Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong

The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong
First published in South Korea by Eun Haeng NaMu as Jongui Giwon in 2016. English language translation by Chi-Young Kim published in the UK by Little, Brown on the 3rd May 2018.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Blood and WorldReads: South Korea

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK




When Yu-jin wakes up covered in blood, and finds the body of his mother downstairs, he decides to hide the evidence and pursue the killer himself. 

Then young women start disappearing in his South Korean town. Who is he hunting? And why does the answer take him back to his brother and father who lost their lives many years ago.

The Good Son is inspired by a true story. 

I recently spotted Ova's The Good Son review on her blog Excuse My Reading which encouraged me to get to reading my ARC of this book sooner rather than later. It's narrated in the first person by Yu-jin who is a brilliantly unreliable narrator. A chilling character, he fascinated me (much like watching a snake) and loved the uncertainty of never knowing whether what I was discovering was The truth, his truth or whether he was spinning me a tale! The novel isn't particularly fast-paced, but it was always so tense that, for me, it felt like it flew by. I had to keep putting the book aside from time to time to make sure I had absorbed everything that was happening.

The story spirals around key moments for Yu-jin and his family, each revisited with the reader having a little more information to help them gauge the real story. I was convinced I had sussed it out quite early on, but was very wrong. Twice! Thinking back over the story now, I would say potential readers might need to be wary of The Good Son for it's blood level. I'm often squeamish and there were a few scenes here that I slightly skim-read to avoid the strongest imagery. This is a psychological thriller that, for me at least, leant more towards horror than crime fiction. If you don't mind blood splatter though, it's one I would highly recommend.

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Books by You-jeong Jeong / Thrillers / Books from South Korea

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Butterfly by Yusra Mardini

Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph by Yusra Mardini with Josie Le Blond
First published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on the 3rd May 2018.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Swimming and WorldReads: Syria

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yusra Mardini fled her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015 and boarded a small dinghy full of refugees bound for Greece. When the small and overcrowded boat's engine cut out, it began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they eventually landed on Lesbos, saving the lives of the passengers aboard.

Butterfly is the story of that remarkable woman, whose journey started in a war-torn suburb of Damascus and took her through Europe to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Yusra Mardini is an athlete, one of People magazine’s twenty-five women changing the world, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and one of Time Magazine’s thirty most influential teens of 2016.

I was almost in tears at the culmination of this inspirational memoir! Mardini's story of determination, survival, and the kindness of strangers is one that certainly does need to be shared widely around the world. I found the contrast between the cheering crowds for the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio and the hate-filled rhetoric for refugees generally in Britain to be a sad indictment of my country. Two years after the Rio Olympics, there is still plenty money available to send yet more bombs to Syria, but apparently very little to support and assist the resulting flood of refugees.

Butterfly is a very engaging and readable biography. Mardini and Le Blond make a great writing team and I found myself caught up this story from the first few pages. From living a relatively affluent life in Syria, promising young athlete Yusra Mardini slowly sees her opportunities and dreams eroded by the ever-approaching civil war in Syria. Her family is forced to repeatedly move house to escape the fighting until, eventually, there really isn't anywhere left to go. Simple actions like swimming in a pool or walking to the shops are potentially fatal. Mardini puts across well the stress of living under such conditions. It is intolerable and terrifying, but yet becomes 'normal' frighteningly swiftly. I wondered how traumatised people must be in order to deal so calmly with such intense danger on a daily basis.

I was amazed by the perceptions of Syrian life that Mardini encounters and the assumptions a proportion of Europeans have of refugees and their lives prior to war in their homelands. Like Clemantine Wamariya in The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Mardini discusses the charity she receives and how difficult it is for her to reconcile the life she had before with now needing to rely on the kindness of strangers for absolutely everything. She is aware that knowledge of her athletic prowess enables her to be fast tracked through administrative hoops with which most refugees must struggle and this is an interesting point to consider too. Many refugees are highly skilled and have talents which would benefit European society - they couldn't financially afford to make the journey otherwise - so, by veiling their potential behind that 'refugee' catch-all, are we Westerners actually setting ourselves up to lose out in the long term?

As in The Baghdad Clock by Shadad Al Rawi, Butterfly gives readers an excellent insight into why these refugees have left everything in order to start again elsewhere. It is sobering to understand just how much the Mardini family endured before they felt they must flee, and also how easily a nation can fracture into all-consuming war especially when the rest of the world simply stands by and watches.

Etsy Find!
by The Nirbhao in
Michigan, USA

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Books by Yusra Mardini / Biography and memoir / Books from Syria

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Moonlight And Midtown by Christina Bauer + Giveaway + Excerpt

Moonlight And Midtown by Christina Bauer
Published in America by Monster House Books on the 27th May 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $3.81 / £2.84 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add Moonlight And Midtown to your Goodreads

After battling werewolves and evil aunties, Bryar Rose is ready to enjoy her new life. No more crazy aunties. Her curse is toast. And Bry’s new man, Knox, is literally a dream come true. Best of all, Bry will soon attend a regular high school. Forget those sketchy tutors! To get ready, Bry is dedicating the rest of her summer to some serious back-to-school shopping with her best friend, Elle. It’s a blast, except for one thing:

Mysterious strangers are following Bry across Manhattan.

