Saturday, 31 March 2018

Free Country by George Mahood

Free Country: A Penniless Adventure The Length of Britain by George Mahood
Self published in December 2014.

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads
One of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The plan is simple. George and Ben have three weeks to cycle 1000 miles from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland. There is just one small problem… they have no bikes, no clothes, no food and no money. Setting off in just a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts, they attempt to rely on the generosity of the British public for everything from food to accommodation, clothes to shoes, and bikes to beer. 

During the most hilarious adventure, George and Ben encounter some of Great Britain's most eccentric and extraordinary characters and find themselves in the most ridiculous situations. Free Country is guaranteed to make you laugh (you may even shed a tear). It will restore your faith in humanity and leave you with a big smile on your face and a warm feeling inside.

I haven't giggled at a book so much as this for ages. Free Country is a very funny memoir as well as being a timely read to restore a little of my faith in Britain and British people in these divisive Brexit times. George and his friend Ben set out from Land's End with no preparation, no money, no gear and (almost) no clothes, just a half-baked idea that the kindness and generosity of the Great British Public will see them through 1000 miles to John O'Groats. And (spoiler alert!) most of the time they are proved right.

I sometimes entertain ideas of undertaking a long distance walk or cycle ride myself before thinking better of it and I know a guy who cycled the 1000 mile LEJOG so I have an idea of just how tough it would be. To add in so many deliberate difficulties is, I think, mind-numbingly daft but it does make for a great story and wonderfully entertaining reading. I loved George's sense of humour and laughed ot loud so many times that my partner started making remarks about 'still reading That Book?' He's now reading it himself!

For fans of quirky journey memoirs, eccentric Brit adventures and humorous stories, this is definitely one for the TBR list.

Etsy Find!
by Ficelles et Papier in
Toulouse, France

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by George Mahood / Biography and memoir / Books from England

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Progeny by Tosca Lee + Excerpt + Giveaway

The Progeny: A Novel by Tosca Lee

Series: Descendants of the House of Bathory (Book #1)
Category: YA Fiction, 352 pages
Genre: Thriller, (YA-leaning), Slight paranormal
Publisher: Howard Books
Release date: May 2016
Tour dates: March 26 to April 13, 2018
Content Rating: PG

Where to buy this book:

Add The Progeny to your Goodreads

From New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee comes a story of love, ancient secrets, and survival. Book 1 in the House of Bathory duology.
When you wake up, you remember nothing. Not your name, or where you were born, or the faces of the people you knew. Just a single warning written to yourself before you forgot it all:

"Emily, it’s me. You.

Don’t ask about the last two years… Don’t try to remember and don’t go digging. Your life depends on it. Other lives depend on it.

By the way, Emily isn’t your real name. You died in an accident. You paid extra for that."

You start over in a remote place with a new name, a fresh life. Until the day a stranger tells you you’re being hunted for the sins of a royal ancestor who died centuries before you were born.

You don’t believe him, until they come for you. Now you’re on the run.

Every answer you need lies in a past you chose to erase. The only thing you know for sure is that others are about to die and you need those memories back.

But first, you have to stay alive.

Praise for The Progeny:

"Be warned: once you start this book, it’s impossible to put down!”
- Maria V. Snyder, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Study

“Intriguing and romantic, I literally couldn’t put it down.”
- Jennifer L. Armentrout # 1 New York Times bestselling author

- Publishers Weekly

"[A] complex thriller with various turns and twists...A great choice for readers who enjoy their psychological thrillers with a historical twist."
- Library Journal

- Romantic Times Book Reviews

"Filled with intrigue, romance, and reversals fans are sure to love."
- Family Fiction

"The Progeny has risen to the top of my favorites list…I devoured every word of it.”
- Book Reporter


The Center

No one speaks when you enter the Center for the last time. There’s no need. You’ve gone through the counseling, tests, and a checklist of preparations to get the plastic bracelet you wear the day of treatment. The one that saves a life. They don’t need to know why you’re doing it any more. Or that you lied about it all. Just the scratch of the stylus as you sign your name on the screen one last time.

A nurse takes me into a room and I lie down on the table. I give her the sealed packet—the only thing I brought with me. There’s cash, meds, and an address inside, the one for “after.” It’s a thousand miles away. She’ll pass it to the companion assigned to me. No point meeting her now.

I’m 21 years old and my name doesn’t matter because it’s about to be erased forever. I’m choosing to forget the ones I love, and myself, in the process.

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you die. But they don’t tell you that every detail comes screaming back to life. That you taste each bite of every meal you savored, feel the shower of every rain you walked in… smell the hair against your cheek before that last, parting kiss. That you will fight to hold on to every memory like a drowning person gasping for poisoned air.

Then everything you knew is gone. And you are still alive.

For now.

Continue reading the first four chapters FREE.

Meet the Author:

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of the House of Bathory Duology (The Progeny and Firstborn, currently in development for television), Iscariot, The Legend of Sheba, Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of Eve, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker (Forbidden, Mortal, Sovereign). A notorious night-owl, she loves watching TV, eating bacon, playing video games and football with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband.

