Friday, 30 November 2018

The Wooden Hill by Jamie Guiney


The Wooden Hill by Jamie Guiney
Published by Epoque Press today, the 30th November 2018

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


As we climb the wooden hill to bed each night we trace our life's journey from birth, then each step toward death, the final sleep. This collection of short stories, by Jamie Guiney, explores what it is to be human at every stage of life, from the imminence of a new birth in `We Knew You Before You Were Born', through to adolescence and the camaraderie of youthful friendships as portrayed in `Sam Watson & The Penny World Cup'. Ultimately, all of our lives stride towards old age and the certainty of death, as poignantly evoked in the title story, `The Wooden Hill'.

The Wooden Hill is the last in this debut collection of eighteen accomplished short stories by Northern Irish author, Jamie Guiney. I loved that the stories are ordered to follow the span of life with the very first tale being about a newborn baby and the last focusing on old age. I think my favourite story is Summer Stones which depicts how quickly a person's work and dreams can be shattered by the thoughtless actions of other people.

Guiney has a wonderful talent for capturing people's essence and for concisely depicting each scene. I could easily envisage how each story played out and frequently felt quite nostalgic for my own youth and childhood. The sweet display in The Penny World Cup is exactly as I remember, even down to the time wasting business of choosing individual sweets to make up to the value of my weekly pocket money! I did think that some of the stories were more scenes than full stories and I didn't always feel I had understood exactly what Guiney was trying to put across. However I appreciated the opportunity to experience his work and I am sure I will read more of Jamie Guiney's writing in the future.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jamie Guiney / Short stories / Books from Northern Ireland

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Published by Johnathan Cape in October 2009.

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal, at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat in an apartment block overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin ... but have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins' mother - and who can't even seem to quite leave her flat....

With Highgate Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story about Niffenegger's familiar themes of love, loss and identity. It is certain to cement her standing as one of the most singular and remarkable novelists of our time.

Having loved Audrey Niffenegger's first novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, I had looked forward to her second offering, Her Fearful Symmetry. Having now finished that book though, I am struggling to accept that the two were written by the same author. I really didn't enjoy the mish-mash of half-baked plotlines, flat characters and ridiculously convenient coincidences. And was I the only to feel uncomfortable at Robert's transference of his affections from Elspeth to her young niece?

On the plus side, Highgate Cemetery comes out of the book well - perhaps all that does - and I am now keen to take one of the frequently mentioned guided tours. This and the fact that I did struggle through to the final pages has merited a two-star rating, but I can't honestly recommend Her Fearful Symmetry to anyone.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Audrey Niffenegger / Horror fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Death Going Down by Maria Angelica Bosco


Death Going Down by Maria Angelica Bosco
First published in Spanish as La muerte baja en ascensor in Argentina by Emece Editores in 1955. English language translation by Lucy Greaves published by Pushkin Vertigo in November 2016.

My 1950s read for my 2018-19 Decade Challenge and my 11th read for my Classics Club Challenge

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Frida Eidinger is young, beautiful and lying dead in the lift of a luxury Buenos Aires apartment block.

It looks like suicide, and yet none of the building's residents can be trusted; the man who discovered her is a womanising drunk; her husband is behaving strangely; and upstairs, a photographer and his sister appear to be hiding something sinister. When Inspector Ericourt and his colleague Blasi are set on the trail of some missing photographs, a disturbing secret past begins to unravel...

One of Argentina's greatest detective stories, Death Going Down is a post-war tale of survival and extortion, obsession and lies, shot through with some of history's darkest hours.

Maria Angelica Bosco is frequently referred to as the Argentine Agatha Christie and, having read Death Going Down, one of her most famous novels, I can certainly appreciate the comparison. I think Christie's fans would enjoy this plotline, unravelling the clues in order to work out just why Frida Eidinger was discovered in an elevator in the middle of the night - dead. Unfortunately I am not particularly enthusiastic about Christie's novels and what leaves me cold about her mystery stories are the same aspects that have now underwhelmed me here.

Death Going Down is set in Buenos Aires, yet other than a smattering of Spanish street names I felt this story could have taken place anywhere. I didn't get a sense of Buenos Aires or even Argentina from Bosco's descriptions. Readers are given an idea of various apartment interiors within a single block, but that's it.