All these stalkers have oddly familiar scents and an uncanny ability to slip into the shadows whenever Bry tries to confront them. Even worse, their presence is making Knox act crazy with a capital C.

But Bry’s having none of it. Enough of her life has already been ruined by secrets. With Elle’s help, Bry plans to confront these strangers, find out what they want, and send them packing. Trouble is, the truth about their identity won’t be so easy to manage, especially when Bry finds out how these stalkers could change her future with Knox…and not for the better.

***An interim novella between WOLVES AND ROSES and SHIFTERS AND GLYPHS*** --About The Series The Fairy Tales of the Magicorum series includes WOLVES AND ROSES (Book 1), MOONLIGHT AND MIDTOWN (Novella 1.5) and SHIFTERS AND GLYPHS (Book 2, Fall 2018). Eight full novels are planned in total.


Fairy Tales of the Magicorum, Book 1.5
Chapter One
Bryar Rose

7 p.m. Time to get dressed. In other words, time to change from “seventeen-year-old slob” into “cool Manhattan socialite.” Crossing my bedroom, I open my closet door and wince. A few holiday-themed sweaters line the top shelf. Clusters of bare wooden hangers knock against one another, wind-chime style. Out of my once-awesome collection of footwear, only two lonely flip-flips now collect dust on the floor. They don’t even match.
No question about it. Being a werewolf is a murder on your wardrobe.

And I have an art opening to attend tonight. Bummer.
On reflex, I turn around, ready to sift through the contents of my dresser. Then I remember I don’t have a dresser anymore. Whenever I shift, I lock myself in my bedroom. My wolf smashed all the furniture in here weeks ago. In fact, she really destroyed my dresser, gnawing the wood into chips. These days, my bedroom’s decorated with a single mattress and tons of claw marks on the walls. I’ve taken to keeping my underthings in a drawer in the bathroom.

A sad weight settles onto my shoulders. My aunties kept me locked in a penthouse so they could hide my true magical nature from me. With the help of my bf Knox and my bff Elle, I broke free from their plans and tricks. There’s no hiding the truth from me any more. I can wield all three types of magic: fairy, shifters, and witch. Even so, I’m still trapped in my apartment because who wants to spontaneously shift into a werewolf on Fifth Avenue and then end up naked on the sidewalk?
Not me.

But tonight’s art opening is with other Magicorum kids like me, so shifting shouldn’t be a big deal. Plus, my boyfriend Knox will be there with me, and he’s a were Alpha, so he can help me control when I change forms.
All of which leads to the fact that I need something to wear tonight.
Back to the closet I go.
For a full minute, I stare at the empty hangers as if my old wardrobe will somehow magically reappear. Not happening.

Every time I shift, I shred another outfit. And lately, I’ve been shifting a ton. Some mornings, my wolf tears out six times before I down my bagel, and it’s all because I first took my werewolf form only a month ago on my seventeenth birthday. Most weres spend a lifetime mastering their wolf. I’ve had four weeks.

At least I have a master plan to fix my wardrobe issue: a shopping spree in Manhattan’s secret network of stores run by the fae. My best friend Elle is taking me because she’s both fae and an awesome shopping partner. With any luck, Elle and I will find me some unshreddable magic outfits. That is, if I survive the trip. Fairies are crazy. Plus, most carry a major grudge against weres. About a million years ago, some weres lost their cool and tried to massacre some fae. They didn’t succeed, but fairies have a long memory, and shifters are definitely on their hate list.

Meet the Author

Christina Bauer knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers. The first three books in the series are now available as audiobooks on Audible and iTunes.

Bauer has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

Stalk Christina On Social Media – She Loves It!

Author links:
Website ~ Facebook ~ TwitterInstagram ~ LinkedIn ~ Blog

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 30th May, the prize pack is a decal sticker for the launch of MOONLIGHT AND MIDTOWN, a charm bracelet to celebrate the cover reveal of THE SIGN OF THE SERPENT, earrings to celebrate the cover reveal of ZINNIA, a speaker to celebrate the release of the THRAX audiobook, and an electronic copy of MOONLIGHT AND MIDTOWN.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Books by Christina Bauer / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Monday, 28 May 2018

The Cut Of The Clothes by Erato

The Cut of The Clothes: A Story of Prinny and Beau Brummell by Erato
Self published in America in February 2018.

