her responsible for her deeds while defending the memories he cherished of her as a son.

A novel in the sense that some scenes have been fleshed out with imagined detail and dialogue, No Live Files Remain reads as a nonfiction memoir or history book through which Hungarian writer András Forgách works out his shock from discovering his mother's double life. Her meetings with her handlers are interspersed with the actual reports written by 'Mrs Papai' (Bruria), Forgách's father (also an informant and spy), and higher members of the Kadar regime. I found this switching of viewpoints quite difficult to follow at first although the use of clearly different fonts helps a lot. The writing, however, gives an atmospheric impression of Budapest at the time and of the paranoia within the family and Hungary itself. The Forgáchs are Jews, Hebrew-speaking Bruria having been born and raised in Palestine, so the regime is keen for insights in Israel and Zionism. Political and ideological clashes swirl all through this book in a way that is particularly evocative of the era.

I was a little bemused by a poetry interlude in the middle of No Live Files Remain. Following this, András Forgách speaks directly of his memories of childhood incidents that he now sees in a different light and how he feels about the way his mother was treated during her decade of informing. In its presentation, this is certainly an unusual book and it didn't all completely work for me. I did enjoy being transported back to 1970s and 1980s Budapest, especially having visited the city just last autumn, and learning about Jewish families split between Hungary, Palestine and Israel. Bruria's bemoaning her being stranded between two homelands, neither of which really feel like home, is particularly poignant and the discussions of Israel's annexation of Palestinian land was interesting considering that this is still ongoing over three decades later.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Andras Forgach / History books / Books from Hungary

Monday, 9 April 2018

Someone To Talk To by Liu Zhenyun


Someone To Talk To by Liu Zhenyun
First published in Chinese as Yi ju ding yi wan ju in China in 2009. English language translation by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-Chun published by Duke University Press on the 30th March 2018.

Where to buy this book:



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

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Tofu peddler Yang Baishun is a man of few words and few friends. Unable to find meaningful companionship, he settles for a marriage of convenience. When his wife leaves him for another man he is left to care for his five-year-old stepdaughter Qiaoling, who is subsequently kidnapped, never to be seen by Yang again.

Seventy years later we find Niu Aiguo, who, like Yang, struggles to connect with other people. As Niu begins learning about his recently deceased mother’s murky past it becomes clear that Qiaoling is the mysterious bond that links Yang and Niu.

Originally published in China in 2009 and appearing in English for the first time, Liu Zhenyun’s award-winning Someone to Talk To highlights the contours of everyday life in pre- and post-Mao China, where regular people struggle to make a living and establish homes and families. Meditating on connection and loneliness, community and family, Someone to Talk To traces the unexpected and far-reaching ramifications of seemingly inconsequential actions, while reminding us all of the importance of communication.

Unfortunately I gave up reading Someone To Talk To after 10%. I felt as though a new character was being introduced every couple of paragraphs, but with no chance to start to get to know any of them so the novel was becoming a procession of names with no context. Someone To Talk To is considered to be Liu Zhenyun's masterpiece and won the Mao Dun literary prize so other readers will probably get on with it better than I did, but this book just wasn't for me.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Liu Zhenyun / Contemporary fiction / Books from China

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Giant by Richard Georges


Giant by Richard Georges
Published in the UK by Platypus Press on the 23rd February 2018.

Where to buy this book:


How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Contemporary Small Press

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Giant is a manifestation, a creation story born of the ocean. Words turn over and under, shipwrecked then safe-shored. A blend of ghosts and myths meld and coalesce into being, as headstrong as the mountains, as wavering as the sea.

