Friday, 26 February 2021

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera


American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
Published by Carina Press in March 2019.



How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No one ever said big dreams come easy

For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.

Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.

An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

I bought American Dreamer on the recommendation of Olivia (at Olivia's Catastrophe) who loved the story for many of the same reasons that also appealed to me so I am glad to have been swayed by her enthusiasm for this series. I don't often pick up romance novels, but American Dreamer's Dominican Republic authorship made it a perfect fit for my WorldReads project and I love that this story focuses on American people of colour simply living their lives. There is tension and angst, but of the romantic variety and a certain character's racism is a subplot, but Nesto and Jude navigating the possibility of a lasting relationship between them is firmly at this novel's heart. Food is also central to American Dreamer and I loved how Herrera explains the cultural significance of certain dishes to people living away from their family homelands. I have experienced this in a small way myself so could empathise with Carmen's joy on her first visit to the OuNYe food truck.

American Dreamer evoked similar reading vibes for me as Adiba Jaigirdar's The Henna Wars (although I must say that American Dreamer is intended for an older audience and does have a few sex scenes). The narrative is fairly light compared to my usual literary reads, but it never felt shallow. I already knew we were heading for a Happy Ever After, but Herrera's authentic portrayals of multicultural friendships and a gay relationship mean the whole book is filled with positive representation which was a joy to read. I've already got the next book in this series added to my wishlist!


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Adriana Herrera / Romance fiction / Books from Dominican Republic

Thursday, 25 February 2021

A Rendezvous To Remember by Terry Marshall & Ann Garretson Marshall + #Giveaway


Join us for this tour from Feb 9 to Mar 1, 2021!

Book Details:

Book TitleA Rendezvous to Remember: A Memoir of Joy and Heartache at the Dawn of the Sixties by Terry Marshall, Ann Garretson Marshall
CategoryAdult Non-Fiction (18 +), 378 pages
GenreMemoir, Romance
PublisherSandra Jonas Publishing
Release date:   Feb 2021
Tour dates: Feb 9 to Mar 1, 2021
Content Rating:  R. This memoir contains mature themes, explicit sex scenes, one f-word, and occasional profanity.

Book Description:

In June 1964, Ann Garretson skips her college commencement to tour Europe with Lieutenant Jack Sigg, a tank commander on the German-Czech border, with the hope of returning as his fiancĂ©e. A month into their rendezvous, her best friend, Terry, proposes marriage—by mail—throwing all their lives into turmoil.
 
Jack offers the military life Ann grew up with. Terry, a conscientious objector, will leave for the Peace Corps at the end of the summer—unless the draft board intervenes and sends him to jail. Her dilemma: she loves them both. Caught between the old mores and winds of change, Ann must make an agonizing choice. 
 
In alternating voices, A Rendezvous to Remember presents firsthand accounts by the two who eventually married, enriched by letters from the rival, whose path led him elsewhere. Provocative and delightfully uncensored, this coming-of-age memoir, anchored in the tumult of the sixties, is a tribute to the enduring power of love and family.

Buy the Book:
Amazon.com / Amazon UK

BAM ~ B&N ~ IndieBound

The Book Depository

add to Goodreads


 
Meet the Authors:

Terry Marshall and Ann Garretson Marshall taught English in the Philippines as Peace Corps volunteers and later served as Peace Corps country co-directors in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Tuvalu. Back in the States, they worked side by side as community organizers and activists in Colorado. Terry went on to write fiction and nonfiction works on discrimination, poverty, rural development, and intercultural conflict. Ann has thirty years of experience as a writer, editor, and community-government go-between for issues related to nuclear and hazardous waste cleanup. Always seeking adventure, Terry and Ann have traveled to forty-three countries. They live in Las Vegas, Nevada.

connect with the authors:  website ~ twitter ~ facebook ~ instagram


Tour Schedule:

