Monday, 18 February 2019

Travel Diaries of the Dead and Delusional by Lauren Nicolle Taylor + #Giveaway

Travel Diaries of the Dead and Delusional by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Published by Clean Teen Publishing today, the 18th February 2019.

Add Travel Diaries of the Dead and Delusional to your Goodreads

Nineteen-year-old Langley is crazy…like get out the straitjacket and prepare the padded room kind of crazy. She knows it, and the kicker is—she's choosing to stay that way. She clings to the persistent and intrusive hallucination of her dead sister by choice. Sure, it might be nice to live life in the real world. But not if it means she has to let Sarah go.

Tupper's life is charmed. He has loving adoptive parents, and several athletic college scholarships on the table. But his passion is for the arts, for the beauty of solid ink lines on paper. His illustrations are eerily similar to a keepsake from his birth mother, Anna: comic-book-style drawings scrawled across an old map…her version of a travel diary. At eighteen, Tupper sidesteps his planned future and starts his journey where Anna's ended—following her map from Kansas City to Canada. His travels will put him on a collision course with Langley, and their bond is palpable from the start. But secrets will push between them—Sarah and Anna, two ghosts who could sink their icy fingers into the teens and tear them apart.

Perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover's Hopeless and John Green's Paper Towns, TRAVEL DIARY OF THE DEAD & DELUSIONAL is a unique and robust novel that explores themes of mental-illness and self-discovery from three distinct perspectives.

Meet the Author 

Lauren is the bestselling author of THE WOODLANDS SERIES and the award-winning YA novel NORA & KETTLE (Gold medal Winner for Multicultural fiction, Independent Publishers Book Awards 2017). She has a Health Science degree and an honors degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology. A full time writer, hapa and artist, Lauren lives in the tucked away, Adelaide hills with her husband and three children.

Author links:
WebsiteFacebook ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win a Clean Teen Publishing Mystery Box (Intl winner would get eBook prizes).
Open Internationally until the 28th February.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Books by Lauren Nicolle Taylor / Romance fiction / Books from Australia

Sunday, 17 February 2019

The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver + #Giveaway + #VeganRecipe

The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver
Published by Agate Surrey on the 17th February 2017.

Add The Migraine Relief Plan to your Goodreads

The Migraine Relief Plan: An 8-Week Transition to Better Eating, Fewer Headaches, and Optimal Health
In The Migraine Relief Plan, certified health and wellness coach Stephanie Weaver outlines a new, step-by-step lifestyle approach to reducing migraine frequency and severity.

Using the latest research, her own migraine diagnosis, and extensive testing, Weaver has designed an accessible plan to help those living with migraine, headaches, or Meniere’s disease. Over the course of eight weeks, the plan gradually transitions readers into a healthier lifestyle, including key behaviors such as regular sleep, trigger-free eating, gentle exercise, and relaxation techniques. The book also collects resources—shopping lists, meal plans, symptom tracking charts, and kitchen-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner—to provide readers with the tools they need to be successful.

The Migraine Relief Plan encourages readers to eat within the guidelines while still helping them follow personal dietary choices, like vegan or Paleo, and navigate challenges, such as parties, work, and travel. A must-have resource for anyone who lives with head pain, this book will inspire you to rethink your attitude toward health and wellness.



Makes 8 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes 
Cooking time: 2 hours 
Passive time: N/A
Budget friendly: Very
Per serving: 19g protein, 44g carbohydrates, 1g fat, 0g saturated fat, 455mg sodium, 1,122mg potassium, 17g fiber.

For some reason, I have always hated green split pea soup and loved yellow split pea soup. No idea why. The taste is only slightly different, and the color of yellow split peas is only marginally better. But if you haven’t had yellow split pea soup, give this recipe a try. It cooks up with very little hands-on time and makes plenty for freezing. While lentils are not on the Plan, split peas are, giving vegetarians and vegans a few more protein options until they can test more beans. Kale contains 45 different anti-inflammatory flavonoids, an omega-3 fat, and high levels of vitamin K. This soup can also be served over cooked brown rice, quinoa, or millet for a hearty meal.

