Friday, 23 August 2019

Cowboy Joel And The Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family + #Giveaway

Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family, illustrated by Seth Yoder
Children's fiction for children from 3-7 years old. Published in America by JPV Press on the 1st June 2019.

Cowboy Joel and Blackbeard find themselves face to face with El Maton, the most feared desperado in the West. When El Maton mocks him for the way he looks, Joel must confront his biggest fear; a tongue-slingin' with the outlaw. Can Blackbeard convince Joel to do it? Will Joel find the courage?

Note to Mom and Dad: Cowboy Joel will teach your child that it's not always about punching the bully. It's about being confident in who God made them to be, and using those truths to fight the battle in their mind.

Meet the author:
The Gagnon family is an atypical, hodgepodge mix of humanity. The entire family enjoyed writing this book, with each one contributing their own input. Every child in the family has their own special story, and every one faces their own unique challenges. Stacey, the mom of this bunch, also has a blog called Ransom for Israel. She presents an honest assessment of the orphan crisis and the desperate need for families willing to adopt. After the adoption of their youngest daughter, the Gagnons started a non-profit called Lost Sparrows. Lost Sparrows is dedicated to improving the lives of orphans and those with special needs through education, proper medical care, and adoption. Their current focus is in areas of Eastern Europe and Bulgaria.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~ Twitter  ~  Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!  

The prize is one hardback copy of Cowboy Joel And The Wild Wild West by The Gagnon Family.
Open to the USA only.
Ends September 7, 2019

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Etsy Find!
by Fun Photo Cake Toppers in
London, England

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Thursday, 22 August 2019

One Summer In France by Bev Spicer

One Summer In France by Bev Spicer
Self published in November 2013.

How I got this book:
Won a copy from the author on Twitter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The summer of 1979 was the best summer ever! Pretty, blond and dangerously impetuous, Bev and Carol head for the sun, lucky beneficiaries of a generous university grant. 

They are full of enthusiasm and the dazzling spirit of adventure that only seems possible when we are young. Essential swimwear is selected and Lipton’s vegetable oil is perfumed with patchouli for the perfect tan. 

They end up in Argelès-sur-Mer, on a campsite close to the coast and not far from the border with Spain. Every day brings new challenges: how to hold a meaningful conversation on a naturist beach, what to do about a precocious teenage stalker, how to transport a gallon of port on a moped… all of which they meet head-on, with dubious philosophy and irrepressible optimism. 

One Summer in France is a humorous tale based on a three-month study break the author took as part of her languages degree course at Keele University in 1979. 

‘Would you do it all again?’ asked Carol.
‘Like a shot!’ I said.

And I would.

One Summer In France is a wonderfully joyous beach read, or a book to remind you of sand, sunshine and maybe one too many vinos! A fictional tale of two best friends spending three months in the south of France, the story is loosely based around Bev Spicer's own experiences over one French camping summer so I felt the book had a good ring of authenticity as well as being fun to read. I could easily empathise with Bev and her straight-talking friend, Carol, although I remember not being anywhere near as daring when I was their age. In a way, One Summer In France is a coming of age story. There is a certain naivete both from the women themselves and because of the 1979 setting. Life and expectations seem so much simpler then - that might have something to do with tent living though.

Bev and Carol, unsurprisingly perhaps for university students, spend a lot of their time drinking which sometimes leads to unfortunate adventures! They also do a fair bit of exploration too and I loved recognising towns such as Carcassonne, Argeles-sur-Mer and Figueres, all of which I have also visited - albeit over thirty years later. I was impressed by Bev's reading so many French language novels during the months, especially as my own progress is so much slower. She has an engaging, chatty style to her writing style so I soon felt like one the girls. If you're looking for an uplifting holiday read, I'd happily recommend One Summer In France.

Etsy Find!
by Dark Paradise Vintage in
London, England

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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

What The Heart Knows by Regina Puckett

What the Heart Knows by Regina Puckett
Published by Punk And Sissy in May 2014.

