Sunday, 31 December 2017

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
Published in America by Putnam in 1995.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Swimming

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

She is Jane Doe.

A woman who cannot remember her name, found hurt and bleeding, alone, in a graveyard.

All she knows is a feeling: that she's been here before. That she's hidden here, taken refuge.
But what - or who - is she running from?

The central storyline of Picture Perfect is an accurate and moving portrayal of domestic abuse which manages to understand both the abused and the abuser and gives frightening insights into both worlds. However, the tale is shrouded in a lot of superfluous description of movie star, Alex Rivers', wealth, houses and possessions which I didn't need to read about again, and again. The detail of Native American lives was interesting, especially as seen in contrast to the rich white enclave. Overall, I felt as though this book hadn't really decided whether it wanted to be styled as a serious literature or a frothy romance. Ultimately it falls between the two stools which detracts from its important message.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jodi Picoult / Women's fiction / Books from America

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason
Published in America by Alfred A Knopf in 2002.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

White. Like a clean piece of paper, like uncarved ivory, all is white when the story begins.

One misty London afternoon in 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives an unusual request from the War Office: he must leave his quiet life and travel to the jungles of Burma to repair a rare grand piano owned by an enigmatic army surgeon. So begins an extraordinary journey across Europe, the Red Sea, India and onwards, accompanied by an enchanting yet elusive woman. Edgar is at first captivated, then unnerved, as he begins to question the true motive behind his summons and whether he will return home unchanged to the wife who awaits him. . .

The Piano Tuner is set in 1880s England and Burma (Myanmar). Our protagonist, a shy London piano tuner named Edgar Drake unexpectedly receives a War Office request to travel many hundreds of miles in order to tune a rare piano. He will be paid generously with a year's income for what is planned to be a three month commission. Despite his initial reservations, he decides to make the journey - his first outside of England.

I enjoyed Mason's writing when he describes the fabulous journey. Drake boards steamships and trains, travels through India as well as Burma, and Mason evokes the atmospheres, sights and sounds, colours and scents in wonderful detail. The mission itself does seem ludicrous, but having already read Giles Foden's factual account of the British Army's ship transportation through the Congo not so many years later, sending a piano tuner through Asia is simple by comparison!

The Piano Tuner does rely heavily upon exposition however and I was disappointed at how much this slowed the pace. Drake is taught Anglo-Burmese war history through lengthy War Office briefing documents which we also get to read. The information is dry and, while kind of relevant, isn't needed in such depth. The same could be said of the piano information dumps - a little is interesting, a long diversion is too distracting. Characters are often deliberately vague which made it difficult for me to maintain interest in their plight and I thought the ending was unnecessarily rushed. I came away from this book feeling it owed much of its overall story arc to Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness - which I am now tempted to revisit - but without that classic's power.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Daniel Mason / Historical fiction / Books from America

Friday, 29 December 2017

Season Of The Witch by Arni Thorarinsson

Season Of The Witch by Arni Thorarinsson
First published in Icelandic as Timi nornarinnar in Iceland by Forlagid in 2005. English language translation by Anna Yates published by AmazonCrossing in August 2012.

One of my WorldReads from Iceland

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £8.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £8.99 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from $1.34 / £1.00 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

 All evidence indicates an accident, but when the victim’s mother cries foul play, kindhearted Einar agrees to investigate. Just days later, the lead actor in Loftur vanishes, leaving the locals reeling—and Einar unconvinced that a single village could be so accident prone. Keenly perceptive and hungry for the truth, Einar begins to chip away at the quaint small-town facade, uncovering a tangled web of power and greed that threatens to devour the historic community for good.

Season Of The Witch was a surprising read for me. Its chatty style felt more like a cosy mystery than the Scandi-noir I was expecting from the cover art. The novel is written in the first person from journalist Einar's point of view so we get to understand his character pretty well. Other people aren't so completely portrayed and some, such as the editor back on Reykjavik, felt stereotyped. The central mystery is an interesting idea, but it is intertwined with other personal storylines that I felt were included more for padding than necessity. The dog's disappearance for example leads into deep emotional territory, but this isn't explored more than superficially.

For a light post-Christmas read, Season Of The Witch fulfilled its purpose. It is entertaining and gives an idea of life in small-town Iceland - very different to that of the city! I didn't need to have read the earlier books in the series as the story here stands well alone. I just would personally have preferred less cosiness!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Arni Thorarinsson / Crime fiction / Books from Iceland

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Revelation by Gemma Humphrey

Revelation: Trinity Part 1 by Gemma Humphrey
Self published in the UK on the 16th December 2017.

Where to buy this book:

Add Revelation to your Goodreads

Eighteen-year-old Rose Davies is a Fresher at the prestigious Cambridge University. She dreams of punting on the river, reading Shakespeare in the famous library, and getting to know a town steeped in history. 
But Trinity College's newest professor, Christian Howard, is a dream of a very different kind - and, impossibly, the image of the man who saved her life when she was only six years old. 
Soon, Rose is swept into a world she never expected to find; filled with angels and demons, a war raging eons, and a discovery that will change her life forever...