16 ounces (450g) yellow split peas
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon whole cardamom pods
1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch (125g) green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups (1.5L) low-sodium vegetable stock
14 ounces (425g) no-salt-added fire-roasted canned tomatoes
16 ounces (450g) kale, stems attached, chopped into 1-inch (3-cm) pieces

1. Pick over the split peas to remove any pebbles or bruised peas. Rinse in a colander.

2. Add the spices to a small, dry skillet set over medium heat and toast for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

3. In a large soup pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.

4. Add the toasted spices, stir, and cook for 2 minutes more.

5. If any spice powder is stuck to the skillet, use some of the broth to rinse it out into the soup pot. Add the tomatoes, remaining broth, split peas, and kale to the soup pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.

6. Stir again, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 2 hours, or until the peas are soft. If using pre-soaked peas (see Cooks’ Note), check after 60 minutes. Remove from the heat.

7. Transfer to 8 individual soup bowls and serve right away, or let cool and store in the refrigerator. Freeze a few individual servings to use for lunches or dinners.

COOKS’ NOTE: If you cannot find fire-roasted tomatoes, regular diced canned tomatoes (no salt added) can be substituted. You can also substitute split mung beans for the yellow split peas. If you don’t have all these spices, find a natural foods store that sells spices in bulk, and buy just a small amount of each. If you have these spices ground, use half as much of each. If you are missing one or two spices, it’s okay. A recent nutritional analysis found that nearly all the potassium in kale is found in the stems. Our diets tend to be very low in potassium, so I include the stems in all my recipes. To further lower the sodium, use homemade salt-free stock. To shorten cooking time, soak peas overnight in filtered water, then drain and rinse.

It was years before I knew that coriander seeds, frequently used in Indian curries, grew into the plant we call cilantro. In other countries, they call cilantro fresh coriander, so there’s no confusion. Coriander seeds have been used for centuries; some were discovered in Egyptian tombs dating back to 960 BCE. Cilantro haters alert! The seeds don’t taste like cilantro, but instead impart a lemony-sagey-caraway flavor to foods.

Reprinted with permission from The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver, MPH, CWHC, Agate Surrey, 2017

Meet the author

Stephanie Weaver, MPH, CWHC, is an author, blogger, and certified wellness and health coach. Her recipes have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Parade, and more. She lives in San Diego, CA.

Author links: 
WebsiteTwitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win signed copy of The Migraine Relief Plan for US winners, or an unsigned copy of The Migraine Relief Plan for UK winners. (Open to the US and UK until the 3rd March 2019)

The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver book giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stephanie Weaver / Diet and food / Books from America

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Published by Quercus on the 12th February 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads and a Book With A Vegetarian Character

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk among us...

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master's severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master's soul will roam the earth forever.

Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother's debts. One night, Ji Lin's dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.

As time runs out for Ren's mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin's paths will cross in ways they will never forget.

Captivating and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores the rich world of servants and masters, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and unexpected love. Woven through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

I've got three Malaysian-authored novels to read soon and if the other two are as amazing as The Night Tiger, I shall be incredibly happy. I absolutely loved this novel! Set in the Kinta Valley in the early 1930s, The Night Tiger is beautifully balanced story that incorporates a variety of themes and cultures. Malaysia at the time was a British colony so we see a little of the madness of trying to recreate a little England in a tropical climate. The central focus however is a dual coming-of-age storyline as Ji Lin and Ren must individually navigate through society's expectations and the edges of a spiritual world in order to stop a murdering weretiger who appears to be preying on local people.

Choo cleverly intertwines her differing realities, blurring the physical and spiritual dimensions so frequently neither we, as readers, or the characters are completely sure which events can be considered real. Various recurring motifs such as the role of trains and railway stations, or the luck of various numbers, add great depth to the story and I was fascinated by the Confucian connections between the characters' names. There are so many layers to The Night Tiger. It is a truly wonderful novel in which to become immersed!