Feb 9 –
Working Mommy Journal – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 9 - Book Corner News and Reviews - book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 10 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 11 – Pick a Good Book – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 12 – Splashes of Joy – books spotlight / giveaway
Feb 12 - Laura's Interests – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 15 – Read and Review – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 16 – Lisa's Everyday Reads – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 17 – Westveil Publishing – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 17 - Sadie's Spotlight – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 18 – Pine Enshrined Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 19 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 19 – Books for Books – book spotlight / author interview
Feb 22 - Kam's Place - book spotlight / author interview
Feb 22 - Bookish Ramblings - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Feb 22 - Book World Reviews - book spotlight

Feb 23 – Stephanie Jane – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 24 - Books Lattes & Tiaras – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Feb 24 – I'm All About Books – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 25 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 25 - Sefina Hawke's Books – book spotlight
Feb 26 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Mar 1 - High Society Book Club & Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Mar 1 - BookishKelly2020 – book spotlight

Enter the Giveaway: 

Win 1 of 2 print (USA only) or 1 of 3 ebook (international) of A RENDEZVOUS TO REMEMBER (5 winners) (ends Mar 8)

 a Rafflecopter giveaway


 

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Terry Marshall and Ann Garretson Marshall / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Skeletons by Natalie Rodriguez + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Skeletons
Natalie Rodriguez
Publication date: February 26th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller, Young Adult

When was the last time you confronted the skeletons in your closest?

Immediately following book one, “Elephant,” Matthew “Matty” Smith awakens from his coma and discovers that his worst nightmare is all true: his grandmother, Jamie, and Derek have gone missing and his mother murdered his father and grandfather years ago.

With the hospital placing him on lockdown, including no visitation rights by his loved ones such as his best friend, Lisa, Matty finds himself deteriorating into a state of the abyss, consumed with the secrets of his family. Convinced that it was the ‘stranger’ who kidnapped his grandmother and friends, no one believes him. The hospital only believes that Matty is slipping into a toxic mental state, repeating the cycle of his family.

Until one day, Lisa helps Matty escape the hospital.

On the run from Dr. Brown, Officer Barry, and the town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Matty and Lisa set off to find their friends and Lucia and for answers on who the ‘stranger’ is. Once they unmask who the ‘stranger’ is, Matty continues to unravel the deepest secrets of what was supposed to be forever hidden in the Smith family as well as the town.

This story is for those who feel their voice is unheard and for children, teenagers, and adults who never had the chance to heal from their pain.

EXCERPT:

DELICATELY, MATT’S EYES OPENED to a world of white haze. All the objects were silhouettes. That was until, Dr. Brown poked through the gust of blurriness.

“Thank God! You’re up,” he wheezed.

Matt peered around. The sunlight poured into Room 402, inch by inch. He was in the room as usual. The streaks of sunlight hit the edge of the hospital bed before it dazzled on his skin. His skin was cold and so…fair. Slimmer, shades of purple and pink concaved his cheekbones—a shade of baby blue muddled his skin.

“Ah,” Matt groaned, once Dr. Brown flashed a miniature flashlight back and forth at his eyes.

At least the reaction was a good sign—the teenage patient could see.

Then, a nurse closed the curtains. It was back to the darkened and sinister atmosphere that gobbled up Matt.

“I don’t feel too well,” he said, barely audible, as the middle of his bottom lips splintered with red.

Another nurse dabbed a tissue against his mouth. He took control of it, as though he was refusing another medical employee’s touch.

“It’s because you’ve been in a coma for four weeks,” Dr. Brown chimed in with his patient.

“I…What?”

Matt scanned the room until his vision settled upon what should have been Captain Obvious to him. His wrists, ankles, and chest were no longer strapped to the bed. Instead, all three areas of his body were wrapped-up. The white puffy bandages resembled the texture of clouds on a springtime afternoon.

While Matt’s eyes grew lukewarm, he hoisted his noodle size wrists closer to his eyes. “Wha—Wha—What happened?” he asked.