Bosco shares Christie's class snobbery too. When our detectives write up a list of who should be considered a suspect, only the apartment owners and their families warrant suspicion. The maids and caretakers are excluded. Not that I am suggesting maids and caretakers should automatically be considered prime suspects (although I did watch a lot of Scooby Doo episodes in my youth) but to completely disregard them seemed harsh! (It also reminded me of attitudes in Flesh And Bone And Water by Luisa Sauma.) I would have liked stronger characterisation too although I accept that with such a large cast this probably would have doubled the length of Death Going Down. Allusions were frequently made to characters' pasts and especially their wartime escapes from various European countries, yet we weren't told their back stories. I want to know!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Maria Angelica Bosco / Crime fiction / Books from Argentina

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Blogger Trailmap by Chivi Frost + #Giveaway


The Blogger Trailmap: How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level in Easy Steps
Published by Zavesti on the 7th October 2018.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Buy direct from the
Zavesti website


Add The Blogger Trailmap to your Goodreads

"The Blogger Trailmap" is great both for beginners who are about to start a blog, as well as those bloggers who are established and ready to grow.

This book brings for you a proven plan, tools & templates you need for incredible success. This power-packed concise guide can help you in many ways:

Templates to set clear goals and craft a blogging roadmap, avoid common mistakes, and how to get started quickly.
With a focus on action, this book brings for you the tools, templates, and checklists to help you quickly Implement what you learn in every section of the book.
Gives you a proven framework for creating content which people would love to read and share.
Simplifies every critical aspect of a blog - e.g. Magnetic Headlines, Copywriting, Swipe Files SEO, Sales Funnel, Landing Page and email Harvest.
Crush it on social media without going crazy - Build a list of raving fans and subscribers on autopilot without constant hustling.
Secrets to rank high in search engines with SEO best practices so that you can grow your traffic and get readers to come find you.
An easy-to-follow, systematic process to make money through your blog & grow your business.

Above all, you will learn that you don’t need fancy tech or cool tricks to grow your blog!

Whether you are a hobby blogger or blogging for profit, I am confident that this book would give you game-changing ideas to make your blog more meaningful and hugely successful.

I don't often read how-to or self help books, but when I was offered a copy of The Blogger Trailmap I thought I would like to read it. I hoped there would be a few nuggets of information to help me in my own blogging journey and this turned out to be the case. Frost has put together a guide which I think would be most suitable for new bloggers although there are also ideas that seasoned bloggers might not yet have considered. The Blogger Teailmap focuses on concepts rather than specific instructions so it's more geared towards discussing what a blogger might want to do than on explaining exactly how to go about it.

I was put off a little by the amateurish looking cover design and the smattering of strangely worded sentences inside the book. Proofreading needed! However these don't impact greatly on Frost's ability to put their message across. One aspect I particularly liked is that The Blogger Trailmap advocates a circular method of promotion whereby a blog can promote a tangible product with social media interactions promoting both avenues. In this case, publisher Zavesti creates blogging tools which are linked to from within The Blogger Trailmap and provide additional content to that within the book, and vice versa. It's a perfect example of practicing what they preach!

Meet The Publisher

Zavesti.com brings game-changing marketing ideas for independent creators like bloggers, YouTubers, artists and self-published authors who want to make a living from a home based business. The books and the resources on zavesti.com have been used successfully by our team to hugely grow social media subscribers and customers for our clients. A  huge collection of free resources on zavesti.com is now available for you to promote your blog or market your self-published book.

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Zavesti have kindly offered 3 ebook copies of The Blogger Trailmap. This giveaway is open internationally until midnight on the 11th December.

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 winners. I will then need to pass the winners email addresses on to Zavesti so they can send out the ebooks.)

The Blogger Trailmap by Chivi Frost ebook giveaway


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Chivi Frost / Blogging books / Books from America

Monday, 26 November 2018

The Diary by Vikki Patis


The Diary by Vikki Patis
Published in the UK by Bookouture today, the 26th November 2018.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


‘I know all your secrets, Lauren.’

Lauren has spent years running away from her home town, her childhood and the memories of her best friend, Hannah.

Until the tenth anniversary of Hannah’s death forces her to return home and to the group of friends she abandoned there. It should be a quick visit, just so Lauren can pay her respects.

At home, Lauren finds Hannah’s old diary. A diary full of secrets. The terrible things Lauren did, the lies she’s told, the reason she ran away. And she receives a message:

‘I don’t know why you’re back, but I know why you left.’