I felt strongly for Ji Lin who is not at all what a young 1930s Malaysian woman should be in her behaviour or her attitudes, yet she always came across to me as an authentic creation. I could understand the tension of her difficult home life and the fraught family dynamics are often shocking. Initially I couldn't work out how Ji Lin's path would cross Ren's, and I was engrossed in both their stories. The narration switches between the two in an easy and natural way, yet the story itself is pretty complicated. There are a few gory images that I hope won't dwell too long in my mind, however I feel that The Night Tiger will be a truly memorable novel. I will be surprised if it doesn't become my Book of the Month! Brilliant writing!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yangsze Choo / Historical fiction / Books from Malaysia

Friday, 15 February 2019

One Last Prayer For The Rays by Wes Markin + Excerpt

One Last Prayer for the Rays by Wes Markin
Self published on the 29th January 2019.

Add One Last Prayer for the Rays to your Goodreads

DCI Michael Yorke faces his most harrowing case yet.

When 12-year-old Paul disappears from school, Yorke’s only clue is a pool of animal blood. Fearing the worst, he turns toward the most obvious suspect, recently released local murderer, Thomas Ray.

But as the snow in Salisbury worsens, Ray’s mutilated body is discovered, and Yorke is left with no choice but to journey into the sinister heart of a demented family that has plagued the community for generations. Can he save the boy? Or will the evil he discovers change him forever?

One Last Prayer for the Rays introducing DCI Michael Yorke.


Context: This is from the opening chapter of the debut DCI Michael Yorke thriller One Last Prayer for the Rays. Chaos descends on Salisbury when 12-year-old Paul Ray disappears from school. DCI Michael Yorke begins the investigation with an unsettling discovery …

Yorke tore open the sealed bag that the officer had handed him and slipped the over suit on. After ripping open the second bag, he buried his worn-out brogues into the overshoes.
‘Here,’ Jake said, lifting the police line, and ushering Yorke under. Tyler took a step back. 
Beginning at the toilet door, a trail of gluey red footprints came ten metres or so down the corridor before eventually fading to red smudges. Tyler had allowed a further couple of metres before stringing up his line. 
The footprints would have to be matched to Simon Rushton’s shoes.
Yorke looked at his watch again. Five minutes past twelve. He slipped on some latex gloves and manoeuvred down the corridor, dodging the bloody footprints, until he was at the door to the boys’ toilets. 
He checked the over suit was completely covering his neck. At scenes like this, it always felt cold. 
He put his palm on the door. You’re just a child, he thought, and had nothing to do with what happened to Harry’s wife.
The door made no sound as it was opened. A movement sensor was triggered and the bathroom light flickered on. As he stepped in, he was assaulted by the smell of metal tinged with citrus – it was almost as bad as the mortuary.
The school toilets were impressive and a far cry from what his had been like.  He recalled sinks yellowed by smoke and phlegm, and walls blistered by graffiti and urine. 
He glanced down at the pool of blood. Like a sleeping red monster, it stretched its body far underneath the three cubicles alongside the left wall, whilst resting its long claws beneath most of the opposite sinks and the urinals at the far side.
‘Pints of blood,’ Tyler had said to Jake. He’d not been wrong. 
A couple of crimson handprints glowed on the white sinks.
Supposing Rushton is not lying about slipping and accidentally putting his hands in the blood, could it be him that leaned over the sink? Maybe, he threw up, or thought he would do?
Or if Rushton is not our man, could we get lucky? Could the person who set up this whole scene have been stupid enough to have left their gloves at home?
Salisbury Cathedral’s spire peered through the tiny window above the urinals.
Too small for someone to get through.
He pondered the three white cubicle doors lining the left side of the boys’ toilets. The first door was slightly ajar, whilst the middle door was shut and the third was wide open. He looked into the mirror at the reflection of the third cubicle interior. Nothing of interest.
Yorke did what Tyler had done, and what Simon Rushton had claimed to have done prior to his accident, he knelt down to look under the cubicles; the blood had curled around the base of the three toilets and, as Tyler had said, there was no sign of the boy.
Yorke’s mind wandered back to an old case file he’d read. One in which the victim was chopped up and stuffed down a toilet.
Yorke manoeuvred around the teacher’s footprints and positioned himself at the beginning of the line of sinks. He then managed to wiggle himself into a tiny gap between the blood blister and the furthest basin. From there, he was able to stretch onto his toes, and crane his head to look into the cubicle. Despite his thirty-nine years, regular running and stretching kept him more agile than most of the fresh-faced twenty year olds he encountered at the station.
The toilet seat was up. He stretched a little further . . .
No body parts. But a message in blood, hand-written in big, sloping letters on the wall above the toilet.
In the Blood. 