Literary Flits Spotlight Giveaway Winner

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £8.49 (PB)
Wordery : from £7.26 (PB)
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $4.05 / £2.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add The Cut Of The Clothes to your Goodreads

If clothes make the man — 
what is left when he undresses?

Beau Brummell is the king of fashionable society, a fact which torments the eldest son of Mad King George, who would do anything to be the master of the mode. With the help of his secret Catholic wife and Dick the Dandy-Killer, the rakish Prince has everything required to ruin his rival fashionisto. Will His Royal Highness survive the obsession, or will he be destroyed by his own yearning to outdo the Beau?

This honest tale of the Georgian/Regency era reveals the charm and cattiness of the two “first gentlemen” of one of history’s best-dressed moments. From Brummell’s ditzy quips of “Brummelliana” to the Prince’s overdramatic lamentations, the reader is sure to be swept up in a sparkling and humorous world of fashion, passion and jealousy.

Meet The Author
The idea for "Cut of the Clothes" came when I was writing a different Regency-era story, and I needed to look up a vocabulary term. The website that I found to provide the info that I needed, had a little video clip of the beginning of a BBC made for TV movie called "Beau Brummell: This Charming Man." I had heard of Beau Brummell before that time, but it was based on watching that opening credits sequence of James Purefoy as the Beau getting dressed, that I decided to write a story about Beau Brummell.

Author links:
Amazon ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Facebook (book)

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Books by Erato / Historical fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 27 May 2018

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
First published in Swedish as Enhet in August 2006. English language translation by Marlaine Delargy published by Trade Paper in August 2009. Republished by OneWorld in April 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 : from £8.46 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.61 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (HB)
Amazon : from $2.62 / £3.42 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty - single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries - are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders.

In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful.

But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and...well, then what? 

The Unit is a dystopian novel set almost entirely within the confines of the Second Reserve Bank Unit which is a complete living facility for older people that society at large has deemed dispensible. As readers, we don't know how this legal situation came about or what drove their country to create these facilities, but we can see from the people who end up there how society's priorities lie. The novel is Swedish authored and set in Sweden so it was interesting for me to see how much of The Unit's philosophy meshed with what I know of lifestyle choices in that country.

If it wasn't for what has to be given in return, life in The Unit sounds like bliss. There are excellent leisure facilities, empathetic staff, it never rains and the library can swiftly get any book requested! However, the price is to repeatedly volunteer for potentially dangerous clinical trials and experiments, and to donate increasingly more vital organs to more deserving people on the outside. I was fascinated by how these 'dispensible people' cope with this situation. The criteria by which they are chosen would almost certainly make me one of them in just a few years so to say I was unsettled by this book is a massive understatement!

I was completely convinced by Holmqvist's creation and from thinking about how drug trials are actually carried out in poor African towns and villages, it's not a huge leap of faith to get to Units. I thought the intensity of friendships and relationships was very real and poignant and I was gripped by this story from start to finish. Holmqvist's writing style suits her subject perfectly. A scary prospect!

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Books by Ninni Holmqvist / Science fiction / Books from Sweden

Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Forever Night Stand by Bena Roberts

The Forever Night Stand by Bena Roberts
Self published in the UK in March 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $2.98 / £2.24 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add The Forever Night Stand to your Goodreads

A two hour romance which starts with drama and mayhem!

Sara has her back up against the wall. She is recovering from the side effects of chemotherapy and at her own "cancer free" party, she makes a decision that will change her life forever.

The adventure begins when she leaves her posh lifestyle in Scotland and moves in with her Bollywood loving parents, in West London. Her parents are tragically ashamed of Sara's actions and her electronic monitor. She decides to make them happy again and considers re-marrying. 

Enter Raj, a possible hero who comes with the promise of a huge Indian wedding in Goa!

George, the childhood love of her life who seems to be hanging around every corner. Or should she just go back to her husband? Sara faces the biggest dilemma of her life, after making the colossal mistake of her life. What will she do and whom will she choose?

The Forever Night Stand is a humorous novella that starts from a serious place, but aims more for an entertaining read than a deep exploration of Issues. Sara is a fun character and I enjoyed spending a few hours in her company. She is at a major crossroads in her life and I was interested to discover how she would cope with essentially having been thrown back to a teenage situation, despite being in her forties.

Roberts has a great descriptive turn of phrase and can put across a visual image very effectively in just a few words. I loved the humour in this novella too and induged in several giggles as the story progressed. I didn't, however, really understand George. We see about a third of the story from his point of view and I didn't like how I felt I was being persuaded to think of him. George and Sara haven't seen each other for the best part of two decades. During this time, George has still been in love with Sara so 'obviously' Sara must fall straight in insta-love with him? A scene where George attempts to kiss an unconscious Sara without her consent and without her even knowing he was there just made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. This isn't highly romantic, it's assault!

So, overall, I enjoyed reading about Sara and her attempts to get herself back together. Most of the story is fun and funny if I could just have avoided weirdo stalker George!