She is the key to ending the Eternal War, but Heaven & Hell will do whatever it takes to ensure the other can't have her...

Meet the author
Gemma Humphrey hails from the Sunny South-East coast of England, and lives with her boyfriend, Andy, their kittens, Orwell and Brontë, and hens, Rosie and Pepper.

Working as the Property Manager for a busy and successful Opera House, she writes in her spare time.

She is currently working on her long term project - Trinity - a New Adult Trilogy that follows the life of Cambridge student Rose Davies.

Gemma is an enthusiastic reader of all genres, and loves to write - and read - about all things fantasy, YA/NA in particular. She is a world builder and her work is littered with cultures and lands of her own creation, the more detailed, the better.

Author links

WebsiteFacebook ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Gemma Humphrey / Fantasy fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth
Published in America by Curiosity Quills Press in October 2014.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everyone in Arnn - a small farming town with more legends than residents - knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

I received my copy of Escape From Witchwood Hollow from its author, Jordan Elizabeth, after being contacted via Goodreads by Jessica, a member of her street team. The book is a Young Adult supernatural tale, so not one of my usual genres, but I could see it already had other good reviews so I took a chance.

Escape From Witchwood Hollow is set in three time periods. We begin in Autumn 2001 meeting Honoria on her first day at a new school. After the deaths of her parents Honoria has moved with her Aunt, Uncle and brother from New York City to a small rural community. She tries to cope with such massive life changes, but finds making new friends difficult, especially when she finds herself practically dared to enter the local haunted wood, Witchwood Hollow, in the middle of the night.

Jumping back in time, we meet up with Lady Clifford, a noble English immigrant to America in 1670 and a fugitive after she is accused of murder; and Albertine who is also English, although of much lower social class, and another immigrant some 180 years later when she follows her father across the Atlantic to make herself a new home.

I enjoyed reading the three stories and loved the way in which they begin to intertwine. The storyline is much deeper and more intricately plotted than I expected from a YA novel and I found myself gripped by the twists and turns. Elizabeth describes her settings well and the story is brilliantly paced. Its air of menace grows steadily, yet the writing never becomes overly melodramatic. Perhaps some of the dialogue isn't completely true to its period, however, our three heroines are distinct characters making difficult but believable decisions, and the supernatural angle made this a perfect ghostly read for Christmas Eve.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jordan Elizabeth / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The Girl And The Bomb by Jari Jarvela

The Girl And The Bomb by Jari Jarvela
First published in Finnish as Tytto ja pommi in Finland by Crime Time in 2014. English language translation by Kristian London published by AmazonCrossing in October 2015.

One of my WorldReads from Finland

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rust and Metro live life to the fullest in the small Finnish city of Kotka. The lovers work together by day and write graffiti by night, always staying one step ahead of the law. But their luck runs out after an ambush by rogue security guards causes Rust to fall to his death. Having literally left their marks all over the city, Metro cannot help but be reminded of Rust everywhere she goes, making it impossible for her to move past the tragedy. Heartbroken and alone, she becomes determined to get to the bottom of her partner’s death and to exact revenge on those responsible by using the tool she knows best: spray paint. As she fights to bomb the system, she is constantly—and harshly—reminded of how unfair life can be. Up against lies, betrayal, and corruption, Metro musters the strength and inspiration to persevere in the name of truth and by adding beauty to an ugly world.

I have been deliberately avoiding books with 'The Girl' in their titles for a few years now, but this particular example managed to get past my Derivative Titles filter and I am glad that it did so! I was intrigued by its premise and enjoyed the unusual crime mystery.

The Girl And The Bomb is told from dual perspectives: graffiti artist Metro and her nemesis, security guard Jere. The speak directly to the reader in alternating chapters and this device works well. The two have distinctively different voices so I never got confused as to whose point of view I was following. Seeing certain pivotal scenes from both perspectives was interesting as well. Metro is perhaps a little too indestructible to be believable, but I loved her inventiveness and her grief-driven desire for revenge is utterly believable.

Jarvela has a good eye for physical details which, combined with the graffiti artists' preferred locations - railyards, abandoned buildings, etc - I thought gives this novel a unique feel within the Scandinavian crime genre. I was reminded slightly of Missing by Karin Alvtegen at times as both novels seek to ask social questions as well telling a good tale. I've just bought The Girl And The Bomb's sequel and look forward to reading it soon.

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

Monday, 25 December 2017

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens + #FreeBook

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
First published in the UK by Chapman And Hall in 1859.

How I got this book:
Bought at a charity shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Novel by Charles Dickens, published both serially and in book form in 1859. The story is set in the late 18th century against the background of the French Revolution. Although Dickens borrowed from Thomas Carlyle's history, The French Revolution, for his sprawling tale of London and revolutionary Paris, the novel offers more drama than accuracy. The scenes of large-scale mob violence are especially vivid, if superficial in historical understanding. The complex plot involves Sydney Carton's sacrifice of his own life on behalf of his friends Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette. While political events drive the story, Dickens takes a decidedly antipolitical tone, lambasting both aristocratic tyranny and revolutionary excess--the latter memorably caricatured in Madame Defarge, who knits beside the guillotine.