Meet the author

Wes Markin is a hyperactive English teacher, who loves writing crime fiction with a twist of the macabre.

​Having released One Last Prayer for the Rays he is now working on the second instalment of DCI Michael Yorke’s wild ride, The Repenting Serpent. He is also the author of Defined, a prequel to his DCI Yorke novels, which takes the reader back to his blood-soaked university days.​​

Born in 1978, Wes grew up in Manchester, UK. After graduating from Leeds University, he spent fifteen years as a teacher of English, and has taught in Thailand, Malaysia and China. Now as a teacher, writer, husband and father, he is currently living in Harrogate, UK.​

Author links: 
Twitter ~ Facebook

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Wes Markin / Crime fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 14 February 2019

The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard + #Giveaway

The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard
Published by Crooked Cat Books on the 8th January 2014.

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

My rating:

Add The Ghostly Father to your Goodreads

Was this what really happened to Romeo & Juliet?
Think you know the world’s most famous love story?  Think again.  What if the story of Romeo & Juliet really happened – but not quite in the way we’ve all been told?
This part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, told from the point of view of the Friar, tells how an ancient Italian manuscript reveals secrets and lies which have remained hidden for hundreds of years, and casts new doubts on the official story of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers.
If you love the Romeo & Juliet story but are disappointed with the way it ended, this is the book for you.

The Ghostly Father is the fourth William Shakespeare retelling I have read in the past few years. I love the idea of giving his iconic plays a new lease of life through the novelised form although I have had a bit of a hit and miss experience with the ones I had previously read. For this interpretation of the tragic Romeo and Juliet romance Sue Barnard chose to use the point of view of one of the supporting characters, Friar Lawrence (here named in Italian as Fra. Lorenzo), to tell her tale. I liked that he was therefore slightly removed so we could get a wider perspective and, being a friar, it made sense for so many people to trust the one man with their secrets.

Barnard's deviation from the Shakespeare original is cleverly plotted. I was impressed with how her new direction seemed to flow seamlessly from the traditional tale. It felt as though we had taken a step back in order to see the full picture whereas previously we had only been given a narrow view! The story keeps up a pretty rapid pace throughout so is an intriguing and exciting read. I would have preferred a much stronger sense of its historical setting and got annoyed with frequent historic and geographic inaccuracies which snapped me out of the atmosphere. Also, Fra. Lorenzo has an infuriating habit of mansplaining things that the characters to which he is speaking would already have known! As a historical fiction novel, I was initially disappointed with The Ghostly Father, but when I could reimagine it into a sort of any-time fairytale period, I very much enjoyed the actual story.

Meet the author

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. She was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium, but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University she had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase “Non-Working Mother” would be banned from the English language.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird." The label has stuck.

Sue speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.  She is also very interested in family history.  Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

Author links: 
BlogAmazonTwitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win a signed copy of The Ghostly Father (UK Only).
Open until the 16th February 2019.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sue Barnard / Retellings / Books from Wales

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

The Unwinding Of The Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams

The Unwinding Of The Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams
Published by Transworld tomorrow, the 14th February 2019.

My 2nd read for my 2019 New Release Challenge

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Born blind in Vietnam, Julie Yip-Williams narrowly escaped euthanasia at the hands of her grandmother, only to have to flee the political upheaval of the late 1970s with her family. Loaded into a rickety boat with three hundred other refugees, Julie made it to Hong Kong and, ultimately, America, where a surgeon gave her partial sight. Against all odds, she became a Harvard-educated lawyer, with a husband, a family, a life. Then, at the age of thirty-seven, with two little girls still at home, Julie was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer, and a different journey began.