But no-one else has seen the diary, and Hannah’s dead, isn’t she?

A suspenseful psychological thriller full of twists and turns – you won’t be able to stop turning the pages of The Diary. Perfect for fans of The Sister, The Girl on the Train and We Were Liars.


I enjoyed Vikki Patis' short story collection, Weltanschauung, self-published almost exactly two years ago, so was delighted to see her get a publishing deal for The Diary, especially as I was then offered the chance to join its blog tour!

I'm not always a fan of the thriller genre because I don't like stories that sacrifice plausibility for excitement. I had no such concerns here though. I was hooked by Lauren's tale from practically the first page and just had to keep on reading to find out what would happen. Patis' characters felt familiar to me as I could remember similar people around me at the same age. I loved the details of both the present day and the decade earlier storylines. It says at the beginning of each chapter when they are set in the then or the now, but I found I could easily switch between periods with necessarily noticing titles because clues such as the maturity of Lauren's outlook were strong identifiers. Detail can make or break atmosphere and believability so I am glad to say my attention wasn't ever ripped away by an inadvertent error or a hang-on-a-minute plothole! Thinking back over the story now, I am re-experiencing the tensions I felt whilst reading, and am still as convinced by the heartbreaking plot.

I don't want to drop any spoilers so am skirting around What Actually Happened to Lauren. It's a tad frustrating because I really want to breathlessly fangirl about The Diary! Perhaps it's enough to say that this is absolutely a novel for the here and now. I loved its themes and representations. Coming  I hope The Diary finds its way onto a lot of TBR and Christmas lists. An exciting and rewarding thriller

Meet the author

Vikki Patis is an author and blogger, as well as an avid reader and book reviewer. When she isn’t working as a Regulatory Affairs Manager, she can usually be found drinking tea, baking cakes, or taking walks in the Hertfordshire countryside. She lives with her partner and two cats.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Vikki Patis / Thrillers / Books from England

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Girl And The Rat by Jari Jarvela


The Girl And The Rat by Jari Jarvela
First published in Finnish as Tytto ja rotta in Finland by Tammi Publishers in 2015. English language translation by Kristian London published by AmazonCrossing in May 2016.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


After losing her boyfriend and partner in crime, Rust, during a tragic run-in with security, Metro moves to Berlin to start over. She finds a home in a grimy squat where she befriends other graffiti artists, and together they carry out aggressive attacks, bombing entire trains and buildings with fresh paint and achieving international notoriety by posting their hits online.

Adorning the attic of their squat is a wall-size piece by world-famous tagger Banksy depicting a silhouetted rat spraying a wall. It’s a hidden treasure amid the squalor. But when Metro comes home one day to find bodies—including one familiar face from her past—scattered around the building and the amazing mural missing entirely, she and her friends are forced into action. The piece turns up at auction for millions of dollars, and Metro must follow it to its new home in Kotka, Finland, a town she thought she had left behind for good.

Up against the law and on the run from her personal demons, Metro has no choice but to seek justice with the only means she has: graffiti.

The Girl And The Rat is the the sequel to The Girl And The Bomb which I read last year. I don't think it's absolutely essential to read the books in order as Jarvela includes brief recaps of important earlier events, but this second story does carry on from the first so I felt I had a fuller understanding of the characters.

Metro is still emotionally shattered from the loss of Rust and her escape to Berlin, by way of Pripyat, is an attempt to try and overcome this, however I didn't notice the same strength of feeling from her this time around. Perhaps she is numbed? The Girl And The Rat is told entirely from Metro's perspective so we don't get the dual voices which I thought worked so well in the first book. Instead this sequel focuses more on action scenes. Jarvela writes excitement well so I was gripped by set pieces such as the graffiti-ing of the train and the painting of a high-rise office block. Without the contrast of experiencing Metro's emotions though, the action felt more two-dimensional this time around. Without, hopefully, giving too much away, she mentally shrugs off events which should force at least some reaction and I wanted more depth.

I struggled too with the plausibility of Metro's continued athletic prowess considering her mounting catalogue of injuries. She seemed almost cartoonishly unstoppable which, for me, detracted significantly from the realism of everything else. I loved the descriptions of the grim attic squat, its security provided by the only access being across a narrow steel beam - but if one can still cross while encumbered with two crutches ...?