How I got this book:
Took advantage of a free offer on Amazon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After escaping a rape attempt, Emily hides away in her old family home until her sister’s best friend fakes a health crises to lure her into visiting him at his country estate. It doesn’t take long for Emily to tell Bill about her fears and the two of them finally admit to loving the other for years. It sounds like a happy ending - but nothing is ever that easy.

Bill and Emily travel from the small towns of Tennessee, to the beautiful beaches of North Carolina and then to the bright lights of New York City, as he tries to protect her from a merciless predator. Emily has it all until she slips up and makes a terrible mistake. Her unfortunate decision tears her and Bill apart. Now she’s left to face her attacker by herself, but more importantly, she has to face a life without Bill’s love. 

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in April 2016.
What The Heart Knows is the third in a series of romance books about the Warren family. I haven't read either of the previous two but, other than a few moments when I wasn't sure who new minor characters were, this didn't have a negative impact on my understanding of the story. At the beginning, our protagonist Emily is being talked about behind her back as her sister tries to drum up help from a family friend, an artist called Bill. Everyone is very concerned because the normally outgoing Emily has rushed to her childhood home, holed herself up in her bedroom and is behaving very strangely. It turns out that she was recently attacked and is suffering both nightmares and trauma as well as shame and embarrassment. Fortunately Bill manages to get her to talk about what happened and her brother, conveniently a policeman, sets wheels in motion to arrest Emily's attacker.

In rediscovering her trust in Bill, Emily also re-ignites her buried love for him. At the same time, Bill begins to admit his love for her and their agonising over whether or not they really are destined to be together makes up most of the book. Most of their thoughts are reported in the third person and I found this getting quite dull as the loops were repeated. Also Puckett has most of her action happen off the page which slows the narrative pace right down. For example, at one point Emily and Bill are shopping for an elegant dress for a gallery event. Turn the page and something huge happened at that party, but we readers are completely in the dark until Emily gives a brief resume to her sister before starting to wonder, at length, if Bill really is the man for her after all - again! This 'missing out' occurs repeatedly at pivotal moments and I found it very annoying. The only real time suspense is when Emily's attacker predictably reappears, but here his dialogue is so over the top, it completely ruins any sense of danger.

I admit am not a fan of romance novels. However, as What The Heart Knows featured Emily's attack so prominently in its synopsis I had hoped this story would be more about a woman overcoming her ordeal and less of a will-they-won't-they tease. Emily and Bill both seem nice enough people, if overly indecisive and lousy communicators(!), but there really wasn't enough depth here to draw me into their lives.

Etsy Find!
by Sue Double Yew in
London, England

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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Body Painter by Pepper Winters + #Giveaway + Excerpt

The Body Painter (Master of Trickery Duet #1) by Pepper Winters
Published in America on the 16th August 2019.

Add The Body Painter to your Goodreads

"Must be slim, able to stand for long periods of time, and be impervious to the cold." The headline caught my attention. "Hours are negotiable, pay is minimal, clothing absolutely forbidden." The second line piqued my curiosity. "Able to hold your bladder and tongue, refrain from opinions or suggestions, and be the perfect living canvas." The third made me scowl. "Other attributes required: non-ticklish, contortionist, and obedient. Must also enjoy being studied while naked in a crowd." The fourth made me shudder. "Call or email 'YOUR SKIN, HIS CANVAS' if interested in applying." The final made my heart race.

I should've kept scrolling past the advertisement. I should've applied for the boring receptionist job at minimum wage. I should've clicked on any other job where I got to keep my clothes on. But I didn't. I applied. My interview is tomorrow! 