Growing out of a blog Julie kept for the last four years of her life, The Unwinding of the Miracle is the story of a vigorous life told through the prism of imminent death, of a life lived vividly and cut too short. With glorious humour, bracing honesty and the cleansing power of well-deployed anger, her story is inspiring and instructive, delightful and shattering. More than just a tale about cancer, it's about truth and honesty, fear and pain, our dreams, our jealousies. And it's about how to say goodbye to your children and a life you love.

Starting as a need to understand the disease, it has evolved into a powerful story about living - even as Julie put her affairs in order and prepared to die.

My Mum died from lung cancer in 2013. The first we knew that she had the disease was the diagnosis of a brain tumour about a year and a half before. Mum was a keen reader, which is no doubt where I get my bookworm tendencies from, and the particular cruelty of her cancer was that it destroyed her language capability early on. Mum could imagine what she wanted to say to us, but the words she spoke came out so wrong that we couldn't understand her. We could see when she was in pain or tired, but we never really knew how Mum felt. Reading Julie's memoir now has helped me to envisage elements that might also have been part of my Mum's experience. Admittedly Julie's daughters were thirty years younger than Mum's, but I am sure that her fierce love and dedication to us were just the same.

The Unwinding Of The Miracle starts with the shocking statement that if someone is reading Julie's words then she must be dead. This memoir was never intended to be published as such while she was alive. That sharply focused my mind on what was to come and this is almost completely a memoir about cancer - fighting it, coping with its effects, and coming to terms with its aftermath. Surprisingly, it is not a depressing read. There is sadness, of course, and extreme anger and a myriad of other emotions, but there is also a very real sense of the need to make the most of every moment. Julie and her family savour little happinesses in a way that those of us not faced with a terminal diagnosis might often overlook. It's a habit that we shouldn't need to be reminded to practice, but is one that becomes swamped with everyday minutiae. For Julie, her surviving a harrowing boat journey from Vietnam to Hong Kong was a miracle; as was the fact that she wasn't euthanised at two months old due to her blindness; as was the sparking of new life at her conception. Julie wasn't religious in the sense of any particular tradition, but she fervently believed that every life is miraculous and I think her encouragement for each one of us to seize that for ourselves is the strongest idea I shall retain from reading her inspirational memoir.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Julie Yip-Williams / Biography and memoir / Books from Vietnam

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
First published in Spanish as El amor en los tiempos del cólera in Columbia by Editorial Oveja Negra in 1985. English language translation by Edith Grossman published by Alfred A Knopf in 1988.

I originally posted this review in September 2014.
I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

How I got this book:
Bought second-hand from a book stall on Bristol Waterfront

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fifty-one years, nine months and four days have passed since Fermina Daza rebuffed hopeless romantic Florentino Ariza's impassioned advances and married Dr Juvenal Urbino instead. During that half-century, Florentino has fallen into the arms of many delighted women, but has loved none but Fermina. Having sworn his eternal love to her, he lives for the day when he can court her again.

When Fermina's husband is killed trying to retrieve his pet parrot from a mango tree, Florentino seizes his chance to declare his enduring love. But can young love find new life in the twilight of their lives?

I probably didn't pick the best time to start Love In The Time Of Cholera as we were in the last throes of moving house so its first few chapters had to compete for space in my mind. However once I was able to read without interruption, I was totally drawn into the story.

I love Marquez's beautiful emotive writing and can easily imagine Florentino through his many years of waiting. The locations are eloquently described too and the flawed characters are all real people, whether being naive, irritating or poignant. There are so many depictions of different loves in the novel that I wondered which came first, this or Florentino's imagined work. After reading Love In The Time Of Cholera, I swiftly bought and downloaded another Marquez novel in keen anticipation of discovering more of his writing.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez / Contemporary fiction / Books from Colombia

Monday, 11 February 2019

The Sign of the Serpent by Majanka Verstraete + #Giveaway + Author Interview

The Sign of the Serpent (The Adventures of Marisol Holmes, #2) by Majanka Verstraete
Published by Firefly Hill Press tomorrow, the 12th February 2019.