The Girl And The Rat is a thrilling, fast-paced story that was an enjoyable read at the time. I gave it four stars immediately on finishing as I did get nicely swept into the tale. Much of my criticism has come up on reflection so if you are looking for fun escapist reads with an unusual focus (and aren't planning to dwell on potential story flaws), then certainly try The Girl And The Bomb followed by The Girl And The Rat.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jari Jarvela / Thrillers / Books from Finland

Saturday, 24 November 2018

The Dragon and the Lumberjack by S W Ellenwood + #Excerpt


The Dragon and the Lumberjack by S W Ellenwood
Published in America on the 13th November 2018.


Add The Dragon and the Lumberjack to your Goodreads

Thomas feared he played Jack too well...

The sequel to S. W. Ellenwood's debut novel, The Janitor and the Spy, picks up six months after Thomas Thornhill's nightmare mission in Amsterdam. On his own, he now goes under the alias of Jack Montferrand and seeks to gain entry into the oldest and most dangerous triad in Asia to find Them.

On the inside, he found the triad not as stable as he thought, forcing him to prove his trust and worth to them at every turn as new rivals sprout up. He plunges his hands deeper into the filth and the alias of Jack where he starts to wonder where Thomas ends and Jack begins. 




Excerpt

5. Jack kept the shower on as he slowly undressed. Once he was down to his undergarments, he looked at himself in the fogging sink mirror. Dark blue and purple bruises covered his body from the shoulders down. His right shoulder had bulged up with blood and was hot to his touch. The rest of the bruises were on his torso, with a few on his legs. His swollen eyebrow had started bleeding out at the corner. He removed the small bandage on his forehead to see if it was bleeding again. It was. He slowly felt around the injuries on his torso to see if he had any broken ribs, which he didn’t think he had. He held his breath and stroked his ribs like a piano. He released a sigh of relief as his assumption was correct. Jack could barely see himself in the mirror as steam filled the entire bathroom and escaped through the door less entryway.
“Dude, you look like you just got out of a meat grinder.” Li stood at the entrance of the bathroom staring at him with a hint of pain on his face.
Jack tilted his head and looked down on Li like a parent with a sassy child. Li didn’t recognize that as his face flipped to excitement. “But, you did it! You survived the Dragon Fire!”
“Surviving and thriving are two different things. I take it I did well?” Jack asked as he stripped down and entered the shower, washing the blood off his body.
“Starting off at the second tier helped you a bit and taking him down that fast. Incredible! Most guys don’t get past him at all.” Li sat on the wooden bench attached to the wall.
“What did Lóng think?” Jack asked.
Li snorted at the question. “He was impressed like everyone else.”
“That’s good. Who was the girl beside you?” Jack turned off the shower and dried himself with a towel.
“Lei Lei, my half-sister.”
Jack chuckled, which morphed into a sneer of pain. “Damn, that hurts.”
Li laughed. Jack came out of the shower with a well-secured towel around his waist. He held another towel over his cuts. “That’s not even the best part,” said Li, with a sense of pride. “You’re the second one to finish it all without being knocked out.”
Jack placed new bandages over his cuts. “Well, knowing now that I made a great impression, what’s next?”
“I’m not sure, I think Lóng has an errand for you before you can become a 49er.”
Jack looked at Li, a band-aid in his hand. “A 49er already?”
“Yeah. I don’t know all the details, but things aren’t great. But it may help us both.”
“I’m okay with that. Do you know what kind of errand?”
Li shrugged.
“What do you know, just out of curiosity?”
Li laughed. “I know Lóng still has trust issues, I’m still not sure he trusts me entirely.” As Li said this, his bright face faded away.
“Why wouldn’t he trust you?” asked Jack.
“Just the times I guess.” Li looked down at his hands. “Heard the transition of leadership was hard if it wasn’t for his mom. That’s why I’m glad he likes you so far. It’s personally helping me out again.” 
“Why?” Jack finished bandaging himself up. “I mean, you had the chance to just ask me to drop you off someplace where you could hit the road again, be your own man, and stay out of ‘the clutches of the Red Dragon’ as you put it. But your instinct was to come back. Why?”
Li looked up, his head atilt. “I don’t know, man. I mean, I guess I thought I would be safer here, but they aren’t a charity case. Even when my dad was in charge, everyone had to earn their place and… if it wasn’t for my stepmom I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as I did while he gave Lóng the moon and Lei Lei the sun. I didn’t want to have to go up against that at the time.” Li rubbed his hands together. His jaw tensed. 
“Hey,” Jack said. Li looked up at him. “We will earn our place here. We are going to make this our home.”
Li smiled with a hint of sympathy. “I hope you pass, man,” he said. “I really need a friend I can trust.”
Jack felt a pang of guilt.