Meet the author:

Bena Roberts was a journalist and analyst. Now she prefers the title novelist and romance adventurist. She graduated in England 1994 and then with a Masters in 1997.

Born in 1973, Bena lived in West London until she was 24. Then she lived and worked in Budapest, Bruges, Prague, Amsterdam, Vienna, Hamburg and Munich. She currently resides in Germany, between Heidelberg and Frankfurt. Although she still refers to London as 'home.'

Bena successfully created a technology blog which gained funding, had lunch with Steve Ballmer and was 'top 50 most influential woman in mobile.' Her blog also won several awards including Metro Best Blog.

Bena has two children, loves small dogs and always writes books with a cup of Earl Grey.

Bena's favorite literary style is black humor, and she hopes to offer a unique voice in this area. Her books aim to confront the darkest of life experiences, with levity. Most of her writing is heavy hitting yet also entertaining.

Author links: 
Amazon ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

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Books by Bena Roberts / Women's fiction / Books from England

Friday, 25 May 2018

Raving About Rhys by Jessica Redland

Raving About Rhys by Jessica Redland
First published in the UK by So Vain Books in May 2015.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $1.33 / £0.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add Raving About Rhys to your Goodreads

Bubbly Callie Derbyshire loves her job as a carer, and can't believe she's finally landed herself a decent boyfriend - older man Tony - who's lasted way longer than the usual disastrous three months. Tony's exactly what she's always dreamed of ... or at least he would be if he ever took her out instead of just taking her to bed. And work would be perfect too if she wasn't constantly in trouble with her boss, The She-Devil Denise.

When the new gardener, Mikey, discovers her in a rather compromising position at work, Callie knows that her days at Bay View Care Home could be numbered. Can she trust him not to tell Denise? If she's issued with her marching orders, who'll look out for her favourite client, Ruby, whose grandson, Rhys, seems to constantly let her down? What does Ruby know about Tony? And what is Denise hiding?

Surrounded by secrets and lies, is there anyone left who Callie can trust?

Meet the author:

Jessica had never considered writing as a career until a former manager kept telling her that her business reports read more like stories and she should write a book. She loved writing but had no plot ideas. Then something happened to her that prompted the premise for her debut novel, Searching for Steven. She put fingers to keyboard and soon realised she had a trilogy and a novella!

She lives on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast – the inspiration for the settings in her books – with her husband, daughter, cat, Sprocker Spaniel, and an ever-growing collection of collectible teddy bears. Although if the dog has her way, the collection will be reduced to a pile of stuffing and chewed limbs!

Jessica tries to balance her time – usually unsuccessfully – between being an HR tutor and writing.

Author links: 
Facebook ~ Website ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

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Books by Jessica Redland / Women's fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi
First published in Arabic by Dar al-Hikma in 2016. English language translation by Luke Leafgren published by OneWorld in May 2018.

Featured in WorldReads: Iraq

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

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

Baghdad, 1991. In the midst of the first Gulf War, a young Iraqi girl huddles with her neighbours in an air raid shelter. There, she meets Nadia. The two girls quickly become best friends and together they imagine a world not torn apart by civil war, sharing their dreams, their hopes and their desires, and their first loves. But as they grow older and the bombs continue to fall, the international sanctions bite and friends begin to flee the country, the girls must face the fact that their lives will never be the same again.

This poignant debut novel will spirit readers away to a world they know only from the television, revealing just what it is like to grow up in a city that is slowly disappearing in front of your eyes, and showing how in the toughest times, children can build up the greatest resilience.

The Baghdad Clock is a beautifully magical novel of a girl coming of age in a war-torn city. Through the eyes of our never-named narrator, we see the effects of bombings, a decade of sanctions, and more bombings on a thriving Baghdad neighbourhood as its community slowly splinters and evaporates. I was strongly reminded of South American magical realism at several points so was happy to spot the classic novel One Hundred Years Of Solitude being given a role. The Baghdad Clock is a considerably faster read, but I think readers who enjoy Marquez will appreciate Al Rawi too. Concepts such as the neighbourhood being a ship allow for truly effective imaginings and I gave a wry smile at the irony of the emigrating families all leaving in a black Chevrolet - an American car.

I did feel as the story continued that our narrator often felt younger than her years would suggest, but that may be because I am used to reading about protagonists who are overly worldly wise. I can't remember exactly how childish I was in my early teens! The friendship with Nadia is utterly believable and provides such a strong thread for these lives. Al Rawi gives touching details so I felt as though I genuinely saw Baghdad through a child's eyes, which makes her occasional drawing back to reveal the full extent of the suffering caused - especially by the drawn-out years of sanctions - particularly poignant. Neighbourhood characters such Uncle Shawkat and his Kurdish wife, Baji Nadira, are memorable and I was moved by the image of Shawkat continuing to tend the houses of the departed, not knowing whether they would ever return. Seeing the impetus here for what has become a global 'immigration problem' reveals its other side - that of an emigration disaster leaving communities and neighbourhoods destroyed not so much from the physical damage caused by war, but by the gradual exodus of friends, relations and neighbours.