I was entranced by Richard Georges' poetry collection, Giant, from the very first words. With only limited experience of Caribbean literature, I wasn't sure what to expect, but found myself understanding and appreciating his visions out to the ocean from an island home. I felt a sense of timelessness from this poetry too. Connections with creation stories (and scientific truths) from across the globe blend together with memorable imagery such as this initial sentence from Giant:

"Having lost their sight in unlighted deep,
the gods of our fathers rose and strode
towards falling shards of sunlight"

This collection includes such almost mythical poems as well as poems describing specific places. Georges has a sharp eye for seemingly insignificant details and his vivid portrayals of sights as everyday as the angle of plants:

"tamarind trees lean over narrow 
coastal roads like wiry grandmothers"

allowed me to clearly envisage Caribbean landscapes as he does. We observe goats precariously but blithely feeding by the roadside and, later, see the grotesque image of a lamb who was less lucky with the traffic. We also learn of families blighted by alcoholism and grief.

Giant uncovers many aspects of island life that diverge from the tourist brochure promises, but I never thought that these poems lost hope. There is anger certainly, and a resentment perhaps of a colonial past that still rears its uniformed head from time to time but does not provide the basic resources to ensure that the lights stay on in the people's homes.

Since my initial reading of Giant, I have found myself returning to the book either simply to reread those poems I particularly liked or, more frequently, because a certain concept or turn of phrase suddenly occurred to me and I saw it in a new light. I love that I can continue to interpret and understand Georges' ideas in different ways.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Richard Georges / Poetry / Books from the British Virgin Islands

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Whisper by Krystal Jane Ruin + Excerpt + Giveaway


Whisper by Krystal Jane Ruin
Published in America by The Narcissistic Rose on the 3rd April 2018.

Where to buy this book:




Add Whisper to your Goodreads

Jade has been hearing voices since she was five. No, not voices. One voice.

After her twin brother is appointed vice president of their father’s company at the old age of twenty-two, the family starts falling apart. Her parents hate each other. Her brother is stressed. His girlfriend is a gold-digger if Jade’s ever seen one. And worse yet, it turns out she isn’t crazy-the voice in her head is real.

If she ignores it, it’ll drive her off a cliff, like it has done to every single woman on her father’s side for over 1000 years. If she listens, she’s told something terrible will happen.

The choice should be simple.





Excerpts

Excerpt #1
Logan jokes loudly at the other end of the lobby, entertaining a group of men with lewd jokes and wild stories from their recent trip abroad. My sweet, idiot brother leans against the wall grinning over at him, his stupid gray eyes full of trust. 
My leg bounces under my desk, spreading irritation through my body. There are no words for how pissed I am. I wish I could bring the ceiling tiles down on Logan’s head. My water bottle teeters in time with my agitation, and I clamp a hand over it to still it. 
Of course, I could. Probably. But if my father suspected me of being responsible, he’d have me carted off in a straitjacket.  
“Don’t worry about Logan. He will suffer. Come back and open the door.”
“How?” I force my eyes away from Logan and try to keep my voice low. No one is paying attention to me that I know of, but it’s awkward, talking out loud in an open space. For a second I wish the stupid voice could read my thoughts, but then I think better of it.
Honestly though, how crazy am I that the voice in my own head can’t hear me think?
“Sacrifice.”
“Yeah, you said that, but—” I cut myself off. David walks towards me with a small rectangular box full of padded envelopes. 
He drops it on my desk. “This is for Juliane.” He speaks slowly and stares at me hard like he’s trying to read my mind. He caught me talking to myself, I know it. And likely not for the first time.



Excerpt #2
I slip my hand away from Griffin’s and go stash myself in the kitchen. 
Mistake. 
My grandmother turns away from the fridge at my footsteps, and surprise lights across her face. “Jade…” She looks off to the side and draws her brows tight together. She says nothing else, and I say nothing either. The spacious, country-style room fills with awkward silence. 
She clears her throat and tucks a stray piece of silver hair back into her low ponytail. Then she pulls out pitchers of lemonade and iced tea and mixes them together into five tall glasses. I stare at her while she pours, and her hands start to tremble. She pinches her lips together and concentrates hard on the glasses. I still say nothing.
Arthur walks into the kitchen, through the archway behind her. “Let me help you with that, Mom.” He stops short and follows her gaze to where I’m standing. His face brightens. “Jade!” He crosses the room and pulls me into a warm hug. “You finally showed up. When’s the last time you saw her, Mom? Isn’t it great that she’s here?”
She gives me a tight-lipped smile that looks more like a grimace. “Yes. She’s…so beautiful.”
Cursed. She wanted to say cursed.