You can find Tosca at, on social media, or hanging around the snack table. (And be sure to check out Ismeni, the free e-short prequel to The Legend of Sheba!)

Connect with the Author:
Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest

Enter the Giveaway!
Prizes: Win 1 of 15 Progeny Swag Packages (open to USA only / 15 winners total) Each swag package includes: Set of Progeny Character Cards; Progeny necklace; Progeny bookmark; and a Progeny button.
Ends April 21, 2018

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tosca Lee / Thrillers / Books from America

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

From Liberty To Magnolia by Janice S Ellis + Giveaway

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis

Category: Adult NonFiction, 412 pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing
Release date: February 1, 2018
Tour dates: March 19 to 30, 2018
Content Rating: G (No sex scenes and no obscenity)

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads
One of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads

Where to buy this book:

Add From Liberty To Magnolia to your Goodreads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via iRead Book Tours

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream vividly recounts the journey of an African-American woman from rural, segregated Mississippi through academia, corporate America, and politics. It is the story of how she triumphed even when, more often than not, the ugly realities of racism and sexism tried to deter her.

This book tells the broader story, too, of how her life epitomizes what the Civil Rights Act and Equal Rights Amendment have meant and have not meant for blacks and women as she has lived through their maturation during the last 50 years. What better time than now to examine how these two seminal and defining events played out in the life of an ordinary African-American woman who believed in all of America s promises?

What better moment than today to look deeply at the life of a woman who prepared herself and worked tirelessly to achieve her goals only to realize that many lay beyond her reach and that of most women and most blacks. From Liberty to Magnolia shows readers, especially aspiring women and minorities with whom her story will have special resonance how to navigate and ultimately embrace the challenges at every major crossroads and be triumphant.

A Discussion Guide is included for use by book clubs, classes, and group discussions.

To read further reviews, please visit Janice S. Ellis's page on iRead Book Tours.
I was delighted to be chosen to take part in this tour because I really wanted to read Janice Ellis's autobiography and I can honestly say that I wasn't disappointed. Ellis is a truly inspiring woman, determined and ultimately successful despite her two social disadvantages - being black and being female. Ellis came of age about sixty years after W E B Du Bois published his essay collection The Souls Of Black Folk so it was shocking for me to be reminded just how little progress had been made in black people's rights in over half a century. Ellis discusses the ongoing sharecropping labour system that Du Bois had witnessed beginning in the years immediately following American slavery's abolition. Du Bois also wrote of the debate over whether black people should be educated and to what level. Ellis demonstrates how such regressive attitudes were still very much in practice in the 1960s when even one of her college tutors made it painfully obvious that he didn't believe she should be in his class - and not because of a lack of intellectual ability either!

Reading of Ellis's fights to be taken seriously academically, professionally and even in her personal life allowed me to think over the opportunities I have had - and sometimes squandered - in my life. She writes in a very engaging way and I felt like she genuinely spoke to me through the pages of this book. Ellis shows that it is possible for courageous and single-minded people to break through social barriers of race or gender, but I found it saddening that it is still so very difficult. It is important that women such as Janice Ellis have the opportunity to tell their stories of breaking the mould, and that their efforts are widely recognised. From Liberty To Magnolia is well-written and, I think, would be appreciated by readers worldwide. Many of Ellis's struggles are not specific to America so she should (and hopefully will) be an inspiration to young women everywhere.

About the Author:

Janice Ellis, Ph.D., has been an executive throughout her career, first in government, then in a large pharmaceutical company, later as President and CEO of her own marketing firm, and finally as President and CEO of a bi-state non-profit child advocacy agency. Along with those positions, she has been writing columns for four decades on race, politics, education, and other social issues. They have appeared in a major metropolitan daily newspaper, The Kansas City Star; a major metropolitan business journal, The Milwaukee Business Journal; and for community newspapers The Milwaukee Courier, The Kansas City Globe, and The Kansas City Call. She began her career writing and delivering radio commentary for two years for one of the largest ABC radio affiliates in Wisconsin. Later in her career, she wrote and delivered a two-minute spot on the two largest Arbitron-rated radio stations in the Greater Kansas City area. She has also written for several national trade publications, focusing on healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Ellis published an online magazine,, for seven years dedicated to increasing understanding across race and ethnicity, in which she analyzed race and equality issues in America. The website continues to attract thousands of visitors per year. The site also has a vibrant Facebook page with fans numbering in the thousands. Five years ago, Dr. Ellis launched a companion site,, which aggregates news about race relations, racism, and discrimination from across the United States and around the world daily. Dr. Ellis also has her own website,, which houses a collection of her writings and where she continues to write about race inequality, gender inequality, politics, education, and other issues related to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Janice Ellis, a native daughter of Mississippi, grew up and came of age during the height of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. Born and reared on a small cotton farm, she was influenced by two converging forces that would set the course of her life. The first was the fear and terror felt by blacks because of their seeking to exercise the right to vote along with other rights and privileges afforded to whites. The second was her love of books, the power of words, and her exposure to renowned columnists, Eric Sevareid and Walter Lippmann, whose work solidified her belief that the wise use of words is what advances the good society.