The only part of this book that didn't work for me was the short Future which is kind of an epilogue. Its style felt too different to what had gone before so, while I was interested to see some of what would happen to these characters and how their lives might pan out, I wouldn't have felt anything lost if The Baghdad Clock had ended prior to this final section. I preferred being in the earlier atmosphere and the sudden change felt almost like starting a new book without having taken enough time to reflect on the previous one.

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Books by Shahad Al Rawi / Contemporary fiction / Books from Iraq

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A Reason For Living by Julian Jingles + Giveaway

A Reason for Living by Julian Jingles
Category: Adult Fiction, 382 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: iUniverse
Release date: January 17, 2018
Tour dates: May 21 to June 8, 2018
Content Rating: R

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £17.95 (PB)
Wordery : from £13.23 (PB)
Waterstones : from £17.95 (PB)
Amazon : from $8.80 / £6.49 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add A Reason For Living to your Goodreads

It is the mid-1960s in Kingston, Jamaica, and the country is steeped in social, political, and economic inequities. Howard Baxter, the heir to a real estate empire, has no interest in seeking or managing wealth. Painting and deflowering Jamaican maidens are his passions. As he combs the streets looking for greater meaning in his pathetic life, it soon becomes apparent that Howard's journey will not be easy.

Bernaldo Lloyd, a member of the Baxter clan, is a medical student who is sensitive to the hopelessness of the Jamaican masses. Inspired by his close friend and Howard's cousin, Ras Robin Pone, and their ties with the Rastafari movement that calls for social and economic equity, Bernaldo is determined to overthrow the corrupt government. As Howard, Bernaldo and Robin become influenced by America's Black Power and Civil Rights movements demanding equal rights for African Americans, the women in their lives both love and criticize them. But when revolution breaks out, Howard finally discovers a purpose for his twisted life that leads him in a direction he never anticipated.

In this tale of love, passion, and self-discovery, two Jamaican men become caught up in a 1960s revolution that reveals injustices, oppression, and a purpose for one of them.

Praise for A Reason for Living:

“Riveting, touching on micro and macro relationships of love, sex and politics, and the search of Jamaicans for the essence of their existence, with many compelling scenes and very touching, sensitive dialogues.”
- Dr. Basil Wilson, New York Carib News

"A Reason for Living is a highly complex work that pits sense against sensibility. Emotions surge, transforming men in unfathomable ways. And as love and revolution march in lock-step, Jingles might well have earned a place among the region’s more interesting writers."
- Glenville Ashby, Kaieteur News

“The author, filmmaker, entrepreneur did not wile away five decades as a bystander but may have calculatedly used the hiatus to toil in order to reveal a compelling novel about the creative and volatile ‘60s in Jamaica.”
- Vinette K. Pryce, Caribbean Life

About the Author:

Julian Jingles has had a professional career spanning 52 years writing for publications such as the Jamaica Gleaner, the New York Amsterdam News, JET magazine, the New York Daily News, and the New York Carib News. He began work on his novel A Reason For Living in 1966, a teenager just graduating from high school in Jamaica. In 1967 he went to work as a journalist at the Gleaner Company, the oldest published newspaper in Jamaica, and the Caribbean. He has written, produced, and co-directed three documentary films, production managed several music videos featuring Kool and the Gang, Steel Pulse, the Main Ingredient, promoted several music concerts, and a stage play, along with investing in several entrepreneurial projects in America, and Jamaica.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ LinkedIn

Enter the Giveaway!
Win a $15 gift card (open internationally, 1 winner) or a copy of A Reason for Living by Julian Jingles (print for USA, ebook for int'l, 1 winner)
Ends June 16, 2018

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Books by Julian Jingles / Historical fiction / Books from Jamaica

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Farm by Hector Abad

The Farm by Hector Abad
First published in Spanish 2014. English language translation by Anne McLean published by Archipelago in April 2018.

Featured in WorldReads: Columbia

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

When the Angel family's beloved home in the Antioquian wilderness falls into danger, they manage to defend it against the guerrillas and, later, the paramilitaries - but at a high price. After their parents' death, Pilar, Eva and Tono have to decide the fate of their father's legacy. While Pilar and Tono want to keep La Oculta, Eva, who experienced something terrible at the old farm house, is determined to sell. As the siblings each struggle with their own problems, their inner conflicts threaten to tear apart not only their home but also their family.

The Farm is, first and foremost, a novel about the concept of home: how we identify home and how the idea of it means different things to different people. In this book three siblings, Pilar, Eva and Tono, take it in turns to narrate their stories of their family home. The farm itself, La Oculta, was hewn from pristine Colombian rock and forest some 150 years earlier by their ancestor and has experienced changing fortunes in a tumultuous country since then.