Meet the Author



Krystal is the author of supernatural and paranormal fiction, living in the Tennessee Valley with a collection of swords and daggers. When she's not hoarding stuffed pandas, hourglasses, and Hello Kitty replicas, she can be found in YouTube hole or blogging about books, writing, and random things at KrystalSquared.net.

Author links:
Website ~ Twitter ~ FacebookGoodreads



And now for the giveaway!
Open to US/Can until the 12th April, the prize is a vintage notebook & pen, a themed keychain, a couple of paper bookmarks, and a $15 iTunes gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Krystal Jane Ruin / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Friday, 6 April 2018

Perfect World volume 1 by Rie Aruga


Perfect World volume 1 by Rie Aruga
First published in Japanese in Japan by Kodansha Comics in February 2015. English language translation by Rachel Murakawa published by Kodansha Advanced Media on the 20th March 2018.

Where to buy this book:



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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tsugumi Kawana (26 years old) reunites with her first crush from high school, Itsuki Ayukawa, at a get-together with an architecture firm and the interior design company she works at. He sends her heart aflutter, until she realizes he's now disabled, and in a wheelchair. At first she feels she couldn't date a guy in a wheelchair, but then her feelings begin to change.

Perfect World is my very first graphic novel! I was encouraged to give one a try by the Metaphors And Musings blog post Why I love Graphic Novels and Comics and surprised myself by actually enjoying the book. I spotted Perfect World on NetGalley shortly after reading Kristen's post and specifically chose to download it because it features Disability On The Cover - also a topic Kristen has discussed so it seemed like fate!

No sniggering from experienced GN readers please(!), but it did take me a few pages to understand exactly how to read this book. The dialogue mostly flows from right to left across the page and different speech bubble shapes differentiate between spoken words and thoughts. I was impressed by the software used. My review copy of Perfect World was created as a pdf which I could easily read on my Kindle Fire with no bizarre formatting.

The story itself is lovely and not at all what I had expected from Manga. Aruga's doesn't shy away from the physical and emotional realities of living with a spinal cord injury and also shows how the uncomfortable reactions from other people can impact on sufferers and their companions. I liked that initially Kawana can't really see beyond Ayukawa's wheelchair and it takes a big effort for both to accept that a romantic relationship could be a possibility. Aruga conveys tremendous emotion through what are often quite stark pencil drawings. I loved the atmosphere she creates for these characters and the strong realities of their story.

This GN is the first of six volumes although the only one as yet to be translated into English. The rest do already exist in French, but I'm not sure my colloquial language skills are quite up to this yet so I shall eagerly await the English volume 2!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Rie Aruga / Graphic novels / Books from Japan

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The Sting Of The Bee by K E Lanning + Excerpt + Giveaway


The Sting Of The Bee by K E Lanning
Published in America on the 4th April 2018.

Where to buy this book:

Catastrophic global warming has melted the ice caps—John Barrous will stop at nothing to stake his claim on the rich, virgin continent of Antarctica.

After the murder of his wife, John escapes urban strife for the quiet life of farming. He and his fifteen-year-old daughter join in a United Nations PR event, but the Oklahoma-style land rush turns into a race against ruthless, armed competitors . . . and a corrupt politician determined to control this new land.

The Melt Trilogy are novels of speculative science fiction, with an eco-fiction emphasis, delving into the relationship of humans to the Earth. A Spider Sat Beside Her, The Sting of the Bee and Listen to the Birds [2019], will complete trilogy, though each are standalone works.




Extract


Part I

Humans must have the vision of a New World in front of them—the necessity of a great quest is in our bones.