“Um, hi? I’m…eh, here for the interview?” I stepped warily toward the noise. 
Another curse followed by a loud thump. 
“I heard you the first time.” A man appeared from the darkness. 
A man with shaggy dark hair, five o’clock shadow, and eyes so maliciously green they masqueraded as body parts but were really well-honed weapons. 
A man who was bleeding from his temple, limping, and holding his elbow as if it needed reattaching.
“Sorry, I didn’t know if—” I gulped as something long ago tugged in remembrance. 
It can’t be…
Recognition slammed into me as forcibly as it slammed into him. 
I stumbled under the weight. 
Punched by the unbelievable. 
“Gil? Oh, my God. Gil!”
More gorgeous than he’d ever been.
I fought every instinct to go to him. 
Did my best not to grab him, kiss him, shake him, slap him. 
A gust of air blasted through the warehouse as if the winds of fate woke up, felt a tug on whatever linked us together, and clapped its hands in glee, saying, ‘Yes, this will be fun. Let’s put these two back together again.’
“Olin? Fuck…it’s you.” His gaze tore over me as hungrily as mine tore over him. 
Time stood still. It reversed. It plopped us right back in the past where this boy had held my heart, and I’d captured his, and together we knew it would always be about us. 
There is no more us.
I stumbled toward him, desperate to be nearer despite so much pain. “I can’t believe this. What are you doing here?”
“What am I? What are you?” He tripped in my direction, his face etched with lines I hadn’t seen in his youth, his body all angles and threats. As fast as he’d headed toward me, he halted as if yanked back by a rope. His face fell. His shock at seeing me morphed into hardness. 
I didn’t understand how he could change so much in a few short seconds. 
Goosebumps decorated me as coldness settled like a cloak around his shoulders.
“I’ve been back in Birmingham two years. I—” I stopped talking, unable to share the secrets that followed such a statement. “I…”
He closed his eyes, shutting me out as if battling something deep within him. Deliberately, he took a step back, his chin coming up, his coldness settling into ice. 
The silence that’d chased us in our fledgling romance returned, thick and heavy. 
My back prickled. My mouth turned dry. 
Too much distance existed between us, swelling with memory of how things had ended, why we were strangers now, and just how much heartbreak had been left behind. 
Along with silence came shadows, creeping over Gil’s expression, shutting down any remaining signs of his shock and gratefulness at seeing me. Heartbeat by heartbeat, he hid any sign that my visit was a welcome one. 
I struggled, not knowing what to say.
His gaze no longer held happiness, just aching emptiness and suspicion. “How did you find me?” He didn’t give me chance to reply. “You can’t be here, Olin. You need to leave. I don’t want you anywhere near me.”

Meet the Author 

Pepper Winters is a multiple New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestseller. After chasing her dreams to become a full-time writer, Pepper has earned recognition with awards for best Dark Romance, best BDSM Series, and best Hero. She's an multiple #1 iBooks bestseller, along with #1 in Erotic Romance, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary, and Erotica Thriller. She's also honoured to wear the IndieReader Badge for being a Top 10 Indie Bestseller.

Pepper is a Hybrid Author of both Traditional and Self-published work. Her Pure Corruption Series was released by Grand Central, Hachette. Her books have garnered foreign interest and are currently being translated into numerous languages, including already released titles in Italian, French, German, Hebrew, and Turkish.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a signed copy of The Body Painter.
Open internationally until the 29th August.

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Etsy Find!
by Neon Beauty in
Stevenage, England

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Monday, 19 August 2019

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
First published in Japanese in Japan in 1994. English language translation by Stephen Snyder published by Vintage on the 15th August 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: 5 of 5 stars

Hat, ribbon, bird, rose. To the people on the island, a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. Soon enough, the island forgets it ever existed.

When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn’t forget, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next?

The Memory Police is a beautiful, haunting and provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, from one of Japan’s greatest writers.

I previously loved reading a collection of Yoko Ogawa's short stories, Revenge, so enthusiastically grabbed my copy of The Memory Police when it appeared on NetGalley. The novel was first published in Japanese twenty-five years ago and has only just been translated into English - an amazingly good job by the talented Stephen Snyder. The Memory Police is the novel that I had hoped If Cats Disappeared From The World would be - dark, mysterious, and, actual impossibility aside, scarily real.

Ogawa vividly portrays a science fiction dystopia where an island people have grown so used to abruptly being deprived of things that the loss of something more barely provokes a comment. Once deemed Disappeared, any surviving examples of an item are swiftly, voluntarily destroyed by the populace and once out of sight, these items are soon out of mind. The hatmaker retrains as an umbrella maker when hats Disappear. The ferryman is employed as a night watchman when boats Disappear. The words themselves quietly fade from the language and, soon, most people are rarely even aware they have lost anything at all. Except for those few unfortunates who find themselves genetically incapable of simply forgetting. These individuals who tempt danger by hiding Disappeared things are the prey of the Memory Police. Anyone caught also Disappears - dragged from their homes while their neighbours look the other way.