I liked how each sibling has a very distinct character and voice. Pilar is happily married to her childhood sweetheart and cannot imagine ever being without La Oculta as her home. Eva has been through a number of marriages and relationships and, for her, home is fleeting. Wherever she lives at that moment is home, but she could move elsewhere  next week and live just as happily. Tono has settled down and married his artist boyfriend in New York but returns regularly to La Oculta. For him, the history of the place is what defines it and he is happier delving into La Oculta's past than in dealing with it's present problems.

The Farm feels like an epic read in that it has a large scope of characters and time periods. I enjoyed discovering the old history through Tono's chapters and the recent history from Eva's. The Colombian landscape and Antioquian people are brought vividly to life and I appreciated seeing how the relatively remote township came to exist and then to thrive. At times, particularly earlier on in the book, The Farm felt a little repetitive. I thought this more the case when the characters were establishing themselves and we were sometimes told things about them more than once, but this turned out to be good grounding for later on. This novel explores home and family in a way that I found familiar even though I think this is only the second Colombian-authored novel I have read. The experience of generation gaps and differing expectations is illustrated through Tono's and Eva's American lives while Pilar is more rooted in the mountain community traditions. This is a lovely novel to immerse oneself in and I think would make a good Book Club choice as it raises deep issues to think over and discuss.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Hector Abad / Contemporary fiction / Books from Colombia

Monday, 21 May 2018

Return To Hiroshima by Bob Van Laerhoven + Guest Post

Return To Hiroshima by Bob Van Laerhoven
First published in Dutch as Terug naar Hiroshima by Uitgeverij Houtekiet in the Netherlands in April 2010. English language edition published in Hong Kong by Crime Wave Press in March 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £11.19 (PB)
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $6.90 / £5.01 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add Return To Hiroshima to your Goodreads

1995, Japan struggles with a severe economic crisis. Fate brings a number of people together in Hiroshima in a confrontation with dramatic consequences. 

Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to the city, where he spent his youth, to come to terms with the death of his sister. Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby lying dead at the foot of the Peace Monument, a reminder of Hiroshima's war history. A Yakuza-lord, rumored to be the incarnation of the Japanese demon Rokurobei, mercilessly defends his criminal empire against his daughter Mitsuko, whom he considers insane. And the punk author Reizo, obsessed by the ultra-nationalistic ideals of his literary idol Mishima, recoils at nothing to write the novel that will "overturn Japan's foundations".... 

Hiroshima’s indelible war-past simmers in the background of this ultra-noir novel. Clandestine experiments conducted by Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 during WWII leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and Japanese society as a whole.