I read A Christmas Carol a while before Christmas last year - my first Dickens actually from the book rather than the TV! I thought it might be fun to make this author another of my Christmas traditions so chose the not-at-all seasonal A Tale Of Two Cities for this year. It turns out that I already knew the first and last sentences because they have become famous quotes: 'It was the best of times and the worst of times' and 'it is a far far better thing that I do than I have ever done'.

For me this novel was a bizarre mix of some of the best descriptive writing I have read, interspersed with some of the most oversentimental claptrap and unrealistic dialogue. If Dickens was a modern indie author, reviews would surely be scathing! The timeline jumps at the beginning felt disjointed, but the story does eventually settle into itself. I loved his evocations of the poverty-stricken districts of Paris. Also the excitement and horror of running battles during the Revolution is breathtakingly well done. That knife sharpening scene in the courtyard!

However, of the famed Dickens characters, I didn't see much sign in this book and I was completely underwhelmed by the love story! Charles Darnay is basically just bland and his dearly beloved Lucie is so saccharinely pure and Good as to be exasperating. Her only nod to a genuine personality is her rather disturbing habit of clasping men's heads to her breast at the slightest provocation. I was surprised to read in the publisher's notes that A Tale Of Two Cities is the most popular Dickens novel after Pickwick Papers. Perhaps its length has something to do with that?

Etsy Find!
by Homebodies Co in
Wisconsin, USA

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Charles Dickens / Historical fiction / Books from England

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson + Free Book

Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson
First published in the UK by Unwin in 1885.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Read a free online version at East Of The Web

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Markheim" is a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, originally prepared for the "Pall Mall Gazette" in 1884, but published in 1885 in "The Broken Shaft: Tales of Mid-Ocean" as part of "Unwin's Christmas Annual". The story was later published in Stevenson's collection "The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables" (1887).

London, Christmas 1884. The story opens in an antique store, with Markheim wishing to buy a present for a woman he will soon marry. The dealer presents him with a mirror. Markheim is strangely reluctant to end the transaction, but when the dealer insists that he must buy or leave, he consents to stop tarrying and review more goods. The dealer turns his back to replace the mirror, and Markheim pulls out a knife...

Markheim is set on Christmas Day although, other than the lack of custom to the antique dealer's shop, we only really know this because we are told so. A regular customer has been let in to the closed shop. He usually takes items to sell, and we are given to understand that these are stolen goods, yet for Christmas Day he wishes to buy a gift for a lady friend. The dealer doesn't completely believe him, but is trusting enough to turn his back ...

Stevenson's story is very much of its time with most of the sixteen pages taken up by overwrought dialogue that is far too deep for natural conversation in the situation described. However, accepting that this is the case stops the melodrama from detracting from the tale. Markheim has led a poverty-stricken life, believing his thieving and worse to be the result of his circumstances. Now that perhaps he has sunk as low, morally, as it is possible to go, should he heed the words of a devil and profit from his crime or should he stand tall for once and Do The Right Thing?

I liked this tense story and would have preferred it actually to have been a little longer. The claustrophobic shop setting is wonderfully described and I found it easy to imagine the situation. It would be a good story to read out loud or to act out on Christmas Eve and, of course, has a strong moral message of what disaster may ensue if Christmas shopping is left until the very last minute!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Robert Louis Stevenson / Short stories / Books from Scotland

Saturday, 23 December 2017

In Loving Memory by Jenny Telfer Chaplin

In Loving Memory by Jenny Telfer Chaplin
Published by Endeavour Press in September 2013.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Glasgow, in the early nineteenth century. Times are hard, and the the streets are crowded with desperate and starving people. Amid poverty and strife, an insurrection known as the Radical War is about to start and two women's lives will be changed forever. 

Maggie and Sheena are both fighting for the same man. Maggie is left with child by her unwanted seducer, and is forced by her family into an arranged marriage with Fergus to cover up the scandal. Fergus leaves his young sweetheart Sheena broken-hearted and in a similarly precarious position. Distraught she turns to Fergus’s brother Rab for comfort. Against the backdrop of turmoil and revolt, Maggie and Sheena must fight to remain true to their hearts. 

In Loving Memory appealed to me because of its setting - Glasgow at the time of the Radicals - which I didn't know much about. Unfortunately, I still don't know much because, while historical events such as the Radicals and the Bread Riots are namedropped, they are not explained. Most of the novel's convoluted plot takes place in our protagonists' homes where two-dimensional characters argue frequently and, again, without much background given so I found it difficult to understand the whys of many decisions. They speak in a phonetically spelt Scots brogue that took a little getting used to, but does at least add some atmosphere. However my main gripe is the device of huge events happening to our characters off the page. At one point a chapter ends with a family boarding a ship, then the next chapter starts five years after the shipwreck. Hello? What shipwreck?!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jenny Telfer Chaplin / Historical fiction / Books from Scotland

Friday, 22 December 2017

Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant

Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant
Published by Alma Books in May 2013.