I couldn't help but think of Anne Frank's Diary while reading The Memory Police. I saw clear parallels with 1940s stories of hidden Jews and with the present-day re-emergence of fascist ideologies not only in authoritarian declarations of what is and is not considered acceptable to this society, but, more importantly, in the way most of the people seemed incapable of raising themselves to any form of resistance. Everything they had known was gradually being taken from them, but the prevailing wisdom was to make do and manage without, not to draw unwelcome attention to oneself, not to make a fuss.

The Memory Police is a superb depiction of human behaviour and manipulation. I loved the authenticity of Ogawa's characters. I could understand and empathise with all their actions and frequently found myself questioning how I might also react under those circumstances. I was completely enthralled from start to finish. There is an element of a fairytale to the storytelling style with the unnamed people on an unnamed wintry island. Aspects of their culture are recognisably Japanese, but this could be anyone anywhere. It's a haunting fable of how we construct our identities. How much of ourselves is determined by our memories? How free are we really if everything available to us is determined by someone else?

Etsy Find!
by Northfork Vintage Shop in
Georgia, USA

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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
First published in Arabic in 2010. English language translation by Marilyn Booth published by Sandstone Press in June 2018.

One of my 2019 COYER Summer Hunt reads

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, Celestial Bodies is a coiled spring of a novel, telling of Oman's coming-of-age through the prism of one family's losses and loves.

Despite my hit-and-miss relationship (mostly misses) with Booker prize winners, I really wanted to love Celestial Bodies. It's the first Omani authored novel I have read and its focus on the changes in women's lives across an extended period of time appealed to me. I think Alharthi includes three generations of women although I did struggle to maintain a good sense of how the characters were linked and in which eras they belonged because of how the story jumps around. If you prefer a linear narrative, this probably won't be the best book choice for you!

Alharthi touches on several aspects of Oman's turbulent past including colonialism, slavery, religious wars and emigration. Despite it's small village setting though, Celestial Bodies manages to feel as though it speaks for the whole country rather than a single community. I enjoyed that this is very much a book about Omani women and I didn't get any sense that it was written with an eye to Western audiences so it felt authentic throughout. Moments such as Masouda's isolation reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper, but Celestial Bodies doesn't bemoan women's place in Omani society. Instead I felt Alharthi placed her characters simply before readers in order to show us their experiences and expectations.

I did love Alharthi's rich poetic prose. Even in translation I could appreciate certain beautifully composed sentences and imagine the original Arabic must be even more satisfying. I found myself becoming immersed in chapters, particularly those centred around Mayya, Khawla or Azzan, but didn't like abruptly being thrust into a different life or era by the ensuing chapter. At times I felt almost as though Celestial Bodies was a short story collection. Of course the characters do eventually all connect and, by the end of the book, I could envisage the family's history but, in order to fully enjoy this story, I wanted a stronger narrative flow.

Etsy Find!
by Anteeka in
Nazareth, Israel

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Saturday, 17 August 2019

Midnight by J V Speyer + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Midnight by J.V. Speyer
Published by JMS Books on the 14th August 2019.

Add Midnight to your Goodreads

Brandon loved Adrian, so when Adrian abruptly moved out of their apartment Brandon was devastated. Six weeks later Brandon is ready to start to ease his way back into life again, but a chance encounter leaves him questioning everything he thought he knew - about Adrian, their relationship, and himself. His friends are there to see him through it, especially his best friend Greg. Greg wants what's best for Brandon. He's always wanted what's best for Brandon, even when it's not necessarily what's best for Greg. As Adrian's true nature is revealed, Greg starts to wonder if maybe what's best for both of them wouldn't be each other.