“You had an anxiety attack and went into shock…” It seemed that Dr. Brown dreaded the moment, even though he had scripted out his dialogue for when Matt reawakened, like any good doctor would do. 

“Sorry, it’s just…I’m not sure…Matt, I’m not sure just how much you remember at all.”

The outside world. It was breathtaking, as the cotton ball clouds sailed across the sky like ships out to sea.

“What’s the date?” Matt asked moments later.

It appeared that the truth cuffed at Dr. Brown’s heart. “August 5th,” he said.

Matt winced at the impossible and yet, the possible. He broke down into tears and sheltered his face. Just then, his palms met a rigid paper that was on the bottom of his lip. It made sense now—he was out of it, unaware of what was a possibility…and the impossible…

He cried even more.

“Your lip bled on and off. The white bandage cloth was too big.” Slowly, but surely, Dr. Brown reached out for his patient. He slid his fingers atop Matt’s hand and gave it a pat. “Thankfully Lisa brought in a Spiderman bandage. She said you’re a fan of the franchise. I heard there’s going to be another installment…”

Dr. Brown gave a nervous chuckle. Cat scrabbled onto Matt’s tongue, left speechless and almost…numb.

“You know,” Dr. Brown started again, “she comes to visit you almost every day. Usually around lunchtime. She’ll be real happy that you’re awake.”

He did not reply.

“Look, Matt, I know you’re exhausted”—Dr. Brown selected his words cautiously—“I get that. You’ll need more rest. I just hope you can talk to us. Whenever you’re ready.”

The pain took over Matt, as his leg gave a spasm. “I don’t understand how time flies by so…fast…”

Silence.

“Your heart was beating in a peculiar pattern,” Dr. Brown said. “At first, it was pumping at a rapid rate. And then, it was beating…slowly. And then, it went quickly again.”

Off the doc’s studying look, Matt asked, “What?”

“I just can’t get that image out of my head. After Lisa was removed from the room, we discharged the bed straps from your body when you began to lose…You lost a lot of blood.”

Matt’s eyes descended to his wrists; his mind illustrated all the possibilities and what the memory for both Dr. Brown and his colleagues must have appeared like: nurses and doctors rotated and took his pulse, as well as patched up the holes where the blood oozed out.

For some reason, Matt saw it. He imagined that his own blood was a zombie-gut neon green, just like the classic horror films.

But it frightened him, and he shut his eyes to erase the horrific illustration. The image stayed with him anyhow.

“Matt?” Dr. Brown’s voice echoed through Matt’s state of horror.

“Where was I bleeding?” It was mostly rhetorical, as Matt tried to digest the imminent response. “Where was the blood coming from?”

When Matt’s eyes peeled open, they were red with angst. Dr. Brown pointed to the upper half of his patient’s chest. 

“The scars,” Dr. Brown answered. “Lisa—she swore you were dead when she saw us trying to stop the blood.” He sniffled and coughed, as though the rest of the alphabet clogged up his throat. “We all saw the scars when the blood eventually…came to a stop.”

Matt glanced away. For a moment, he almost fooled himself while the tears streamed down his face.

Dr. Brown was tentative until, “A worldwide search was put out two weeks ago. Matt…” Compressing his fist with his mouth, he prevented a scream. “Matt…”

Cat got his tongue.

Matt noticed and watched as anxiety and pain consumed his doctor’s shaken body. Before the Spiderman bandage detached from Matt’s cherry rose lips, Dr. Brown ascended to his feet.

“Excuse me,” was all he said before he scampered out of Room 402.

“Dr. Brown?” Matt listened to his doctor’s fancy schmancy shoes swerve across the tile. The fretful voices of nurses and doctors echoed throughout the hallway as they called out for their boss’s attention.

“Doctor…” Even Matt’s voice was lost. “Brown?”