Janice Ellis became determined to take a stand, and not accept and allow the conditions of that farm life, or the strictures of oppressive racial segregation and entrenched sexism limit what she could become. She became determined to use whatever talents God had blessed her with and the power of words to help improve the human condition. FROM LIBERTY TO MAGNOLIA is her first book.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!
Win a paperback copy of From Liberty to Magnolia by Janice S. Ellis (open to USA only / 1 winner)
Ends April 7, 2018

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Janice S Ellis / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Being Kurdish In A Hostile World by Ayub Nuri

Being Kurdish In A Hostile World by Ayub Nuri
Published by the University of Regina Press in Canada in October 2017.

One of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads and featured in WorldReads: Iraq

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository (PB)
Wordery (PB)
Waterstones (PB)
Amazon (used PB)

In Being Kurdish in a Hostile World, Ayub Nuri writes of growing up during the Iran-Iraq War, of Saddam Hussein's chemical attack that killed thousands in Nuri's home town of Halabja, of civil war, of living in refugee camps, and of years of starvation that followed the UN's sanctions. The story begins with the historic betrayal by the French and British that deprived the Kurds of a country of their own. Nuri recounts living through the 2003 American invasion and the collapse of Hussein's totalitarian rule, and how, for a brief period, he felt optimism for the future. Then came bloody sectarian violence, and recently, the harrowing ascent of ISIS, which Nuri reported from Mosul.

Being Kurdish In A Hostile World was interesting to me in that it linked together several other books I have read over the past few years either about or set in Iraq. I had learned of Gertrude Bell's drawing up Iraq's borders in the 1920s (Daughter Of The Desert) - leaving the Kurds with no homeland - and of the Iran-Iraq war from the Iranian perspective (Iran: A Modern History), Agatha Christie's archaeological expeditions (Come Tell Me How You Live) and the unbelievable opulence of Saddam Hussein's palaces (The President's Gardens). I also knew from the American perspective of the American-led invasion (Imperial Life In The Emerald City) and had read a novel set during the resultant civil war (Frankenstein In Baghdad). Ayub Nuri's account of his life and work as a journalist and translator within Kurdistan and wider Iraq allowed me to connect the dots and to learn of the Kurdish people's plight.

This is inevitably a memoir of war and violence. The death tolls quoted actually left me numbed because I couldn't imagine these numbers of people dead or disappeared and Nuri's matter of fact statements are frequently shocking. He, of course, has pretty much only known war throughout his life and its normality for him is a poignant reminder of how much of our world hasn't been peaceful for decades.

I did find Nuri's writing style a tad too dry for a memoir. As a journalist he must be used to writing newspaper length reports, but I felt I wanted deeper insights for this book and to get to know some of the people better. I did get a stronger feel for individuals earlier when he talks about his childhood and adolescence, but once Nuri begins his translation work, I felt the narrative was disjointed - briefly recounting lots of events and travels when I would have preferred more space to be allocated to fewer incidents.

Overall however, this is certainly an eye-opening read. Seeing globally significant events such as the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime from the point of view of a person living in Iraq at the time - rather than reading Western-based reports - allowed me to understand more of the background. I can now easily empathise with the Kurds demands for an independent Kurdistan.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Ayub Nuri / Biography and memoir / Books from Iraq

Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing

The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
First published in the UK by Michael Joseph in 1950.

One of my WorldReads from Zimbabwe

My 1950s book for the 2014-15 Bookcrossing/Goodreads Decade Challenge

How I got this book:
Bought at a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £6.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.29 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £2.51 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

The Nobel Prize-winner Doris Lessing’s first novel is a taut and tragic portrayal of a crumbling marriage, set in South Africa during the years of Apartheid.

Doris Lessing brought the manuscript of ‘The Grass is Singing’ with her when she left Southern Rhodesia and came to England in 1950. When it was first published it created an impact whose reverberations we are still feeling, and immediately established itself as a landmark in twentieth-century literature.

Set in Rhodesia, it tells the story of Dick Turner, a failed white farmer and his wife, Mary, a town girl who hates the bush. Trapped by poverty, sapped by the heat of their tiny brick and iron house, Mary, lonely and frightened, turns to Moses, the black cook, for kindness and understanding.

A masterpiece of realism, ‘The Grass is Singing’ is a superb evocation of Africa’s majestic beauty, an intense psychological portrait of lives in confusion and, most of all, a passionate exploration of the ideology of white supremacy.

I chose The Grass Is Singing as I don't think I had read any Doris Lessing before and was pleased to find that I love her writing style! This novel confronts several major issues within a relatively small number of pages yet never feels preachy and is an amazing achievement for a first publication.