Featured in WorldReads: Jamaica

How I got this book:
Borrowed the book from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Check for Sketcher at these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

Nine-year-old “Skid” Beaumont’s family is stuck in the mud. Following his father’s decision to relocate and build a new home, based on a drunken vision that New Orleans would rapidly expand eastwards into the wetlands as a result of the Seventies oil boom, Skid and his brothers grow up in a swampy area of Louisiana. But the constructions stop short, the dream fizzles out, and the Beaumonts find themselves sinking in a soggy corner of 1980s Cold War America.

As things on the home front get more complicated, Skid learns of his mother’s alleged magic powers and vaguely remembers some eerie stories surrounding his elder brother Frico. These, as well as early events that Skid saw with his own eyes, convince him that Frico has a gift to fix things by simply sketching them. For the next few years, Skid’s self-appointed mission to convince his brother to join him in his lofty plan to change their family’s luck and the world they live in will lead to even more mystery and high drama in the swamp.

Atmospheric, uplifting and deeply moving, Sketcher – Roland Watson-Grant’s stunning debut – is a novel about the beauty of life no matter how broken it is.

I didn't realise that Sketcher was intended for a young adult audience until I came to research this post about the novel. Watson-Grant's vision of the Beaumont family's life in the New Orleans swamps gives a vivid idea of the harsh conditions out there. I could easily imagine their one-roomed shack - still 'temporary' after more than a decade - and the necessity of community to survive. I thought this book reminiscent of Jesmyn Ward's Salvage The Bones, but without anywhere near as much of the gritty horror of that novel.

Sketcher is actually written from the point of view of the artist's younger brother, nine year old Skid. Skid believes in magic, especially that his brother can draw their way out of trouble and also that his mother has brought her obeah powers with her from her native island of San Taino. I wasn't always convinced by the way in which the magical occurrences were integrated into the story. There is an environmental anti-fracking storyline as well which I liked in its own right, but I felt the various narratives sometimes felt too forced together.

For an illustration of non-traditional American life, especially for younger readers, Sketcher is a good book to pick up. Personally I am not sure that I will go on to read its sequel though.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Roland Watson-Grant / Young adult fiction / Books from Jamaica

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Weaver Poet: The Songs and Poems of Robert Tannahill

The Weaver Poet: The Songs and Poems of Robert Tannahill, introduced by Claire Casey
Published by Claire Casey in May 2016.

Where to buy this book:

Robert Tannahill was born into a weaving family, in Paisley. He followed his father in weaving, but would write poems and songs as he worked. He tragically killed himself, at the age of 36.

Claire Casey put together this book of Robert Tannahill's poetry and songs. She has kindly written the following for Literary Flits as an introduction to this forgotten poet's work:

It was once joked that the weavers of Paisley were also all poets.

The most famous of these weaver poets, was Robert Tannahill (1774-1810), who was a contemporary of Robert Burns. Tannahill’s name and work may not be as famous as that of Burns, but with Paisley having come so close to gaining City of Culture status for 2021, there is no better time than now to highlight him and his work.

Starting to write his poems in 1804, in the wake of Robert Burn’s death, it is believed that Tannahill had a small desk attached to the side of his weaver’s loom, which was kept stocked with pens, ink and paper. This was simply so that he could write his songs and poems, while he continued to work.

Despite a deformity to his right leg, which was slightly shorter than his left, Tannahill was a keen walker. One of his favourite haunts was the Gleniffer Braes, which mark the southern most limit of Paisley. Part of the Braes are now a country park, with one of it’s walks being named in Tannahill’s honour. These walks on the Gleniffer Braes became one of the main influences on his songs and poems.
After the success of his first collection, Tannahill believed that his second collection would be accepted for publication. Unfortunately, it was rejected, sending Tannahill into a spiral of depression, which led to tragedy.

One night, his friends discovered that Tannahill had left the cottage that he shared with his widowed mother. No-one had realised that he had done so, until his friends had stopped to check on him. A search party was quickly organised, and it didn’t take long for Tannahill’s jacket to be found, folded neatly on the banks of the Paisley Canal. His pocket watch had been carefully placed on top of his jacket.
His body was found not long after, in the culvert for the canal. At the age of 36, he had taken his own life. He was buried in the graveyard of the Castlehead Kirk, which is only a short distance from his family’s cottage, which, to this day, is still referred to as Tannahill’s cottage, which stands on Paisley’s Queen Street.

Tannahill was one of the founding members of the Paisley Burns Club, the oldest Burns club that is still in existence. The members of this Burns club continue to meet at Tannahill’s cottage.

In 2010, on the 200th anniversary of his death, an exhibition was held in memory of Tannahill. Portraits of the poet were displayed along side some of his personal effects.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Robert Tannahill / Poetry / Books from Scotland

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Handler by Tish Thawer + Giveaway

Handler by Tish Thawer
Published in America by Amber Leaf Publishing on the 19th December 2017.