Wherever his doctor fled, Matt saw no other reason but to wait…and wait for him. He sniffled, and with a revelation, he gasped. He remembered…and his eyes returned to the cheese holes in the ceiling. ‘They’re missing…They believe you. You are not or will ever be alone again.’

Author Bio:

Natalie Rodriguez is an award-winning writer, director, and mental health and anti-violence/trauma advocate based in Los Angeles, CA. In 2014, she graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio-Television-Film. Her first experience in entertainment was an internship at the Conan O'Brien show and Peter Guber's Mandalay Pictures, where she worked at the offices of producers, Matthew Rhodes ("Cherry," "Men in Black: International") and Academy Award-winner, Cathy Schulman ("Sharp Objects," "Crash").

Natalie was also a panelist at events, including Google, Hispanicize, and YouTube, where she has shared her story as a writer, filmmaker, and a female working in the entertainment industry. Some of her previous writing work can be found in publications such as the HuffPost Blog, Thrive Global, Anxiety Resource Center, Opposing Views, NowThis News, Zooey Deschanel's Hello Giggles, The Mighty, and more.

In 2017, she founded her production company, Extraordinary Pictures, focusing on both films, television, digital series, and social issue projects. The company has a list of projects in its roaster, including development on a TV sitcom, "The D," which placed in top-ten for best comedy screenplays at Stage 32. At the moment, Natalie's second directorial feature film, "Howard Original," is in post-production and set for an August 2020 release date on YouTube Premium. The film is based on the award-winning short film about a washed-up screenwriter named Howard, who encounters more than just selling a story, a studio rejection, and writer's block when his pet cat comes to life.

Natalie's directorial feature film, "The Extraordinary Ordinary," which she also wrote, produced, and was the executive producer on, is making its round through the festival circuit. The film deals with young adults, mental health awareness, and the aftermath of trauma. The film won 'Best Film About Women's Empowerment' at the Glendale International Film Festival and scored nominations in Best Director, Best Female Director, and Best Picture. The film also had a sold-out world premiere screening at the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF), winning 'Best Performance' by the leading actress, Maddison Bullock. Further details on the project can be found @theextraordfilm, including recent film festival awards and nominations.

Her other screenplays and films have also been featured and placed in the final rounds at HollyShorts Film Festival, NALIP: Latino Lens Film Festival, ShortsTV, Stage 32: Comedy Screenplay, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, Indie Night Film Festival, Hollywood Screenplay Contest, Table Read My Screenplay - Austin Film Festival, and others.

Natalie was most recently an ambassador for Jen Zeano Designs (JZD), a clothing company in association with USA Networks. While she continues to build her creative background, Natalie is always open to collaborating with other artists and advocates. Currently, she awaits the publication of her first young adult novel this April 2020, "Elephant," a story about four childhood best friends who uncover a family secret. The book was also a finalist at Clare Books' the Binge-Watching Cure II contest for 'Best Novel.'.

Goodreads / Instagram / Twitter


GIVEAWAY!

Win an ebook copy of Skeletons.
Open internationally until the 4th March.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Natalie Rodriguez / Young adult fiction / Books from America

Monday, 22 February 2021

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler


Blackthorn by Terry Tyler
Self published in November 2019.

Included in my Vegan Bookshop


How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The UK, year 2139.

One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity.

Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything.

It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block, until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision, and promises to bring hope back to the people's lives.

Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift's spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor's loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley.

Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder's message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city?

Blackthorn is the fifth novel in Terry Tyler's scarily realistic Project Renova series. It is set a little later than the beginning of Legacy and takes place almost entirely within the city of Blackthorn which I remember seeing being established in the earlier book. There are nods to previous events and characters, but Blackthorn, I think, could also be satisfyingly read as a standalone novel or as an entry into the series.