Meet the author

S. W. Ellenwood is thankful to have a close-knit family of two parents, a brother, and two sisters. A homeschooler who graduated college from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, Ellenwood loves all forms and genres of stories and was inspired by  The Lord of the Rings films and his parents to write. You can find Ellenwood writing his next novel at the local coffee shops or playing table top games with his best friends.

Author links: 
Website ~ Twitter




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by S W Ellenwood / Thrillers / Books from America

Friday, 23 November 2018

Becoming Someone by Anne Goodwin


Becoming Someone by Anne Goodwin
Published in the UK by Inspired Quill today, the 23rd November 2018.

Don't miss the Becoming Someone Facebook launch party today!

https://www.facebook.com/events/285314412085573/
An online party to celebrate the publication of my first short story anthology, Becoming Someone. Drop in at your own convenience wherever you are in the world, Anne will be here to entertain you from morning coffee to pre-dinner drinks.
The more actively people participate, the more Anne will donate to Book Aid International.

Also, make sure to take advantage of the Sugar and Snails promotion! Anne's debut novel is discounted to 99p or equivalent (Kindle version) throughout November!
viewbook.at/SugarandSnails

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What shapes the way we see ourselves? 

An administrator is forced into early retirement; a busy doctor needs a break. A girl discovers her sexuality; an older man explores a new direction for his. An estate agent seeks adventure beyond marriage; a photojournalist retreats from an overwhelming world. A woman reduces her carbon footprint; a woman embarks on a transatlantic affair. A widow refuses to let her past trauma become public property; another marks her husband’s passing in style.

Thought-provoking, playful and poignant, these 42 short stories address identity from different angles, examining the characters’ sense of self at various points in their lives. What does it mean to be a partner, parent, child, sibling, friend? How important is work, culture, race, religion, nationality, class? Does our body, sexuality, gender or age determine who we are? 

Is identity a given or can we choose the someone we become?



I enjoy reading short story collections, but it's rare for me to find one where I love every tale. Usually there are hits and misses so I was delighted to find that every single one of the forty-two stories in Becoming Someone is a hit!

Anne Goodwin has such an observant eye for human motivation and behaviour so all her characters came across to me as authentic and genuine - quite the achievement when the stories run such a wide gamut of human experience encompassing pretty much all ages, genders and relationships. Anne can also vividly portray scenes within a few sentences. Becoming Someone includes stories of varying lengths from vignettes that barely last a page to full tales that are several pages in length. I felt that they were each as long as they needed to be though. None were too abrupt or overstayed their welcome, and every one had a thought-provoking point to make.

I did find that I needed to frequently set this book aside in order to think over the story I had just read - and this is certainly not a criticism! Despite their brevity, the Becoming Someone stories cannot be considered light reads and this isn't a book to dash through. I enjoyed dipping into it, particularly of an evening, but long enough before sleep to allow sufficient pondering time!

Meet the author

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, was published in 2017. Alongside her identity as a writer, she’ll admit to being a sociable introvert; recovering psychologist; voracious reader; slug slayer; struggling soprano; and tramper of moors.

Amazon author page ~ Inspired Quill page



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anne Goodwin / Short stories / Books from England

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Sweet Days Of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy


Sweet Days Of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy
First published in Italian as I beati anni del castigo in Italy by Adelphi Edizioni in 1989. English language translation by Tim Parks published by William Heinemann in 1991. Republished by And Other Stories in February 2018.

My 1980s read for my 2018-19 Decade Challenge

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Set in postwar Switzerland, Fleur Jaeggy's eerily beautiful novel begins simply and innocently enough: "At fourteen I was a boarder in a school in the Appenzell". But there is nothing truly simple or innocent here. With the off-handed knowingness of a remorseless young Eve, the narrator describes life as a captive of the school and her designs to win the affections of the seemingly perfect new girl, Frederique. As she broods over her schemes as well as on the nature of control and madness, the novel gathers a suspended, unsettling energy.