Brandon sat down on one of the chairs.  "Yeah.  I mean I know he had to hide.  I knew that going in.  A lot of guys had to do that.  Most of them figure it out.  And I'm not mad at him or anything.  I just want to move on."  He frowned.  ''What are you trying to get at here, Greg?  Why does Adrian have anything to do with tonight's party?"
Greg inclined his head down, toward the spot on the street that he hadn't been able to tear his eyes from.  "Because he's been here this whole time."  
Brandon choked on his gin and tonic.  "What?" 
"He's been sitting outside the condo, watching the building, this whole time.  I mean, I get it." 
"I don't!" Brendon declared, standing up again.  He clutched his drink in his hand and couldn't decide if he wanted to hurl it at the ex standing on the ground or if he wanted to go inside and hide.  Throwing the glass would be wrong.  It would be irresponsible; it would get people hurt.  He didn't want to hurt Adrian, even if this latest stunt was creepy and stalker-ish.  "He's the one who walked away.  Why is he hanging around outside my building like some kind of lonely ghost?" 
"He wanted your attention.  He didn't know how to get it, and his ploy backfired spectacularly.  I think he regrets what he did."  Greg sighed.  "I've been watching him all night, trying to figure out what to do.  I was thinking about bringing him in." 
Brandon spun, bringing himself face to face with his best friend.  "Why would you do that?" 
"Because you love him, Bran!" 
"So what?  I'm moving on, trying to rebuild my life.  Something you have not been shy about encouraging, I'll point out.  And you want to just… what, drag him back in here?   What could that possibly accomplish?"  He pulled at his hair.  
"I thought it might give you guys a second chance."  Now it was Greg's turn to sit down, flopping into one of the other patio chairs like it was the only thing holding him up.  "I want to see you happy, Bran.  I keep hopping this fence – I know you weren't with the people who made you happy, but you seemed so perfect for each other.  And I desperately want you to be happy."  He sighed heavily, gesturing back in Adrian's general direction.  "But I didn't do it.  The guy's in his thirties.  If he wanted to come up he could ring the doorbell like an adult."  
Brandon shook his head and rubbed Greg's shoulders.  "I knew I could trust you."  Greg leaned into the touch, just a little bit, and Brandon grinned.  "I thought we established that Adrian can't make me happy at this point.  We're not right for each other, even if we thought we were."  
"I know.  I just don't know what to do here." He leaned back.  "I mean, this is kind of creepy.  He's just out there, watching.  If I'm not going to invite him inside, I probably ought to call the cops."  
Technically, Greg was right.  Brandon probably ought to call the police, because no good ever came from one ex staking out the other's home like this.  "Do you think he's dangerous?" Brandon hedged.  "Seriously, has he said anything that's struck you as dangerous?" 
"Other than creepily hanging around outside your house?  Nah.  Not that he'd say anything to me, you know?"  Greg snorted.  "I'm pretty much the last person he's talking to right now, except maybe you."
"What do you mean?"  Brandon's arms froze on his friend's shoulders.  
"He's all pissy because I lit into him about stalking you through the rally."  Greg waved a calloused hand in dismissal.  "Like okay, fine, he wants to be with someone new.  Okay.  And so what if the guy's an undergrad – it's a little weird, he's a little young for a midlife crisis but who am I to judge?  But that whole thing – like anyone didn't know what he was up to."  He shook his head again, and Brandon could feel his shoulders tensing up again underneath his hands.  "I wasn't going to just sit there and not say anything."
Brandon let his hands fall.  "Oh, Greg.  I'm so sorry." 
"What the hell for?" 
"I never wanted to come between the two of you.   You're friends.  You should be doing friend things, not arguing over me."  He turned away, clutching at his drink so he could do something with his hands.

Meet the Author 

J. V. Speyer has lived in upstate New York and rural Catalonia before settling in the greater Boston area. She has worked in archaeology, security, accountancy, finance, and non-profit management. She currently lives just south of Boston in a house old enough to remember when her town was a tavern community with a farming problem. (No, really. John Adams complained about it. A lot.)

When not writing, J. V. enjoys watching baseball and seeking out all of New England's creepiest spots. Her Spawn has turned her into a hockey enthusiast. She can be bribed with gin, tequila, and cats.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a $25 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally until the 22nd August.