The leadership and citizens of Blackthorn have established fairly secure lives within their walled city and the devastating pandemic of a century before is now mythology rather than memory. I liked how Tyler establishes this setting through three very different sets of eyes. Concepts such as equality didn't survive The Fall so, even within this relatively small society, a few people live luxuriously while others barely have enough to survive. This leads to frequent violence and unrest as people without hope feel they can only gain by agitation. It was interesting for me to watch attitudes change as Ryder's message of embracing The Light takes hold across Blackthorn. And, as the people begin to lives according to their new found faith - working together and trying to understand others' points of view, their lives do indeed improve. It's a cycle of self improvement that really does benefit Blackthorn, but unfortunately individual selfishness often trumps common good and Tyler understands perfectly how human nature works so is able to portray her characters' motivations in a totally believable way. She kept me hooked from start to finish and, as it's a while since I read the earlier Project Renova books, I am now very tempted to go back and reread the whole series.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Terry Tyler / Dystopian fiction / Books from England

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Decide to Live by Shirley Anne Edwards + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Decide to Live
Shirley Anne Edwards
(Finding the Strength, #3)
Publication date: February 14th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

When it hurts too much to live, how does one find the strength to stay alive and find hope again?

Reiko Nakano has a charmed life. Not only does the twenty-three-old come from a life of luxury because of her celebrity parents and supermodel sister, she’s best friends with the biggest brother and sister pop duo in the world- Gio and Gem Grove. But what the public assumes is wrong different because of what Reiko suffers in private. She feels she’s an outcast in her own family because of her ptosis and her social anxiety. She then makes the biggest mistake of her life and tries to turn her lifelong crush on Gio into something more. His cruel rejection after she lets him take her virginity leaves her heartbroken.

Reiko hides in the least likely of places- the small town of Albee, Pennsylvania. There she enjoys her anonymity and enrolls in summer classes at Maison University. She hopes she can fit in as a student, but life continues to play tricks on her when she’s hit in the face by a football from one of the most popular boys on campus, Will Forest. But this accidental but memorial meeting will help heal her fragile emotions because Will shows her how special she is to those she meets, including him.

She isn’t sure what to make of Will. He’s too nice and sweet, and treats her like gold. She accepts his attempts at romance even though it’s only temporary. But as the summer flies by, she doesn’t want to give Will up, who doesn’t know the truth about her “vacation”. And when Gio arrives in town, and threatens to out Reiko, she has some hard choices to make. Does she come clean to Will so she can decide to finally live on her own terms and embrace the amazing woman Will thinks her to be?

EXCERPT:

It had been a long time since I’d felt like I belonged somewhere or with someone. I had found that at Maison. I felt the same with Dad when he let me tag along to one of his classes or read chapters of a new book he was in the middle of writing. He was the only one I wanted to call to tell him about my summer plans. Aya would be happy for me, but she didn’t share our love for books and learning, not that my older sister was uneducated by any means. She had different pursuits and hobbies, like Mom. She had a bond with Mom, whereas mine was with Dad.

A small black dog ran by me, chased by a woman. The sight made me snicker. I checked around to see if there were any other dogs, an odd thing to see at a college. The only interesting interaction was a few guys playing football a few feet away. I wanted to soak in the atmosphere a little longer. Then I would call Dad and tell him my news. Trying to figure out the time difference in Paris, I walked forward, realizing too late I was in the path of the football game. Someone shouted— “Look out!” As I turned, a football hit the side of my neck, near my shoulder. I fell and landed on the ground.

The sun above blinded me as I tried to bring the world into focus. Soon, a group of men surrounded me, blocking out the light. One knelt next to me and boosted me up, keeping his arm on my back.

“My glasses?” I searched the area even though everything was blurry.

“I found them.” He pressed them into my hand. “Are you okay? Do you need a doctor? Should we call 911?”

I slid my glasses on and shook my head. “I was just startled.”

When I was able to see again, the guy who still supported me helped me stand. I should have noticed he wasn’t wearing a T-shirt. It was stuck in the back of his shorts, leaving his chest bare. What I did notice first was his chunky black-framed glasses and short yet spikey blond hair. He also had too many freckles across his nose and cheeks.