Guest Post by Bob Van Laerhoven
Literature Resonates
Lately, many people ask me if I think literature is still meaningful in this era of rapidly progressing digital technology: fast changing communication, the many ways of experiencing movies, streamed television series and news.
Literature does matter in our time. In any era.
I'll explain this with an example of my own work.
Return to Hiroshima is my latest novel in English. As the first city ever struck by a nuclear bomb, Hiroshima became an iconic symbol. A novel with that city in the title inevitably refers to that moment in time that changed human history forever.
Why write a work of fiction in which the nuclear detonation plays such an important role? It’s easier, and faster, to stream a documentary about the subject, or to be carried away by watching an after-the-bomb movie.
That would make us informed, correct?
In a way, yes, but, in my eyes, literature has an added value. It can provoke in us an empathic understanding of the consequences of nuclear warfare. That’s something else than being informed.
Moreover, are we as informed as we think we are? The answer is a bone-dry “no”. Mass-media and social networks spread “news bytes” every second around the globe but have desensitized us to a certain degree to the deeper meaning – or consequences – of the experience behind information.
What do you think about the heightened possibility of a WWIII, which has been all over the news lately?
Tensions are on the rise. A new World War is nearer than ever since the end of the Cold War. Democratic regimes loose the battle against dangerous demagogic populists and dictators: Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, to name but a few.
Never before was the turbulent Middle East such a chaos of shifting alliances and growing animosity.  Iran and Saudi-Arabia are competing for hegemony in the region and build nuclear facilities that can be used to produce nuclear weapons. The US, Russia, and Turkey - with China looming at the horizon - support different factions in the civil war in Syria… They are allies today and enemies tomorrow. No-one seems to have a sound strategy, a solution, for the region.
It’s obvious that the seemingly endless Syrian civil war could become the trigger of a new worldwide conflict. The airstrike in April of the coalition of US, UK and French forces on the chemical weapon installations of Bashar al Assad’s regime triggered so much international unease that the most important question for the coming months (years?) seems to become: how close are we to WWIII?
People tend to react to this question with a curiously abstract resignation. When prodded a bit, they usually confess that they can’t fathom how it would be, a nuclear conflict across the globe. Usually they end the conversation with an uneasy, “They won’t let it come that far, will they? I can’t imagine they would.“
One of the problems of the modern digital society is precisely that mass-media and social networks have wrecked havoc on our ability to use our imagination. As a result, the all too real possibility of a nuclear WWIII seems unconceivable.
And that, my dear friends, is truly dangerous. Our leaders are not smarter, wiser, or more mature than we are. And they sure do not have more imagination… except in one area - their endless dreams of their growing power.
This is the point where literature can step in. You may have trouble imagining what a nuclear conflict would be like, but literature can.  Moreover, it does this on a one-on-one basis.
A one-on-one basis in this era of mass-communication? Do I hear your Gargantuan laugh booming?
I like movies and television series, even games and social networks, as much as anybody. But I notice that, when spending too time with these media, my level of thinking is reduced to a receptive, confined mode. The essence of a story often slips away from me like water from a seal.
This is not the case when I read. A novel resonates within me. Words can convey sensations that even the most sophisticated visual media cannot. Words can vibrate with layers of meaning, they can produce flashes of feeling (which is different than experiencing emotion), and they can make the reader emotionally receptive. The power to step into the story, not wandering on the outskirts of it, is readily available.
I know, I know: you’ve heard this story before. Since the advent of mass-media, countless philosophers and artists have hammered on similar reasoning. You’re probably sick and tired of being advised to read fiction. Why should you, when watching movies is so much easier?
You may argue reading novels takes time, a certain effort, which is getting more difficult with every minute. Stress on the job, stress in traffic-jams, stress at home with children. Stress of not having posted a witty message on Facebook for two days…..
You have every right to think so, but in my view, literature, more than any other art-form or entertainment, gives you the opportunity to interrogate yourself about the meaning of life: what exactly power or wealth is, how the world is evolving, what kind of society we live in…. The list is endless.
To interrogate yourself is a lot different than being shown what it is all about.
It’s not per se better.
But definitely different.
I admit willingly that I present the situation rather black-and-white in this post. But so is the question I hear so often: do you really think that literature can offer something more than, say, Netflix? It’s nearly always about who or what wins, not about differences. We don’t like differences anymore; we want to see winners and losers.
And that, dear friends, is a dangerous attitude, won’t you agree?
So, as an experiment, try something different. Watch a thrilling, shocking movie about the consequences of a nuclear conflict. There are a lot of gripping movies about that theme out there.
And, afterwards, read a novel about the same subject. There are a lot of gripping, passionate novels out there with this theme.
I want to share a few lines with you from Return to Hiroshima, a story set in Japan in 1995. In one of the chapters, a Seizon-cha, a survivor of the nuclear bomb called “Little Boy”, recalls some of the scenes he witnessed and could never forget.
A woman staggered past the burning buildings with a baby in her arms. The heat had caused the baby’s skin to peel. He was limp and motionless in her arms.
A man tugged at the body of a teenager buried under the rubble. The boy’s skull was cracked open and brain tissue was hanging out of the wound. He had lost his right eye. He was calling out for his mother, his voice clear and steady. The man had pulled away enough rubble to see that both legs had been crushed. He tried to lift the boy. He succeeded. He continued on his way, the boy motionless in his arms.
A girl, blood gushing from her mouth, stumbled through the ruins of a school. Hands shot up from the rubble, bloody and smoldering. They tried to grab the girl by the ankles. Voices begged: “Take me with you, take me with you!” In panic she kicked at the hands and ran on, her arms outstretched as if she was blind.
Hundreds of people tried to reach the river Aioi. They screamed for help, lost direction in the ash-filled clouds of smoke, and fell exhausted to the ground before they could reach the banks of the river and baked like clay stones in the raging fire.
How did this excerpt make you feel?
Reading literature resonates.

Meet The Author
Bob van Laerhoven was born on August 8th 1953 in the sandy soil of Antwerp's Kempen, a region in Flanders (Belgium), bordering to The Netherlands, where according to the cliché 'pig-headed clodhoppers' live. This perhaps explains why he started to write stories at a particularly young age. A number of his stories were published in English, French, German, Spanish and Slovenian.

Author links:
Amazon Author Page

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Bob Van Laerhoven / Crime fiction / Books from Belgium

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Shadows Of Asphodel by Karen Kincy

Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy
First published in America in September 2013.

One of my Top Ten Books for IndiePrideDay 2016

How I got this book:
Purchased during the Indie Steampunk Book Extravaganza 2 event on Facebook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $2.97 / £2.21 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

She never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer.

1913. Austria-Hungary. Wendel may be devilishly handsome, a charming bastard with the manners of disinherited royalty, but he's an abomination. His skin shivers with the icy fire of necromancy. With one touch, he can raise the dead. Worse still, he's being hunted by assassins from Constantinople, and he would rather die than confess why.