Sweet Days Of Discipline is a strange novella with a distinctive cold style that, for me, took a bit of getting into, but was worth the effort. I am not sure how long after her boarding school years our narrator is meant to have told her story as at times she is breathtakingly insightful, but can also be spectacularly naive. Abrupt changes of subject are evocatively childish yet I could also see the young woman that our narrator will become. Her repressed obsession with Frederique is brilliantly portrayed and I loved how she tries to put herself across to readers as a girl who doesn't really care much for anything when the glimpses we get of her behind-the-scenes, so to speak, show a very different scenario unfolding. Her perpetually absent mother, for example, is only spoken of in the context of Instructions From Brasil, instructions such as only to have German-speaking friends being wilfully ignored by both daughter and school.

Frederique is an enigma to our narrator. New to boarding school life, she makes a virtue of her obedience and respectful behaviour, and her neat elegance sets her almost out of our narrator's league. Seen by the headmistress as an excellent social influence, Frederique is, of course, our narrator's first intense crush, but their awakening sexuality is rarely openly alluded to, despite the novella's suggestive title (perhaps deliberate, perhaps simply an awkward translation). Instead a simmering desire for varying degrees of affection and power makes Sweet Days Of Discipline a very tense story even though nothing particularly dramatic actually happens. Jaeggy's writing is all about atmosphere and attitude.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Fleur Jaeggy / Novellas / Books from Switzerland

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Hildegard of Bingen by Honey Meconi


Hildegard of Bingen by Honey Meconi
Published in the UK by University of Illinois Press yesterday, the 20th November 2018.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A Renaissance woman long before the Renaissance, the visionary Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) corresponded with Europe's elite, founded and led a noted women's religious community, and wrote on topics ranging from theology to natural history. Yet we know her best as Western music's most accomplished early composer, responsible for a wealth of musical creations for her fellow monastics.

Honey Meconi draws on her own experience as a scholar and performer of Hildegard's music to explore the life and work of this foundational figure. Combining historical detail with musical analysis, Meconi delves into Hildegard's mastery of plainchant, her innovative musical drama, and her voluminous writings. Hildegard's distinctive musical style still excites modern listeners through wide-ranging, sinuous melodies set to her own evocative poetry. Together with her passionate religious texts, her music reveals a holistic understanding of the medieval world still relevant to today's readers.

Featuring a female authored biography of a woman each month for my ReadingWomen project has led me to become more attuned to spotting such works so I was pleased to discover Honey Meconi's biography of Hildegard of Bingen recently on NetGalley. A twelfth century nun, Hildegard would have been considered an exceptional polymath by today's standards and she cleverly took advantage of the relative freedom allowed her by her monastic life to write extensively on matters from spirituality to science as well as composing dozens of plainchant works. That so many of her songs and words are still in existence today is something of a miracle - one important work was moved to Dresden for safekeeping during World War Two! (It is known to have survived the firestorm, but vanished around the time the Russian army arrived.)

Meconi has put together a engrossing recounting of the life of this fascinating woman from the information still available. I learned much about the realities of her daily life and the struggles she faced at the head of her own abbey in Germany. However, not being au fait with twelfth century church music - or any church music for that matter - I came unstuck when attempting to understand Meconi's detailed descriptions of Hildegard's musical compositions. I felt this lengthy section needed to have been recorded as an audio book so I could have actually heard the segments of her antiphons, responsaries and the like while they were discussed.

I would recommend Hildegard of Bingen as a fairly quick read for readers who enjoy medieval or religious history, especially those who appreciated Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter as the two books touch upon similar themes.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Honey Meconi / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Divided We Stand by Rachel McLean


Divided We Stand by Rachel McLean
Published by Catawampus Press on the 27th October 2018.


Add Divided We Stand to your Goodreads

Britain is a country under surveillance. Neighbours spy on neighbours. Schools enforce loyalty to the state. And children are encouraged to inform on their parents.

Disgraced MP Jennifer Sinclair has earned her freedom but returns home to find everything changed.

Rita Gurumurthy has been sent to a high security prison. When a sympathetic guard helps her escape she becomes a fugitive, forced to go into hiding.

To reunite her family and win freedom for her son and her friend, Jennifer must challenge her old colleague and rival, the new Prime Minister Catherine Moore.

Will Catherine listen to reason and remove the country from its yoke of fear and suspicion? Or will Jennifer have to reveal the secret only she knows about Catherine, and risk plunging the country into turmoil?