Our heroine, Mary, is a free-spirited young white city woman, earning her own wage and not subject to marital or family ties. She has overcome a poverty-stricken childhood, but her chance overhearing of acquaintances gossiping about her make Mary believe that her life is incomplete and would be better with the freedom of marriage. She ignores her own happiness in favour of the beliefs of others and pretty much jumps on the next man who doesn't get out the way quickly enough! Richard Turner is a poor white rural farmer described as living in isolation although he has black workers with whom he communicates every day, but those men and their families can not be suitable as friends and Richard also shuns the companionship of neighbouring white families.

After their marriage, Mary joins Richard on his farm, initially happily as she goes to work improving the shack in which he lives. However, there is little money so this task is quickly completed and it is at this point that Lessing's story begins to draw in its claustrophobic threads. We know from the first chapter that Mary has died and Richard is mad, presumably with grief. Now we start to discover why. Perhaps Mary's terrible treatment of a succession of black houseboys, the result of institutionalised racism, has led to murder; perhaps she cannot stand the months and years of isolation; perhaps the sheer heat of living in essentially a tin box is to blame; perhaps Richard can no longer bear her criticism of his poor farming decisions which results in their downward-spiralling into ever deeper poverty.

Each of Lessing's themes - racism, sexism, isolation, not belonging, poverty - are beautifully and powerfully portrayed. The Turners' predicament is completely believable and I pitied the couple intensely while at the same time being exasperated at them for being so unable to drag themselves away from their self-imposed prison. Even as hope is forced upon them towards the end of the book, we already know it will be too late and the poignancy of this is almost unbearable. The Grass Is Singing is a wonderful novel and, while I look forward to reading more of her work, I think this debut will have been very hard for her to beat.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Doris Lessing / Contemporary fiction / Books from Zimbabwe

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Fred's Funeral by Sandy Day

Fred's Funeral by Sandy Day
Self published in November 2017.

Featured in 5Books1Theme: The Great War and one of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only at his funeral, does a family come to know a long neglected and shell-shocked soldier from WWI. Based on a true story.

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to war, and his ghost hovers near the ceiling of the dismal nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish and disparaging sister-in-law. As Viola dominates the remembrance of Fred, his ghost agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he shut away for most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Why didn't his family help him more?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

Fred's Funeral is a charming novella exploring mental health and its treatments through the life of a Canadian WWI veteran, Fred Sadler. Sandy Day used the real-life letters of her relative as the inspiration for this fictional account so I felt a strong sense of authenticity throughout the story. We first meet Fred's spirit inexplicably still hanging around at his funeral although he has already caught a glimpse of an afterlife to which he is keen to go. His wishes ignored through most of his life, this seems little changed in death except now he can at least show us, the readers, what he believes to be the truth of his life while his sister-in-law, Viola, recounts alternate versions to the gathered family members.

I think Fred was probably suffering from PTSD, shellshock as it was back in the 1910s and 1920s, and the condition remained untreated during his life because it wasn't understood. His bursts of antisocial behaviour couldn't be accommodated within his family so Fred finds himself in and out of an insane asylum for decades, a shameful half-secret. We see how attitudes change over the decades and with different generations. I appreciated Day's allowing Fred to tell his story in all its uncertainty and confusion. This man doesn't understand himself any more than his family does and I found his predicament very poignant. This is a lovely, thoughtful story.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sandy Day / Novellas / Books from Canada

Friday, 23 March 2018

The Summer Will Come by Soulla Christodoulou + Excerpt

The Summer Will Come by Soulla Christodoulou
Self published on the 7th of March 2018.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Windows and one of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads

Where to buy this book:

Add The Summer Will Come to your Goodreads

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in the 1950s, the story begins in Cyprus. EOKA, British rule, and the fight for Enosis (unity) disrupt the world of two Greek Cypriot families, living in different villages on the island. They are desperately trying to cope with the unpredictability of this fractious time. Circumstances over a five-year period push both families to escape to London where, as immigrants, they struggle to settle, face new challenges, trauma and cope with missing their homeland's traditions and culture. Both families' lives cross paths in London and it seems that happier beginnings could be theirs. But at what cost? A story of passion for a country in turmoil, family love, loyalty and treachery and how, sometimes, starting over isn't always as imagined.

1950s Cyprus is a place and time that I hadn't read about before so I was interested to discover the island through reading The Summer Will Come. Christodoulou wonderfully evokes the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of rural Greek Cypriot life and I would highly recommend having snacks to hand as you read because the descriptions of delicious fresh produce and pastries are incredibly tempting. The families' lifestyles are physically hard work, but I envied their strong sense of community and their enjoyment of simple pleasures. This apparent idyll is soon contrasted with the rising tensions of the political struggle against British rule though. Some of these scenes are very tense as no one really knows who they can trust any more. Villages and even families find themselves politically opposed to each other and, as the violence increases, many Cypriots begin planning to leave.

I loved Christodoulou's portrayals of the dreary cold of London, especially after the glorious Cypriot sunshine, and the details she imparts meant I could easily empathise with the experiences of these immigrant families. Seeing British life through others' eyes is always fascinating and the late 1950s and early 1960s were a particularly vibrant period in London. The characters struggle to adapt, some finding their new lives easier while others are mired in homesickness. The Summer Will Come is quite the emotional book to read and I found myself getting very involved in these lives and missing the characters after I had finished reading.