Add The Sign of the Serpent to your Goodreads

Meet Marisol Holmes: High School Student, jaguar shifter, and great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. She's solved countless supernatural cases, but her next one's the hardest yet. Why? Marisol is about to lose her heart.

Two days ago, terrible events shattered the very foundation of the Conclave. Now, Marisol Holmes swears she'll stop at nothing to destroy the man she once loved: her arch nemesis, Mannix. But when a cryptic clue left by Mannix leads Marisol to a secret room that once belonged to her father, she realizes that hunting down Mannix won't be that easy. If she wants to catch him, she'll have to retrace the steps of her own past and discovers secrets that might have been best left buried.

When the hunt for Mannix brings Marisol to London, she teams up again with Roan and Wyatt on a quest for the truth that leads her through the dark alleys of London, to shady shifter pubs, to libraries cloaked in magic, and eventually to an abandoned castle in Scotland that once belonged to her family. But Mannix is as sadistic as he's smart. At every turn, Marisol and her friends face harsh truths and deadly puzzles, and risk their lives to uncover a past that should stay buried. With the stakes getting higher and Marisol's attraction to Roan growing, can Marisol deny what she truly wants, even if it puts her new love on a collision course with her villainous ex?  

Author Interview

I think transposing the Sherlock Holmes model into a shape-shifter protagonist is a great idea. What inspired you to write your Marisol Holmes stories in this way? Did you encounter any particular challenges?

Having majored in law and criminology, I’ve always had a particular passion for murder mysteries. At the same time, though, paranormal is one of my favorite genres to write and read. So, why not combine both of these? And when I realized I wanted to write about shifters – mostly because I hadn’t written about shifters before – the idea soon arose of a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, with the famous detective’s wit and intellect, but a shifter. And not just any shifter, but the heir to the shifter throne. 

From there, I decided to create characters that will remind Sherlock Holmes’ readers of the characters from the original story – a bad guy, Mannix, who is reminiscent of Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty; a sidekick, Wyatt, who was inspired by the character of Watson, and much more. This was a bit challenging too, because despite being able to take inspiration from the original story, I couldn’t make the characters exactly similar: I had to give them an unique touch that made them stand out yet made readers recognize them at the same time. 

An additional challenge came when related to Sherlock Holmes’ mind palace: Sherlock Holmes uses his so-called ‘mind palace’ to solve crimes and remember every single detail. I had to mimic this for Marisol, yet also add an unique touch: in the first book, Marisol locks her jaguar-self away in this mind palace because she no longer trusts her jaguar. 

Combining a vast paranormal world with royals and secret societies with murder mysteries that needed to be solved in realistic ways, was quite a challenge too, but this was the aspect I enjoyed writing the most! It was an unique opportunity for me to be able to combine two of my greatest passions, and I loved every minute of writing The Adventures of Marisol Holmes so far. 

Meet the Author 

Author Majanka Verstraete has written more than twenty unique works of fiction. A native of Belgium, Majanka's novels explore the true nature of monsters: the good, the bad, and just about every species in between. Her young adult books include the acclaimed Mirrorland (YA Dark Fantasy) and Angel of Death (YA Paranormal) series of novels.

Author links:
WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win an Alex & Ani Serpent Rose Gold Bracelet and a Sign Of The Serpent ebook.
Open Internationally until the 28th February.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Majanka Verstraete / Fantasy fiction / Books from Belgium

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Love In No Man's Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga

Love In No Man's Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga
Written in Mandarin Chinese. English language translation by Hallie Treadway published by Head of Zeus on the 7th February 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Changthang Plateau lies in the centre of Tibet. A vast, rolling grassland stippled with azure-blue lakes and ringed by snow peaks, it is home to seven-year-old Gongzha and his family who live, as their ancestors have done for centuries, by herding and hunting.

But it is 1967 and the Cultural Revolution is sweeping across China. As the Red Guard systematically loot and destroy Tibet's monasteries, Gongzha helps hide two treasures belonging to his local temple: an ebony-black Buddha marked with an ancient symbol and a copy of the twelfth-century text The Epic of King Gesar, written in gold ink. The repercussions of his act will echo across the decades.