“You’re wearing glasses also.” I blinked, amazed by how cute he was wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and because of the deep lines around his mouth because of his smile.

“A few other guys on campus wear glasses, but they don’t look as good as I do.” He scooped up the football and tossed it to someone. “I’m going to take a break to make sure the young lady here is okay.”

Young lady? I kicked the grass. Shoot! My paperwork had scattered.

“I’m fine, I think, but my papers aren’t.” I bent to retrieve the wrinkled documents.

By the time I’d found most of them, he had put on his T-shirt. He held the brochure, and, as I rose, he flipped through it. “You’re a new student here?”

“Just for the summer.” I held my hand out for the booklet.

He paused as if he wanted to say something but instead gave me the booklet.

“Thanks.” I took my time putting the book and papers in my tote bag, expecting him to leave. But he still stood there.

For some reason, I wasn’t as uncomfortable as I usually was when I met new people. Our awkward introduction resulting from the football to my face should have made me look in the other direction. But he acted…considerate? Or maybe compassionate was a better word?

A female voice called out, “Will,” and he waved but stayed with me. “Now you know my name. I’m Will, short for William.”

“I’m Reiko, and it’s not short for anything.” I glanced at the girl who‘d said his name. She was with two other girls, and they all looked identical—white girls with highlighted blonde hair and tight shirts and shorts. They were the type I would stay away from because they reminded me of Gem.

“I never heard that name before. It’s pretty.” He gave me another friendly smile.

“It has a few meanings.” The main meaning of my name meant beautiful, but I preferred wise. I left it unsaid because he would probably say I was beautiful in his flirty way, just to be nice.

“I’d love to know what your name means.” He tapped his fingers on his hips.

If I had better social skills, I would have teased him, extending our conversation. But with those girls waiting for him, one of whom might be his girlfriend, it was best I let him go.

“If we meet again, I might tell you.” I turned and walked away. It was better to cut him off and leave. The odds I would see him again were small since he was ending his semester and would return to wherever he lived for the summer.

As expected, he didn’t run after me or tell me to stay. I kept walking without turning around to check like the small voice in my head wanted me to do.

Author Bio:

Shirley Anne Edwards is a Northeast girl who first found her love for books when she read Nancy Drew's The Secret of the Old Clock Tower at thirteen. Shirley found her love for writing at a very young age, and since then has let her imagination run wild by creating quirky characters and vast worlds in her head.

Shirley lives in New Jersey and works in the entertainment industry in New York City.

In the immortal words of Mark Twain: "Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret ANYTHING that makes you smile."

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


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Friday, 19 February 2021

The Savior by Abdellatif Radja


The Savior by Abdellatif Radja
Self published in November 2020.



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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three years after the tragic death of baby Sarah, Emily decides to have a child again. She hires a doula and tries to settle into a semblance of normalcy.

On a cold autumn morning, husband David wakes up to find a note from Emily on the refrigerator door: Goodbye Forever.

David wonders why Emily left him just a few days before her due date. Well, their marriage isn't the most perfect in the world, but he did everything he could to save it, or at least that's what he thought.

Under mounting pressure from the police, David decides to take matters into his own hands. With the few secrets he learned from the doula about his wife, he begins unearthing more and more shocking secrets.

Did Emily really decide to disappear?

I had quite good hopes for The Savior when I started to read it. Billed as a psychological thriller, its central characters are a wife and husband whose lives were devastated by her severe post partum depression after the birth of their first child. I sympathised with the character of Emily, despite the terrible thing she had done, and was intrigued by the way her husband, David, had organised his domestic life during Emily's enforced absence. A manipulative, chauvinistic man, there is lots not to like about David and I frequently found myself wondering what on earth had attracted Emily to him in the first place!