Where to buy this book:

Add Handler to your Goodreads

Our world was perfect––until we broke the law: Don’t go out at night.

Utopian by day, dystopian by night; this is the world I recently discovered. I now struggle with the fact that our whole society has been based on a lie. There’s only one way to change it––conquer the darkness we’ve all been raised to fear.

Live the lie; fight to the death; become a Handler. It’s the only way.

Meet the Author
2017 - #1 Bestseller in Historical Fiction (Witches of BlackBrook)
2017 - Top 100 Bestselling in Paid Kindle Store (Witches of Blackbrook)
2015 - Best Cover - Penned Con (The Witches of BlackBrook)
2015 - Readers Choice Award - My New Favorite Book Awards (The Witches of BlackBrook)

Bestselling and Award Winning Author, Tish Thawer, writes paranormal romances for all ages. From her first paranormal cartoon, Isis, to the Twilight phenomenon, myth, magic, and superpowers have always held a special place in her heart.

Tish is known for her detailed world-building and magic-laced stories. Her work has been compared to Nora Roberts, Sam Cheever, and Charlaine Harris. She has received a RONE Award nomination (Reward of Novel Excellence), as well as nominations for Best Cover, Reader’s Choice, and Author of the Year (Fantasy, Dystopian, Mystery).

Tish has worked as a computer consultant, photographer, and graphic designer, and is a columnist for Gliterary Girl media and has bylines in RT Magazine and Literary Lunes Magazine. She resides in Arizona with her husband and three wonderful children and is represented by Gandolfo, Helin, and Fountain Literary Management.

A common FAQ: "How do you pronounce her last name?"
Answer: Think "Bower" or "Thow-er". It's Persian!

Author links:
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 7th January, the prize is a Kindle Fire and $25 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tish Thawer / Science fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The More Known World by Tiffany Tsao + Giveaway

The More Known World by Tiffany Tsao
Published in America by AmazonCrossing today, December 19th 2017.

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway for the chance to win a copy of The More Known World. Giveaway closes on January 7th.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Quest of the quirky Oddfits continues—and this time, beyond the Known World lies something unspeakable…

Two years after Murgatroyd Floyd joined the Quest to understand and catalogue the wonders of the More Known World, the rash-prone, blue-eyed Oddfit starts having doubts about his exploratory skill. And while that’s enough to give his mentor, Ann Hsu, pause, it’s not what’s bringing the Quest to a grinding halt. Blame that on a series of murders that sends Ann and Murgatroyd to a strange new Territory to investigate.

Cambodia-Abscond, awash in shades of red, can drive outsiders crazy. With its vermilion foliage, crimson trees, and garnet soil, it screams carnage. Fitting, considering that its settlers are a shady bunch with catastrophic histories who live in a society where no questions are asked, and the official language is silence.

Fitting, too, that Cambodia-Abscond is where Ann’s recollections of her own nightmarish past seem to come crawling back out of the bloodwood. Apparently, there’s more to the More Known World than Ann and Murgatroyd expected. And if their Quest has a dark side, the two Oddfits have found it.

The More Known World is set a couple of years after the first book of this series, The Oddfits, and continues the story. I would definitely recommend reading The Oddfits first otherwise I don't think you'll have a clue what is going on in The More Known World! Tsao is again on great form in imagining the wonders of multiple worlds, each with their own idiosyncratic climates and colours and, in one, with animals that have all evolved from mosquitoes!

Murgatroyd Floyd only plays a supporting role this time around which is a shame as his unique character and situation was one of the aspects of The Oddfits I loved the most. However, instead, Tsao now concentrates more on Murgatroyd's mentor, Ann Hsu. Through memories, Tsao contrasts the absolutely competent leader Ann with her childhood self, An An, a young girl of Vietnamese origin whose mother is obsessed with finding success on the American child beauty pageant circuit. An An's experiences in this rarified world are frequently as bizarre as Murgatroyd's had been in Singapore.

I hope this series continues as I thoroughly enjoyed Tsao's explorations of people dislocated from their immediate society. Personally I feel I can identify to a degree with oddfittingness and I loved the idea of the community where inane small talk is considered the height of bad manners!

Etsy Find!
by Katz Little Factory

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tiffany Tsao / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Salvage by Cynthia Dewi Oka

Salvage by Cynthia Dewi Oka
Published in America by TriQuarterly Books today, December 15th 2017.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

How do we transform the wreckage of our identities? Cynthia Dewi Oka’s evocative collection answers this question by brimming with what we salvage from our most deep-seated battles. Reflecting the many dimensions of the poet’s life, Salvage manifests an intermixture of aesthetic forms that encompasses multiple social, political, and cultural contexts—leading readers to Bali, Indonesia, to the Pacific Northwest, and to South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Throughout it insistently interrogates what it means to reach for our humanity through the guises of nation, race, and gender. Oka’s language transports us through the many bodies of fluid poetics that inhabit our migrating senses and permeate across generations into a personal diaspora. Salvage invites us to be without borders.