‘Where will you be residing?’ asked the official. He twiddled with his pen and Evangelia watched a bead of dripping sweat disappear into his hair line.
‘In London with my husband and my sister.’
‘Who else lives there?’
‘My sister’s three children and her husband.’
‘How big is the accommodation?’
‘It’s a four storey house. It says so in the letter.’ He carried on reading through the letter for what might have been the third time. Evangelia’s eyes squinted as she concentrated on his stubby fingers and ridged nails.
‘When did the letter come?’
‘A week ago. The post mark says September 18th.’ Evangelia pointed to the Queen’s head on the stamp, smudged by the inky frank mark imprinted across it.
The official stood tall and sashayed towards a part-glass partitioned area behind his desk where Evangelia saw him talking to another man. On the wall behind him hung a picture of HM Queen Elizabeth II and an old map of Cyprus, the glass broken in the bottom corner of the frame. The official paced the small room while the other man leafed through the paperwork.
‘Why has it taken you so long to bring the letter in?’ the official asked when he eventually came back to the front.
‘Because I’ve been working and I didn’t have anyone to mind the children, so I’m finally here. I had to bring them with me.’ She felt the pressure mounting aware of the heat and the vast number of people who had now filled the space behind her.
‘So you want to travel together with the children and your mother and the Kyriakides Family in April, not next year but the year after…in 1958? In eighteen…nineteen months’ time?’
‘Yes. I have a lot to organise before then. And I need time to save for the tickets.’ Evangelia knew this was an understatement and the undertaking was sure to involve the most tremendous preparations and planning.
‘And the Kyriakides?’
‘We’d like to travel together. I have all their paperwork here,’ she said again wondering why he kept asking the same questions.
‘I can’t authorise their papers. They have to come here in person.’
‘But I said I would…’
‘Those are the rules. They are not family. They can come any time with the paperwork.’
‘Very well. I will tell them.’
The official stared at her askance and hesitated before taking out a pad in triplicate. He filled out the details painfully slowly. His writing was small, rigid. He held onto the ink pen at an odd angle, dragging the nib across the page leaving tear marks on it. Just like him, thought Evangelia, hard, but inside she thanked God, grateful things were now at long last moving in the right direction even though the mundanity of the process was agonising.
She looked apologetically to the crowd of people behind her, noisily pushing their way towards the three desks at the front. He got up a second time and went to consult with the same man again. A decision has to be imminent, she thought to herself.
‘Ade, what are we waiting for?’ called out the short obese man behind her as he now pushed against her lower back, his big belly as round and as solid as a watermelon. He called out again aggressively. ‘I’ve been waiting for over two hours!’
A couple of other men called out too taking their cue from him and she felt a surge of bodies move forward. People floundered in the heat, tired and dispirited.
Evangelia, her legs aching from standing for more than two hours, was pushed into the heavy oak table. She flinched from the pain in her abdomen. The muggy, oppressive heat strangled her. Her dress stuck to her back, the sweat damp and uncomfortable. She looked over the man’s shoulders to Elena and Andreas, chasing each other in the huge square courtyard, the ornate iron gates majestically towering over them. She watched as three other young ones joined in and wondered whether it would be as easy for her children to join in with other children in England. She wondered what sort of a life they would have. What was she taking them to?
The ceiling fans barely circulated any air and what breeze they did create was warm, stifling. She tried to reach into her bag for the flask of water she had brought with her but as she did she found herself drifting. The room spun in and out of focus around her. She held onto the desk to support herself but the nausea swaddled her. She slumped onto the tiled floor, darkness engulfing her.

Meet the author:

Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel & Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.

Soulla is a Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education. She is a mother of three boys. She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes as well as proof reading and other writing services. Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters is featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’, released on Amazon in September 2017.

When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea! She also has a poetry collection, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and The Summer Will Come is her second novel. She is currently working on a third novel Trust is a Big Word about an on-line illicit relationship that develops between two people.

Author links: 
Website ~ GoodreadsFacebook ~ Pinterest ~ Twitter

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Soulla Christodoulou / Historical fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Spider And The Stone by Glen Craney

The Spider And The Stone by Glen Craney
Published in America by Brigid's Fire Press in November 2013.

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads
One of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As the 14th century dawns, Scotland's survival hangs by a spider's thread. While the Scot clans scrap over their empty throne, the brutal Edward Longshanks of England invades the weakened northern kingdom, scheming to annex it to his realm. But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the Plantagenet monarch's path. The beleaguered Scots cherish and lionize James Douglas as their "Good Sir James." Yet in England, his slashing and elusive raids deep into Yorkshire and Northumbria wreak such havoc and terror that he is branded the Black Douglas with a reward placed on his head for his capture.

As a boy, James falls in love with the ravishing Isabelle MacDuff, whose clan for centuries has inaugurated Scottish monarchs on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. His world is upturned when he befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter enemy of the MacDuffs. Forced to choose between love and clan loyalty, James and Isabelle make fateful decisions that will draw the opposing armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn. Isabelle will crown a king. James will carry a king's heart. At last, both now take their rightful places with Robert Bruce, Rob Roy, and William Wallace in the pantheon of Scot heroes.