Gongzha will be taken far from home. He will lose love and find it. He will battle wolves, bears, outlaws and his own self, as legend and history are interwoven in the story of a young man's quest to find happiness in a time of uncertainty and unrest.

I haven't read a sweeping romantic epic in ages and Love In No Man's Land certainly fits the bill on all three of those counts. I loved its late 1960s Tibet setting especially as we got to learn a little about the daily lives of the nomadic peoples living there and how their society was irrevocably altered by Mao's Cultural Revolution. Theirs is a harsh isolated existence, survival depending primarily on the health of their sheep flocks and yak herds. Buddhism was a vital faith, but its beliefs were mingled with ancient legends and Duo Ji Zhou Ga does a fabulous job of weaving the spiritual realm into the physical and mundane. At times Love In No Man's Land almost resembled a South American magical realism novel.

I am now completely entranced by the idea of the high Tibetan plateaux and their otherworldly beauty. Scenes of immense grasslands, hidden valleys and soaring mountains are so vividly described that I think anyone reading this novel will be sorely tempted to jump straight onto a plane! The people seem strong, patient and noble, but with the same ugly flaws of jealousy and greed as can be found anywhere. While this novel is essentially about a man's life, I felt that it was the actions of women that drove the narrative. Gongzha is an enticing figure as the heartbroken romantic hero, galloping alone over the wide empty grasslands, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a film version of Love In No Man's Land soon. Keeping track of all the familial and love relationships was a little tricky at times, especially when I first encountered characters with similar names. However, as the story progressed and I got to know everyone better, this was much easier.

Love In No Man's Land is separated into two halves, part two set much later than part one. Had it consisted only of part one I think I would have awarded a full five stars. I felt this part was by far the more fully developed thematically and the characters felt deeper and more authentic too. Part two introduces new characters and I felt it's pace was too swift, lacking the emotional depth of part one. There's an unconvincingly resolved love triangle and that storyline takes centre stage whereas I would have preferred to spend time with the poachers and with the ascetic community. The incorporation of the legend needed more space too - what's the chain all about then?

Despite my pickiness, I think Love In No Man's Land should appeal to a wide readership because of its powerful love story and its historical setting. I love reading stories set in times of great social upheaval and the Chinese Cultural Revolution was one of the most intense.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga / Historical fiction / Books from Tibet

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat
Published by Perrat Press in October 2018.

How I got this book:
Won in a Jaffa Reads Too giveaway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy. 

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.
She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves. Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives. Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

I've seen a number of superb reviews for The Swooping Magpie on other blogs recently so was delighted to win a giveaway copy at Jaffa Reads Too. The novel is set initially in 1970s Australia and follows its characters up until pretty much the present day. I was reminded of a nonfiction memoir I read, Empty Cradles. That book was instrumental in publicising the plight of children deemed to be 'orphans' who were deported to Australia without their own or their parents consent. In The Swooping Magpie, Liza Perrat exposes another outrage visited upon children by the state - that of forcing young unmarried mothers into hidden institutions for the duration of their pregnancies, where they were coerced into giving up their babies for adoption. Both schemes are horrific to think about, especially considering that Christian religious organisations were often instrumental in carrying them out. I know The Swooping Magpie is fiction, but it feels utterly authentic throughout so I am sure Perrat did her research well and portrays her findings accurately.

The one potential aspect that concerned me prior to reading The Swooping Magpie is that it focuses on mothers and babies and I am not a maternally minded woman! Fortunately Perrat deftly avoids ever being overly saccharine and cutesy. Her women - from selfish Lindsay to heartless Matron Unwin, terrified Helen to silent Dawnie - are richly detailed and believably nuanced. Despite personally being opposed to the actions of many of the characters, I could usually understand exactly why they behaved as they did and remember reflections of similar attitudes during my own English childhood. The idea that a woman will only be a good mother if she wears a wedding ring is fortunately now mostly seen as outrageous. We do though still need to establish that male sexual partners carry equal responsibility for pregnancies. The Swooping Magpie provides an excellent illustration of how far sexual beliefs have evolved over the past half century.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Liza Perrat / Historical fiction / Books from Australia