I looked forward to exploring this volume of poetry, but unfortunately found it way beyond my comprehension. There are flashes of imagery, some violently graphic, which I understood and I have no doubt that for someone familiar with Indonesia or this style of poetry, Oka's poems could be very powerful. However I found her poetry too disjointed to follow so did not finish the book.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Cynthia Dewi Oka / Poetry / Books from Indonesia

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Queen Of Corona by Esterhazy + Giveaway + Excerpt

Queen Of Corona by Esterhazy
Self published in America on the 15th December 2017.

Where to buy this book:

Add Queen Of Corona to your Goodreads

Queen of Corona delves into the mind of a young American adult growing up in today’s multicultural society. It is a human look at contemporary existence “from the bottom of the barrel.” It tells the story of a high school senior who is running after a student protest ends in tragedy. She is ushered onto an airplane by her mother, headed back to the land of her ancestors for the first time in her life. Her journey is both a way of escaping a seemingly dead-end existence and a chance at rediscovering herself by stepping outside the confines of societal standards. Queen of Corona is a coming-of-age novel in a dangerous age, in the age of Trump and all the forces stirring with and against the American president.

Excerpt from Chapter 12

I bet you thought I was going to fold. That I wouldn’t be able to resist that fine china-white powder resting right there in the sanctuary of my pocketbook.
But it stays tucked away the entire night, I swear. I ride my bike to the river to get some air. I sit down on the concrete bank and look out at the wilderness just across the water. At the narrow beaches spotted with bushes, fluo-green against the fading sky of late summer.
Here the riverside is wild, untempered. The bars along the water light up, the music gets louder. I go to the bar. As I’m standing in the endless line I can feel someone’s eyes on me. I count to five in my mind and I look up. Oh man, I think, here we go again. And I let myself fall into it one more time because I need anything to get myself out of this emotional hole I dug for myself.
At first, I’m confused. Because the face that is looking back at me is a face I know so well. A face so familiar and unfamiliar. A face I’d seen dozens of times, but not a face I’d ever called a friend. I stared at him as I tried to place him. He smiles back at me amused. The cogs in my mind begin to click. An actor. I know his face from the movies. That series on Netflix about the homicide detective addicted to porn.
I’m not drunk enough to get up the balls to sidle up to him all sassy and shit. But I don’t need to because he comes up to me. He looks me up and down and nods like he’s approving a shipment of the latest iPhone.
“Mind if I sit down?” he says in that Hollywood voice.
“Yes. I mean no. Why not.”
He says he’s here filming an episode where he’s chasing some jewel thief around Eastern Europe. He can’t believe I’ve never heard of his show. He doesn’t waste any time pouring me doubles out of the bottle the waitress brings over. He asks me if I want to dance and I follow him out to the dance floor. He’s a terrible dancer. He’s basically grinding against my pelvis and slobbering on me. Then he’s trying to get into my panties under my dress like we’re not out in the open and all these people aren’t looking at us. At some point, he grabs my hand and leads me towards the car he’s got waiting for him. I’m not good with cars, so I can’t say what kind of car it is, just that it’s shiny and black. The driver drops us off at one of the big hotels where he’s got a suite. He opens the door like he’s a sheik opening the palace gates. As if a hotel room that looks like millions of other hotel rooms around the world is going to make me go woozy with passion.
Pretty soon he gets back to his sloppy kissing. He’s got my dress off and he says he wants to fuck me like Charles Bukowski and I don’t know who he’s talking about.
I’m probably only fucking him because he’s famous, not because I really like him. What’s there to like in an arrogant middle-aged man with a paunch and a lazy eye? And what’s in it for him, fucking a girl young enough to be his daughter.
“Can I take a picture of you?”
I shrug and he takes it as a yes. He asks me to stop covering my breasts and to spread my legs. I feel horribly shy but it’s exciting at the same time to think this famous dude is going to be looking at my pictures later and reminiscing about our time together. But what if he posts them online? I should have said no. Julita tells me I’ve got a real problem saying no. I’m too much of a yes girl. A goddang people pleaser and where’s that been getting me? Not very far, eh? says the reasonable voice in my head. The other voice, the one that just wants me to take it easy and go with the flow, tells me that it’s fine. It’s just two consenting adults having a good time. Isn’t it?
We end up trusting celebrities almost implicitly, as if their fame is guarantee that they’re harmless. We trust them to tell us what’s fashionable and what’s not, how to eat and how to vote. And sometimes we let them fuck us just because they’re famous. And sometimes we let them get away with the worst.
He goes to take a shower and I walk around the room and look at the stuff lying around his room. There’s his passport on the table. I open it up and look at the picture, which looks nothing like him, he must’ve aged a lot in the past few years. I look at the birthdate and do the math. It turns out he’s 52, not 45 like he told me last night. I pick up my stuff and go straight out the door. I feel sick, not the throwing up kind, just the sick dismay of disappointment. Sick at how they think it’s okay to treat you like an empty shell of a person and then got the nerve to lie to you. I think this might be my breaking point. At last, you say.
I’m sobbing into my sleeve as I walk through the lobby and my mascara’s running all over the fucking place, so I sit down for a minute. In a flash, hotel security is coming my way and they’re asking me to leave and if I didn’t feel like a whore before then I definitely do now.