I was confused by Abdellatif Radja's failure to set The Savior in a definite location and felt this negatively affected my ability to believe in all the characters and their motivations. I guess, by their names - Emily, David, Patricia, Samantha, Hannah - and some scenarios that the novel is targeted towards a mainstream white American audience, but the overall settings felt too flimsy and generic for my tastes. The dialogue is often strange too, but I did actually quite like the poetic style of Radja's prose.

As the story progressed, I thought it was going to explore the realities of a woman living in the shadow of post partum depression. Having recently read Elisabeth Horan's powerful poetry collection, Just To The Right Of The Stove, on just this subject, I felt it a brave direction especially for a male author to take, but unfortunately this was not to be the case. After Radja sets us up for various psychological aspects in the first half of the book, he then sadly veers abruptly into implausible thriller fare for the second half with lots of gun waving, two-dimensional cameo characters, and half explored plotlines that fizzle out. Rapid scenes get increasingly more violent and less and less believable, and the whole mental health aspect, which initially drew me in, ultimately ends up with a shallow, stereotyped portrayal of 'crazy woman'. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Abdellatif Radja / Thrillers / Books from Algeria

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Kololo Hill by Neema Shah


Kololo Hill by Neema Shah
Published by Picador today, the 18th February 2021.



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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you’re left with nothing but your secrets, how do you start again?

Uganda 1972

A devastating decree is issued: all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days. They must take only what they can carry, give up their money and never return.

For Asha and Pran, married a matter of months, it means abandoning the family business that Pran has worked so hard to save. For his mother, Jaya, it means saying goodbye to the house that has been her home for decades. But violence is escalating in Kampala, and people are disappearing. Will they all make it to safety in Britain and will they be given refuge if they do?

And all the while, a terrible secret about the expulsion hangs over them, threatening to tear the family apart. 

From the green hilltops of Kampala, to the terraced houses of London, Neema Shah’s extraordinarily moving debut Kololo Hill explores what it means to leave your home behind, what it takes to start again, and the lengths some will go to protect their loved ones.

Kololo Hill focuses on Idi Amin's expulsion of Asian families from Uganda in the early 1970s. It's set around the same time as The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumba and shows a very different side of Ugandan life. We see how an Indian family have their lives turned upside-down by Amin's decree. He does not consider them to be Ugandans even though Jaya and her husband, Motichand, have lived and worked in the country for decades. Not even their eldest son, Pran, born there and in possession of a Ugandan passport, escapes the ruling. Shah tells the family's story through three characters: elderly Jaya, Jaya's daughter-in-law, Asha, and Jaya's younger son, Vijay. I was particularly fascinated by the relationship between Jaya and Asha which illustrates not only a wide generation gap but also shows how far Ugandan Indians have diverged from their parents' culture. Jaya has always followed a traditional way of life for Indian women of her class and caste, keeping herself in her husband's shadow, whereas as Asha, brought up in Uganda culture, expects the right to speak and that her opinions should be acknowledged. Neither woman is equipped for the situation in which they find themselves, but I loved how Shah plays them off each other as they struggle through.

Asha's husband, Pran, provides much of the story's drive which is a little strange because, as readers, we don't get to hear his voice directly. As he and Asha are newly married, she often doesn't understand this secretive man either so their lack of connection often causes more problems. Kololo Hill is as much about this family's interpersonal relationships as it is about the outside situation in Uganda and I felt the almost claustrophobic sense of them being trapped together worked very well to add atmosphere to the story. It's even more effective once some of the family arrive in England, others having been lost along the way.

I remember seeing old newsreel footage of dozens of expelled Ugandans arriving at one of the London airports, obviously bewildered and certainly not dressed warmly enough for the weather. Shah managed to put me right into the middle of that moment, and into the months that follow as these refugees attempt to rebuild their lives from scratch having had to leave practically all their possessions behind. Kololo Hill really brought home to me just how traumatic such an upheaval was, and still is for the people going through similar experiences today.


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