Here is the story of Scotland's War of Independence and the remarkable events that followed the execution of Wallace, whose legend was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. This thrilling epic leads us to the miraculous Stone of Destiny, to the famous Spider in the Cave, to the excommunicated Knights Templar, to the suppressed Culdee Church, and to the unprecedented Declaration of Arbroath, the stirring oath document that inspired the American Declaration of Independence four hundred years later. The Spider and the Stone is the unforgettable saga of the star-crossed love, religious intrigue, and heroic sacrifice that saved Scotland during its time of greatest peril.

The Spider And The Stone covers most of James Douglas' life and provides an interesting narrative of this period of Scottish history. It mainly focuses on Douglas himself, Robert Bruce and Isabelle MacDuff, but also introduces many other famous characters such as William Wallace and the trio of English Plantagenet Kings named Edward. The supporting cast is so numerous that I often found it difficult to keep track of who everyone was, especially when some people only put in brief appearances, but several years apart. Craney has obviously done a lot of research in order to compile this novel. It often reads more as a nonfiction book and I did wonder if the narrative might have benefited from a deeper focus on fewer events which would have allowed the characters to fully develop. I felt I got a good sense of Douglas and Isabelle in the earlier chapters, but this faded as the story progresses and we jump from battle to battle to battle. The story becomes disjointed in the later years and I was frequently irritated by key events happening off the page. I think The Spider And The Stone is a good effort at recounting a complicated period, but for me it didn't really work out.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Glen Craney / Historical fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Over Glassy Horizons by Nico Reznick

Over Glassy Horizons by Nico Reznick
Published in the UK by B*Star Kitty Press in September 2015.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection features poems written over the past fifteen years, covering such themes as bureaucratic injustice, the indulgence of heartbreak, the tragedies of ageing, the perils of giving power and fame to the wrong people, and the terrifying possibility that we might all be unwitting test subjects for our cats' psychology experiments. 

By turns caustic, irreverent, tragic, philosophical, anarchic and occasionally even sentimental, this first collection features twenty-five poems from an emerging talent, including the popular 'Whimper', a poem for our times in response to Allen Ginsberg's seminal 'Howl'.

I was blown away by Nico Reznick's first novel Anhedonia so was eager to take advantage of a temporary free download of this volume of her poetry entitled Over Glassy Horizons. The twenty-six poems span fifteen years of her writing and a wide range of subjects from advice to other poets to sexual frustration to the mindlessness of modern life to Piers Morgan's American reinvention of himself. I did find the whole collection to be a bit hit and miss for me and didn't feel I completely understood works like 41, but others are surprisingly vivid and inventive.

My personal favourites are Goldfish Smile which examines perceptions of freedom, Starting Over where a couple move house but fail to make a new start, and Paisley Lassie which is a very moving portrait of an elderly woman in a nursing home. Reznick also penned a long poem, Whimper, in response to Allen Ginsberg's famous Howl which I hadn't previously read but have now found online in order to really appreciate Whimper.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Nico Reznick / Poetry / Books from England

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Prince Of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Prince Of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
First published in Spanish as El principe de la Niebla by Editorial Planeta in Spain in 1992. English language translation by Lucia Graves published by Little, Brown in 2010.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Looking Out To Sea
and one of my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn.

This young adult horror story was Zafon's first published novel and it reads like a classic adventure tale similar to those I remember from my early teens. The unidentified setting was originally intended to be southern England. Its descriptions are detailed enough for me to be easily able to envisage the immediate surroundings of the village and coastline, while remaining vague enough on the regional location that the book could be imagined into many locations. In the convenient vanishing of parental influence and other genre staples, there are nods to Famous Five-type stories, but I liked that Zafon certainly has his own tale to tell here. Our three teenage heroes, two boys - Max and Roland - and one girl - Alicia - must contend with a recalcitrant lighthouse keeper and the violence of nature, before they even start to fight back against the malevolent Prince of Mist. I didn't like the inherent sexism of Alicia's role seeming primarily to be bait and to need rescuing, but other than that I enjoyed reading this novel. It's a light tale and a fun afternoon's diversion.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon / Young adult books / Books from Spain

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Mary Shelley: Daughter of Earth and Water by Noel Gerson

Mary Shelley: Daughter of Earth and Water by Noel Gerson
First published by William Morrow and Company in 1972.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a story of love and of genius. Of faith and of rebellion. 

Mary Wollstonecraft was fifteen when, in 1813, she met the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. A disciple of Mary’s famous father, the philosopher William Godwin (her mother was the great feminist Mary Wollstonecraft), Shelley himself was only twenty, though he was married and soon to be a father. Mary and Shelley fell in love the next summer; and several months later they ran away together. Thus began one of the most tragic, poignant, and, in all respects, brilliant relationships between a woman and a man that has ever been recorded. 