Meet the author

I'm Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I'm told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories - well, I'm sorry but I can't help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They're inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

Author links: 
Book ClubTwitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Rachel McLean / Thrillers / Books from England

Monday, 19 November 2018

The Bees by Laline Paull


The Bees by Laline Paull
Published in the UK by Ecco in May 2014.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction 2015

Enter a whole new world, in this thrilling debut novel set entirely within a beehive.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous.

But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce love that will lead to the unthinkable . . .

Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, ‘The Bees’ is the story of a heroine who, in the face of an increasingly desperate struggle for survival, changes her destiny and her world.

I was intrigued by the premise of The Bees by Laline Paull since I read a number of other bloggers' reviews earlier in 2015 (I read The Bees later in 2015) so I was very happy when Dave bought a copy for his Kindle. The Amazon Household setting means we get to share each other's books which is good news for me!

Paull has obviously done a lot of research into the real world life of a bee hive throughout the year and this expertise shines through. However I was much less convinced by her humanising of them. I think my main problem with this novel was the massive contradiction of Flora 717's life. On the one hand we are constantly being told that each bee is born to a certain destiny and can absolutely never change her place in hive society. Yet our heroine skips through every class and job with scarcely ever a check on her behaviour. While I accept that this device allowed us as readers to visit every stage of bee life, for me it took away from the tale's credibility. With the exception of the wonderfully cartoonish drones, there isn't much in the way of fully rounded characterisation in The Bees which made it difficult to empathise and I always felt somewhat distant from the story. I did like how much factual information I learned through reading The Bees, but as a entertaining experience this novel lacked sufficient depth to really keep my interest.


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Books by Laline Paull / Contemporary fiction / Books from England

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters


Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Published in the UK by Virago in February 2002.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

I got into a conversation about Welsh authors with blogger Cee Arr on my recent Niedermayer And Hart book review post because I need a couple more for a Welsh WorldReads post. Cee Arr reminded me that Sarah Waters is Welsh and this review of Fingersmith is one I hadn't yet transferred over from my Stephanie Jane blog. I think we've got The Paying Guests awaiting reading too, but my first Sarah Waters book, recommended by Dave's daughter Carrie, was Fingersmith.

Set in Victorian era London the novel is a wickedly fabulous pastiche of the overly melodramatic literary style of the period and includes one of the best plot twists I have read in ages. Waters has created a varied cast of Dickensian characters, none of whom I would trust as far as I could throw them, and I also loved her scene-setting. The faded glamour of Briar House, the dingy terrace of Lant Street, and the terrors of the asylum all became very real as I kept reading. My favourite part of Fingersmith was the dual viewpoint. Seeing scenes that we thought we already knew, but now through a completely different lens provided great tension and I appreciated how each character had a distinctive voice so it was easy to follow their take on the story. Occasionally Fingersmith did feel a tad overlong, but generally the writing kept to a good pace and I was always keen to find out what would next befall our heroines.


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Books by Sarah Waters / Historical fiction / Books from Wales

Saturday, 17 November 2018

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George


The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
First published in German in Germany by Knaur Verlag in 2013. English language translation by Simon Pare published by Abacus in 2015.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a 'literary apothecary', for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust - until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.

I'd been looking forward to reading The Little Paris Bookshop, even going so far as to put off reading it so the novel wouldn't be gone too quickly. I had imagined from the title and the cover art that it would be similar in atmosphere to an Antoine Laurain story and, to be honest, what could I not like about a novel set in a Parisian bookshop? As it turns out, there's a lot I didn't like!

The Little Paris Bookshop is actually mostly set on a barge, called Lulu, which sails from Paris fairly early on in the story so I lost the romance of the city. Lulu has been turned into a bookshop whose emotionally-damaged owner, Jean, sails south in order to come to terms with his heartbreak over a woman who left him twenty-one years ago. 21! Jean only realises he needed to do something about his obsessive grief when he falls in instalove with his new neighbour, Catherine. Catherine is distraught at having been kicked out by her husband so 'obviously' needs sappy Jean for a rebound relationship to Discover Herself. Jean shows his love by almost immediately sailing hundreds of miles away from her and sending back a series of postcards discussing himself, himself and himself. What woman could resist?