Meet the Author
Esterhazy is a journalist, writer and translator. A native New Yorker, she holds degrees in Comparative Literature from New York University and American Studies from the University of Warsaw. Queen of Corona is her debut novel.

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 7th of January, the prize is a signed copy of Queen Of Corona.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Esterhazy / Young Adult fiction / Books from America

Friday, 15 December 2017

A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon

A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon
First published by Presses de la Cite in France in French as Un Noel de Maigret in 1951. English language translation by David Coward published in the UK by Penguin on the 2nd November 2017.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is Christmas in Paris, but beneath the sparkling lights and glittering decorations lie sinister deeds and dark secrets...

This collection brings together three of Simenon's most enjoyable Christmas tales, newly translated, featuring Inspector Maigret and other characters from the Maigret novels. In 'A Maigret Christmas', the Inspector receives two unexpected visitors on Christmas Day, who lead him on the trail of a mysterious intruder dressed in red and white. In 'Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook', the sound of alarms over Paris send the police on a cat and mouse chase across the city. And 'The Little Restaurant in Les Ternes (A Christmas Story for Grown-Ups)' tells of a cynical woman who is moved to an unexpected act of festive charity in a nightclub - one that surprises even her...

Penguin have republished a trio of seasonal Maigret short stories, collectively entitled A Maigret Christmas, and offered me a review copy of the first story. The only other Georges Simenon book I have read was very different and I never watched any of the television adaptations so I wasn't previously familiar with the Maigret crime mysteries. In some respects A Maigret Christmas was a good place to start discovering the series.

The short story is set over the course of Christmas Day in Paris and mostly takes place in Maigret's own apartment and that of his neighbour. I liked the strong sense of the time period - I believe the story was originally written in the 1950s and set in the 1930s - and the telling details of people's dress. You just know a woman isn't quite respectable if she leaves her home without stockings on! I liked the glimpses into a French Christmas Day such as bakeries still being open to buy fresh croissants. With regards to the case itself though, I found it hard to believe that so much of the research demanded by Maigret of his staff could have been carried out as swiftly as the tale's timescales required. Lots of the logic jumps and conclusions seemed just too convenient for my tastes and the small cast of characters made it pretty obvious where we would end up - although not exactly how we would get there. Overall I thought A Maigret Christmas was a quaint mystery with a nice seasonal vibe.

Etsy Find!
by Shohan Design in
Malakoff, France

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Georges Simenon / Short stories / Books from Belgium

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Beauty And Beastly by Melanie Karsak + Giveaway + Excerpt

Beauty And Beastly: a steampunk Beauty and the Beast by Melanie Karsak
Self published in America on the 6th December 2017.

Add Beauty And Beastly to your Goodreads

In this tale as old as time, Isabelle Hawking must tinker a solution to a heartbreaking mystery. When Isabelle Hawking and her papa set out from London on a sea voyage, Isabelle is thrilled. Visiting foreign courts, learning from master tinkers, and studying mechanicals is her dream. And it doesn't hurt that the trip also offers Isabelle an escape from her overbearing and unwanted suitor, Gerard LeBoeuf. But Isabelle never arrives. Swept up in a tempest, her ship is lost.

Isabelle survives the storm only to be shipwrecked on a seemingly-deserted island. The magical place, dotted with standing stones, faerie mounds, and a crumbling castle, hints of an ancient past. Isabelle may be an unwilling guest, but her arrival marks a new beginning for the beastly residents of this forgotten land.

See how NY Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak puts a steampunk spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.