Shelley went on writing the poetry that was to make him one of the immortals. And Mary, as the result of a contest to see who could produce the best tale of the supernatural, wrote the classic Frankenstein. She was nineteen when she completed Frankenstein, which was at first published anonymously because of the prejudice at the time against female writers.

Though they married in 1816, following the suicide of Shelley’s wife, Mary and Shelley were for all their time together considered scandalous for their behaviour; in fact, they were both quite prudish and disapproved, for example, of the celebrated sexual exploits of their friend Lord Byron. Their lives were dogged by tragedy: suicide in both families, the early deaths of their first two children, and, finally, the death by drowning of Percy Bysshe Shelley at the age of twenty-nine.

Mary Shelley was one of the most remarkable and celebrated women of her time, and for all her happiness with her husband, life was not kind to her. But she never went under, and her story is touching, real, inspiring.

I downloaded a copy of this biography of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley when I saw it advertised in an Endeavour Press e-mail newsletter. The book was first published in the 1970s and has now been re-released as an ebook. I thought it made an interesting companion to Glorious Apollo, the novel about Byron I had then recently read as there are crossovers where Byron and the Shelley's lives intertwined. I read this book for the Endeavour Press virtual Historical Fiction Festival which took place place from the 18th to the 22nd April 2016.

Gerson obviously did a lot of research for Daughter Of Earth And Water so was able to both describe many aspects of her life and to discount theories put forward in previous works. He talks about the inspiration for and writing of Frankenstein as well as Mary's other novels, stories, translations and poetry. I had no idea that she was such an accomplished and intellectual author, easily the equal of her poet husband. Gerson goes into detail about the scandal of the Shelley's early pre-marriage relationship and the philosophical influence of Mary's father, William Godwin, which enabled her to live such a relatively free life for a woman at that time. I was amazed at, and little jealous of, their extensive European travels, especially as everyone seemed to be permanently on the verge of bankruptcy, but the tragedies they endured would try anyone's sanity.

Gerson's writing style is a little dated as is to be expected and the book is let down by frequent typos which I think are caused by automated reading of faded print in an original copy. Mary's friend Tom Medwin gets renamed Toni Medwin, and letters often start with 'my clear'. None of the typos make the book difficult to understand, but the carelessness is distracting and all the instances would be easy to catch and correct if the final copy had been proofread.

Etsy Find!
by That Stuff In The Attic in
Utah, USA

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Noel Gerson / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Full Circle by Regina Timothy

Full Circle by Regina Timothy
Self published in December 2017.

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads and my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads. Featured in WorldReads: Kenya

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, Samia-Al-Sayyid an Iraqi immigrant is living a quiet life in New York City after she fled her home to avoid imminent death.

She works hard for her cold, heartless, high-strung boss, loves her seventeen-year-old-son, and cherishes the close friendship she has formed with her best friend Susan.

Nothing can go wrong, or so she thinks – until the estranged brother she left back in Iraq shows up on her door step. Then she finds herself in a cab, on her way to the hospital to identify her son, a terror suspect who has blown the city, and with it her boss’ husband, and her best friend’s son. With everything lost, she is forced to flee to Iraq where she confronts her past. Will she make peace with her past? Can she get forgiveness for all the damage she has caused?

Full Circle is a contemporary fiction tale of friendship, family, and hope. It explores the devastation of loss, the great capacity to forgive and the lengths our loved ones will go to protect us.

Full Circle is quite an emotional rollercoaster of a novel. It tackles strong themes including sexual assault, racial intolerance, terrorism, the experiences of soldiers returning home, single parenthood, bullying, and the social alienation of teenagers. I did at times wonder whether so much misfortune could believably befall a relatively small cast of characters, although in this story some events have a depressing inevitability as they follow one after another. We can see where the characters are headed and, as readers, are powerless to change their fate.

Samia has turned herself from a powerless child in Iraq to a strong woman in America. She works dead-end jobs to get by, but has provided opportunities for her son who is preparing to start at university. I liked Samia. She doesn't expect great things from life, but works hard and has a serene sense of dignity about her which I admired. I wasn't so convinced by her boss, Melisa, who didn't always come across as a fully rounded character, or by Melisa's PA, Susan, who occasionally behaves as though she is Melisa!

Full Circle has good ideas and I liked the overall narrative. There are issues with pace. Sometimes we jump in time for no apparent reason while other scenes overstay their welcome. Also a lot of the dialogue felt overly formal to me. However, looking past these problems, I think Timothy has interesting things to say through her characters and I predominantly enjoyed reading this book.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Regina Timothy / Contemporary fiction / Books from Kenya

Friday, 16 March 2018

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler
Self published in the UK in November 2017.

One of my 2018 IndieAthon Reads and my 2018 Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge reads. Included in my Vegan Bookshop

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The year is 2024.
A mysterious virus rages around the UK.
Within days, 'bat fever' is out of control.
Patient Zero is a collection of nine short stories featuring minor characters from the post apocalyptic Project Renova series. All stories are completely 'stand alone'.

1. Jared: The Spare Vial
Jared has two vaccinations against the deadly virus: one for him, one for a friend...

2. Flora: Princess Snowflake
The girl with the perfect life, who believes in her father, the government, Christian charity and happy endings.