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Etsy Find!
by Changed Me in
New York, USA

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Friday, 16 August 2019

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Published by Little, Brown and Company in October 2007.

How I got this book:
Passed on from a friend

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.

A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this brilliant, powerful and unforgettable novel by the author of The Lovely Bones.

For years, Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now-grown daughters. When she finally crosses a terrible boundary, her life comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined.

Unfolding over twenty-four hours, The Almost Moon explores the ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, the meaning of devotion and the line between love and hate. It is a challenging, moving, gripping story, written with the humanity and fluidity that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in April 2016.
A bizarre story which is very different from Sebold's debut novel, The Lovely Bones, I can understand why The Almost Moon has such widely varying reviews. This isn't a comfortable book to read. It confronts some of the worst of human behaviour in a way that doesn't allow readers to shrink away from what these characters are doing and have done. Moreover, I don't think that anyone is likeable. On the first page we witness Helen murdering her elderly helpless mother and the shock of such a powerful start reverberates through the following twenty-four hours of story.

Both Dave and I have read The Almost Moon and, I believe, have pretty similar views. We loved the actual writing throughout the novel. The prose isn't always grammatically perfect, but it flows at a great pace which makes The Almost Moon a page-turner. I loved Sebold's evocative descriptions and her ability to allow her readers right up close to the family's madness. From questioning Helen's sanity, I began to understand why she might have been driven to such an extreme act by the decades of provocation she endured. Looking back over her childhood allowed us to see the folie a deux of her parents, her mother's extreme agrophobia which alienated the neighbourhood, and - in a powerful scene - the pathetic poignancy of the figures in her father's sanctuary.

What spoilt this book for me though and the reason why I have only given an on-the-fence three stars is that some of the behaviours exhibited seemed so unreal that they jerked me out of the story's reality. Why go to the tub instead of bringing the tub to the house? Why does Helen's husband so blithely accept what she's done? I know this is a story about madness so the unexpected should be expected, but these people aren't stupid. Perhaps it can be explained by the timescale of The Almost Moon only being the one day after the crime, but the book jumps back over so many years that I found it difficult to keep the present-day timeline in mind.

Etsy Find!
by Poetic Madness in
Florida, USA

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Thursday, 15 August 2019

Inland by Tea Obreht

Inland by Tea Obreht
First published in the UK by Weidenfeld And Nicolson in August 2019.

2019 COYER Summer Hunt read and a 2019 New Release Challenge read

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life - her husband who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home, and her husband's seventeen-year-old cousin, who communes with spirits.

Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West.

Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht's talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely - and unforgettably - her own.

Inland is, on the face of it, a historical Western novel set in an arid, drought ridden landscape which Obreht breathtakingly evokes on every page. Two narrative threads tell the stories of Nora - endlessly awaiting the return of her husband and sons - and Lurie - remembering his adventurous camelteering days. I absolutely loved the way their lives eventually connected and hadn't figured it out in advance even though, with hindsight, perhaps the clues were there. I had no idea of the role camel trains had played in Wild West exploration or even that camels had been taken to 1850s America so I was fascinated to learn about this forgotten history. Obreht wove facts into an almost Hispanic magical realism novel which I felt fitted brilliantly well with frequent opaque visions of spirits and ghosts who cling tenaciously to some of the living characters.

My problem with Inland is that it took me nearly a quarter of the book to really begin to understand the story. I'm not sure if this was because the early chapters are particularly baffling or because my reading was more fragmented than usual due to a lack of time. I will be interested to find out if other reviewers thought the same. Once I got into the story however, I was transported by it. Obreht's understanding of her disparate characters is impressive and their actions felt authentic and believable throughout, especially considering their increasingly dire circumstances. I felt 'that sorry' for poor put-upon Josie! There's a great depth to this novel and I appreciated the mix of domestic detail, political manoeuvring and otherworldly interation. It all makes for a wonderfully distinctive work!

Etsy Find!
by City Stitches UK in
Birmingham, England

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