Excerpt: Arrival at the castle

“Hello? Is anyone there?”
The sky overhead darkened, and in the distance, I heard the rumble of thunder.
Oh no. No, no, no.
I looked up at the sky. My head swam.
I needed to find shelter.
I turned to go back to the path, but when I did so, I didn’t see the path, nor the ring of mushrooms, nor anything else vaguely familiar.
Once more, the sky rumbled.
I felt the first of the raindrops on my head, but luckily, the thick leaves overhead sheltered me somewhat. As the storm rolled in, the forest grew dark.
I cast a glance around.
It didn’t matter which direction I went. Eventually I would find the shore once more.
Turning to head out, however, I spotted a bluish colored light in the distance. A house? A fire? A lantern? A…something.
No reply.
Turning, I followed the bluish glow. I headed deeper into the forest, chasing after the light, but soon found its source. It was a mushroom. The glowing mushroom had been sitting on a rise. It had played a trick on my mind. Then I spotted another glowing fungus, then another, and another, all of which held an incandescent blue light. They grew in a straight line. Without a better recourse, and feeling half suspicious of the supernatural, I followed the glow of the blue mushrooms as the rain pattered overhead, the sky rumbling. I followed the blue lights deep into the ancient woods, aware that I was passing other sacred rings. I walked past a mound of earth, a barrow, the final resting place of some ancient person—and some said a passageway to the Otherworld—as I hurried deeper into the woods. Surely I would find the shoreline soon.
Lightning cracked overhead.
Then, on the horizon, I saw golden light. A fire? I squinted my eyes, trying to make out the shape through the trees, but my head ached miserably. Leaning heavily against my staff, I moved toward the golden colored light.
The forest thinned. The glowing mushrooms led me onward toward the glow of the yellow light in the distance. Praying to find someone—anyone—I followed along, well aware that my quick exertion had my stomach rolling. Black spots wriggled before my eyes. The line of mushrooms ended. To my shock, I’d blundered to the center of the island and found myself standing outside the gates of a castle.
I gazed up at the enormous structure. It towered over me, a black silhouette on the horizon. Light glowed through one of the windows in the upper floors. It was raining in earnest now. Not waiting a moment longer, I pushed the gate. It swung open with a creak.
It was pouring.
I leaned my walking staff against a metal bench in the perfectly manicured garden, then grabbing my skirts, I ran for the castle door. As I rushed, lightning flashed. It created an odd illusion on the bushes and flowers around me. For a moment, they all seemed to glimmer like metal under the bright light.
My temples pounded. My stomach rolled. I raced through the heavy rain to the castle door.
Hoping whoever was at home would forgive me for letting myself in, I pushed open the castle door and crept inside.
The place was eerily silent.
“Hello?” I called. “Is anyone here?”
Breathing deeply and quickly, I realized the moment I stopped that I was not well.
I cast a glance toward a roaring fireplace nearby. A chair was seated before the hearth, a glass of something dark sitting beside the seat. I heard a strange clicking sound.
“Hello?” I called again, but this time, my head began to spin. I put my hands on my hips, trying to catch my breath. I closed my eyes. Everything was twirling.
Footsteps approached.
“I-I’m sorry I let myself in but…” I began then opened my eyes.
Standing before me was a massive automaton, its silver eyes staring coldly at me.
A nauseous feeling swept over me, and my head swam. Black spots danced before my eyes.
“Pardon me. I think I’m about to—”
But the word was lost.
And so was I.

Meet the author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Karsak is the author of The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, The Burnt Earth Series, The Celtic Blood Series and Steampunk Fairy Tales. A steampunk connoisseur, zombie whisperer, and heir to the iron throne, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.

Author links:
Twitter ~ Website ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest ~ Newsletter
Join Melanie's newsletter and get 2 free books!

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 31st of January, the prize is a Disney’s Belle Funko Pop, a Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Writing Journal Beauty and the Beast Light-up Rose Cup from Disneyland.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Etsy Find!
by Curiously Ever After UK in
Lincoln, England

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Melanie Karsak / Steampunk fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Shelf Life Of Happiness by David Machado

The Shelf Life Of Happiness by David Machado
First published as Indice Medio de Felicidade in Portuguese in Portugal by Publicacoes Don Quixote in 2013. English language translation by Hillary Locke published in America by AmazonCrossing in 2016.

Featured in 5Books1Theme: Road Trip and WorldReads: Portugal

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ripped apart by Portugal’s financial crisis, Daniel’s family is struggling to adjust to circumstances beyond their control. His wife and children move out to live with family hours away, but Daniel believes against all odds that he will find a job and everything will return to normal.

Even as he loses his home, suffers severe damage to his car, and finds himself living in his old, abandoned office building, Daniel fights the realization that things have changed. He’s unable to see what remains among the rubble—friendship, his family’s love, and people’s deep desire to connect. If Daniel can let go of the past and find his true self, he just might save not only himself but also everyone that really matters to him.

I don't have much experience of Portuguese fiction, but the books I have read all seem to have a dystopian viewpoint and The Shelf Life Of Happiness fits right into that genre despite its present day setting. Perhaps its cover art doesn't really fit with the storyline because, although a road trip in a worn out minibus is part of the tale, the main narrative is of a man being reduced to homelessness and almost to destitution as a result of the crumbling Portuguese economy. It's a preview of how much of Britain will look after a few more Conservative years, those areas that aren't already wrecked anyway!

Daniel isn't an easy character to sympathise with but I found myself liking his bloody-minded refusal to give up hope. Even as his dream life falls apart around his ears, he still has hope for his own future and that of his family. The Shelf Life Of Happiness title is actually a mistranslation of the original Portuguese title which references an Index of Average Happiness (nations ranked by the average professed happiness of their people) and I couldn't see why this was changed for the English language edition. The Index is an interesting (and presumably genuine) list which, along with Daniel and his friends, got me to thinking about how I would score my life (pretty high, I think!)

For a book ostensibly about happiness, this is a pretty dark read. One character is trapped in his home by chronic agoraphobia, another spends his leisure time assaulting homeless men, the horrors of factory farming are reduced to a cute computer app, and Daniel himself is struggling to stay financially afloat. Yet, despite all this misery, Machado lifts his tale with black humour and an engaging writing style that I enjoyed reading. I was surprised that I wasn't depressed by the book at all!

Etsy Find!
by Twinkle Jewellery in
the United Kingdom

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by David Machado / Contemporary fiction / Books from Portugal