There are a couple of pleasant elements to The Little Paris Bookshop. I liked the descriptions of the rural France through which Jean and his friends sail and the copious amounts of delicious food they eat. I also liked Nina George's early comments on various books, many of which I have read. Unfortunately books soon take a back seat (so to speak) which is a shame. Instead a cast of shallow characters stagger through an increasingly schmaltzy and silly adventure. I couldn't believe in anyone and the piling up of forcedly Emotional Moments left me feeling increasingly cold. The Little Paris Bookshop is one I really should not have judged by its cover!


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Books by Nina George / Womens fiction / Books from Germany

Friday, 16 November 2018

Driving Whiskey Wild by Melissa Foster


Driving Whiskey Wild by Melissa Foster
Published in America by World Literary Press on the 21st February 2018.

Literary Flits Spotlight Giveaway Winner


Add Driving Whiskey Wild to your Goodreads

Special Forces veteran and Dark Knights Motorcycle Club member Bullet Whiskey lives to protect his family, their bar, and the residents of his small hometown. He’s rough, unapologetic, and haunted by a secret, painful past. He’s also a master at keeping people away, and when his sister hires gorgeous and sweet Finlay Wilson to help expand their biker bar, he knows just how to get rid of her.

After losing her boyfriend and her father, Finlay moves back to her hometown to be closer to the little family she has left. She needs her temporary job at Whiskey Bro’s to get her catering business off the ground, and she’s determined not to let the gruff, arrogant mountain of a man Bullet Whiskey scare her off.

Finlay is everything Bullet has never wanted. She’s afraid of his dog, afraid of motorcycles, and sweet enough to give him cavities, but as she weaves her way into the hearts of everyone around him, he’s powerless to resist her charms. Passion ignites, but trust doesn’t come easily, and when their pasts collide, Bullet finds out the true meaning of protecting those he loves.

Meet The Author

Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and women’s fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented–perfect beach reads for contemporary romance and new adult romance lovers who enjoy reading about loyal, wealthy heroes and smart, sassy heroines with complex relatable issues.


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Books by Melissa Foster / Romance fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Angel In The Shadows by Walter Lucius


Angel In The Shadows by Walter Lucius
First published in Dutch in the Netherlands by Luitingh Sijthoff in 2017. English language translation by Lorraine T Miller and Laura Vroomen published in the UK by Dead Ink in April 2018.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Farah Hafez raised her head and stared into the camcorder's reflective black hole.

'Now say what I want you to say. And do it convincingly. You can save this girl's life.'

That's when the words came. Unexpected and forceful. Like vomit.

'I, Farah Hafez, support the jihad against President Potanin's criminal regime.'

He smiled coldly and pulled the trigger anyway.

-----------------------------

After investigating what appeared to be a simple hit-and-run, journalist Farah Hafez became caught up in a web of crime and corruption that led to her kidnap. Detained in Russia, she was forced to pledge her allegiance to a terrorist group on camera.

Now sought by international security and members of the criminal class alike, Farah flees to Jakarta to continue her investigation while her friends and allies attempt to clear her name from across the globe.

If Farah is ever going to regain her freedom, she needs to discover the root of the evil that bought her here. The problem is that discovering this might cost her the only she has left - her life.

Angel In The Shadows is the second of Walter Lucius' Heartland Trilogy of international spy thrillers. I loved the first, Butterfly On The Storm, which I read last year so was delighted to be offered a review copy of this second installment. Lucius again takes in a wide variety of locations with his characters travelling to Russia, South Africa and Indonesia chasing corruption on a global scale. I enjoyed the glimpses we got of daily life in such far flung locations, however I didn't feel that this second story was anywhere near as exciting as the first. The tangled threads were quite difficult to simultaneously keep in my mind as the story jumps from character to character, continent to continent. I didn't feel as though many of those characters were as strongly defined either so I was sometimes confused as to who people were, especially if they hadn't put in an appearance for a while. I was disappointed by a few too many standard thriller tropes too. There's innocent-children-in-an-orphanage, lots of unbelievably-fast-forensic-analysis, a smattering of computer-hacking-shenanigans, and a just-in-the-nick-of-time-escape seemingly every five minutes. For a beach read thriller, Angel In The Shadows would probably be a good choice, but having been so enthralled by those aspects that made Butterfly On The Storm different from the usual mass-market thriller fare, I wanted more from Angel In The Shadows. It's certainly not a bad novel, but as a sequel, I felt it let me down.


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Books by Walter Lucius / Thrillers / Books from the Netherlands