3. Jeff: The Prepper
What does a doomsday 'prepper' do when there is nothing left to prepare for?

4. Karen: Atonement
She ruined her sister's last day on earth, and for this she must do penance.

5. Aaron: #NewWorldProblems
Aaron can't believe his luck; he appears to be immune. But his problems are far from over.

6. Ruby: Money To Burn
Eager to escape from her drug dealer boyfriend's lifestyle, Ruby sets off with a bag filled with cash.

7. Meg: The Prison Guard's Wife
Meg waits for her husband to arrive home from work. And waits...

8. Evie: Patient Zero
Boyfriend Nick neglects her. This Sunday will be the last time she puts up with it. The very last time.

9. Martin: This Life
Life after life has taught the sixty year old journalist to see the bigger picture.

People who only like to read a series in its proper order had better look away now because I started Terry Tyler's Project Renova series with Book Three! Actually I believe Patient Zero is more of a companion volume to the first two books, Tipping Point and Lindisfarne, and can be read independently without ruining the others' story arc. I certainly hope so!

The nine stories in Patient Zero each feature a different character, all of whom are in some way affected by a disease epidemic sweeping across the UK. Despite all the stories being short, I felt I got a good sense of the overall chaos and panic as well as understanding the situations of the people Tyler introduces us to. There's lots of excitement and tense scenes, but alongside strong character portrayals so there is more to these dystopian tales than just action.

On the strengths of Patient Zero I am intrigued to find out more and have already bought myself a copy of Tipping Point. Expect its Literary Flits review soon!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Terry Tyler / Short stories / Books from England

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz

Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz
First published in Polish in Poland in various collections during the 1930s. English language translation by Madeline G Levine published by Northwestern University Press today, the 15th March 2018.

My 1930s read for my 2017-18 Decade Challenge, featured in WorldReads: Poland and my Book Of The Month for March 2018

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository

Collected Stories is an authoritative new translation of the complete fiction of Bruno Schulz, whose work has influenced writers as various as Salman Rushdie, Cynthia Ozick, Jonathan Safran Foer, Philip Roth, Danilo Kiš, and Roberto Bolaño.

Schulz’s prose is renowned for its originality. Set largely in a fictional counterpart of his hometown of Drohobych, his stories merge the real and the surreal. The most ordinary objects—the wind, an article of clothing, a plate of fish—can suddenly appear unfathomably mysterious and capable of illuminating profound truths. As Father, one of his most intriguing characters, declaims: “Matter has been granted infinite fecundity, an inexhaustible vital force, and at the same time, a seductive power of temptation that entices us to create forms.”

This comprehensive volume brings together all of Schulz's published stories—Cinnamon Shops, his most famous collection (sometimes titled The Street of Crocodiles in English), The Sanatorium under the Hourglass, and an additional four stories that he did not include in either of his collections. Madeline G. Levine’s masterful new translation shows contemporary readers how Schulz, often compared to Proust and Kafka, reveals the workings of memory and consciousness.

It's only half way through March, but I am pretty confident that Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz is going to be my book of the month! I absolutely loved his rich language and gorgeously vivid descriptions, deep prose and frequently bizarre storylines. Originally written in the 1930s these stories have a sense of history about them. I could picture the unnamed town as Schulz's protagonist wends his way through its streets. Kafka is namedropped in the synopsis and I did notice ideas that could have been inspired by him, particularly in certain elements of Father's daily life which sometimes reminded me of The Metamorphosis. I was also reminded of the Daniil Kharms short story collection I read last year in the often absurd turns Schulz's stories take.

Although each story is essentially independent, repeated themes, characters and locations made reading this book feel more to me like reading a novel than a short story collection. Schulz focuses in particular on the changing seasons, his Father character's dementia and the daily routine of maid Adela. He notices the natural world in its urban setting, giving frequent chapters over to detailed descriptions of plant life, especially wild growing weeds. He also uses repetition of particular words and phrases to great effect in linking the stories. Motifs from one tale spring up again and again to reinforce ideas and impressions.

Bruno Schulz uses lots of words, writes beautifully dense prose and, to me at least, is all about atmosphere, description and character. I don't expect this book to appeal to readers who prefer action, tightly-plotted storylines and concise ideas. Instead this collection is more a slow-flowing river. There is a lot happening, but its obscured and you have to sit watching a while before you begin to move with the current. Personally I loved getting swept up and away!

Forgotten by the great day, all the herbs, flowers and weeds multiplied luxuriantly and silently, gladdened by this pause that they could sleep though outside the margin of time, on the borders of the endless day. An immense sunflower, held up on a powerful stem and sick with elephantiasis, awaited in yellow mourning dress the final, sad days of its life, sagging beneath the excess growth of its monstrous corpulence. But the naive surburban bluebells and the modest little muslin flowers stood there helpless in their starched pink and white little shirts, with no understanding of the sunflower's great tragedy. (from Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz)

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Bruno Schulz / Short stories / Books from Poland