CHAPTER 1


John Barrous opened his eyes in the dim light of the hotel room. A pleasant voice said, “John, wake up, it’s time to rise and shine.”
With a yawn, he turned to his phone. “I’m awake. Thanks, P.”
“I hope you slept well?”
He stared at the ceiling above the bed. “Not really.” John threw the covers back and sat on the side of the bed, looking dully at the band of pale morning light framing the top of the curtained window.
“John, I thought you might be interested in today’s news story on the Antarctic Land Rush.”
Scratching his head, he mumbled, “I guess.”
A smiling virtual newscaster appeared on the screen. “In our top story of the day, the stage is set for the Great Antarctic Land Rush. The final conference will be held today at the United Nations headquarters.” From the corner of the screen popped a 3-D video running on a continuous loop, showing the melting ice cap of Antarctica, the huge glaciers flowing to the ocean, breaking off into the sea until the continent was bare. “People from around the world will be signing up for the adventure of a lifetime—”
A dull pain pulsed in his head. “I’d like some quiet now,” he said, and the screen went blank. His hands trembled as he massaged his temples. He caught a whiff of brewing coffee, and rose to grab a cup. Clasping the warm cup in his hands, he gulped the coffee, closing his eyes as the hot liquid stung his throat.
With a sigh, he walked to the window of the room, edging the curtain open on one side. Blinking against the slanted rays of the sun, he gazed out over the port city of Summit, New Jersey. Across the street, a myriad of flags fluttered in front of the newly completed United Nations building. His nerves tingled at the sight.
To the east, the sea shimmered in the dawn light, broken only by the tallest skyscrapers still visible above submerged New York City. He sipped his coffee, and then shifted his gaze to the vast shanty town near the edge of the water. Tendrils of smoke rose from amidst ramshackle huts cobbled together from the scrap material washed onshore after the Melt.
The wealthy had fled the rising sea waters and built anew, but in the burgeoning lower classes, survival of the fittest had been their only choice. Massive refugee cities grew from the outcasts of society, abandoned on a shore of hardship. Years of pitiful conditions created an underclass filled with anger and resentment. Like stray dogs, savage gangs had proliferated, snatching crumbs from a world devastated by rising sea levels.
An emptiness punched him in the gut, and his lips parted like a drowning man trying to draw a breath. A moan escaped from the depths of his pain, and John glanced at his daughter Ginnie, snuggled in the other bed. He had not awakened her with his outburst.
Swaying, he turned back to the window, clutching the curtain. That underworld had murdered his beloved Helen.


Meet the author:
K.E. Lanning is a scientist and writer. Born in Texas in 1957, she grew up near Houston in the small town of Friendswood, laced with white oyster shell roads and open fields dotted with huge live oaks—riding horses rather than bikes. But nearby, NASA’s space program shepherded thoughts of astrophysics into her head.

Lanning received a bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1979 from Stephen F. Austin St. University in Nacogdoches, TX and a MBA in 1986 from the University of Houston. In her geophysics career, science met art—imaging landscapes beneath the surface of the earth. Lanning owned and directed an art gallery in Houston, fascinated with curating thought-provoking shows with new and proven artists.

A life-long fan of science fiction, Lanning has always been intrigued by the multi-dimensions of the genre, allowing the author to explore society, humanity, and our future—bringing the reader along for the ride. To reveal the inner workings of some of the best sci-fi authors in the business, she’s published a series of sci-fi author interviews in OMNI magazine, In the Author’s Universe: Sci-Fi Authors from a Writer’s Point of View, including authors Hugh Howey, Margaret Atwood, Andy Weir and Cixin Liu.

Her first novel is A Spider Sat Beside Her, a work of literary/speculative science fiction, with an eco-fiction emphasis. Two additional novels, The Sting of the Bee (4-4-2018) and Listen to the Birds, will complete the trilogy, though each are standalone works.

Lanning currently lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her family.

Author links: 
Website ~ GoodreadsFacebook ~ Twitter

Enter the Giveaway:

K E Lanning has offered a great prize for this giveaway: one winner will win a Signed Paperback of A Spider Sat Beside Her and a Signed Paperback of The Sting Of The Bee. This giveaway is open worldwide until midnight (UK time) on the 19th of April. Entry is by way of the Gleam widget below:

2x K E Lanning Signed SciFi PBs



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by K E Lanning / Science fiction / Books from America