Ardis escaped her own dark past, fleeing from America as a fugitive to become a mercenary for the Archmages of Vienna. When she discovers Wendel bleeding out on the battlefield, she saves his life with a ransom in mind. She never asked for him to fall to one knee and declare his undying loyalty, or for tension to smolder hot between them. Especially once she discovers his scars run much deeper than his skin.

I mentioned this book as one of my Series To Continue for 50/50 Friday last week at which point I realised its review was one which hadn't yet been transferred from my Stephanie Jane blog to Literary Flits.
Apparently, Shadows Of Asphodel isn't truly steampunk, but dieselpunk, as the setting is just ahead of The Great War when diesel engines existed in the real world. However, the novel contains the same blend of strong characters, especially female characters, that I have come to expect, interwoven with magical elements, incredible inventions and dastardly deeds!

I loved the characters in Shadows Of Asphodel. Our heroine, Ardis, is strong and independent, making her own decisions and dealing with their aftermath. Along the way, she picks up an emotionally damaged necromancer, Wendel, who is a great creation. I admit to being just a little in lust with Wendel! Despite and because of each other, Ardis and Wendel find their paths link together and their witty sparring dialogue is fun to read. I presume the people on the book's cover are meant to be Ardis and Wendel though. If so, I'm not sure that Ardis does look half-Chinese?

Kincy has cleverly woven her tale around the real momentous events of 1913 and I appreciated how magical fictions, such as the Hex, seemed to easily slot in alongside the truth. Making it feel so natural to the reader must take a lot of rewrites and research! Most settings are atmospherically described and I am now particularly drawn to visiting Vienna. The descriptive passages rarely slow the pace of the novel and I liked the inclusion of little details such as all the books in the way on Konstantin's bed.

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Books by Karen Kincy / Steampunk fiction / Books from America

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Seraphita by Honore de Balzac + Free Book

Seraphita by Honoré de Balzac
First published in French in the Revue De Paris in France in 1834. English language translation by Katharine Prescott Wormeley.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the eBook from ForgottenBooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £7.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £4.35 (PB)
Waterstones : from £5.90 (PB)
Amazon : from $Free / £Free (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

The ForgottenBooks edition of this classic begins with a lengthy introduction which discusses and explains the religious significance of Seraphita at great length. This was so in depth and dull that I nearly didn't get through its eighty-odd pages in order to start the novel itself!

Seraphita is set in Norway and Balzac does a fantastic job of describing the country, its landscape, seasons and the people of the isolated rural village where his story is set. I loved reading these passages which actually advanced the story and would love to someday visit a similar remote fjord as it was so romantically presented. However, two long sections of the book are simply Seraphita expounding (over many pages of monologue) various religious doctrines and dogmas and I found these bits incredibly difficult to understand and to remain focused on. The beliefs range across Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism amongst others, and also include mentions the beliefs of races of people on other planets such as Mars and Venus. It is all probably fabulously imagined but felt like sitting through a long harangue. Perhaps it would all make more sense to someone of the time as much of the science has now advanced far beyond that denounced by Seraphita as her proofs.

All in all, this is an odd book for me to have read and it is pretty much two books mashed together - one a lovely story and one a intensely detailed lesson!

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Books by Honore De Balzac / Contemporary fiction / Books from France

Friday, 18 May 2018

Awu's Story by Justine Mintsa

Awu's Story by Justine Mintsa
First published in French as Histoire d'Awu in France by Gallimard in 2000. English language translation by Cheryl Toman published in America by University of Nebraska Press in May 2018.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £13.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £11.24 (PB)
Waterstones : from £13.99 (PB)
Amazon : from $8.98 / £10.99 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, villages in the Fang region of northern Gabon must grapple with the clash of tradition and the evolution of customs throughout modern Africa. With this tension in the background, the passionate, deft, and creative seamstress Awu marries Obame, after he and his beloved wife, Bella, have been unable to conceive. Because all three are reluctant participants in this arrangement, theirs is an emotionally fraught existence. Through heartbreaking and disastrous events, Awu grapples with long-standing Fang customs that counter her desire to take full control of her life and home.

Supplemented with a foreword and critical introduction highlighting Justine Mintsa’s importance in African literature, Awu’s Story is an essential work of African women’s writing and the only published work to meditate this deeply on some of the Fang’s most cherished legends and oral history.

Awu's Story, in this edition, begins with informative introductions by Therese Kuoh-Moukhoury and Cheryl Toman. While I did appreciate these immensely - they give a lot of additional background to the novella and to Gabonese literature in general - I would recommend not tackling them until after reading the book itself. In their explanations of incidents in Awu's Story I thought they gave away too much of what was to come.

Awu's Story explores the changing roles of women in Fang society and how the pioneers of these changes struggle against their society's expectations and the conservative traditions with which they have been raised. We view a series of events over several years affecting primarily Awu, her sister-in-law and her niece. Through these we see Awu grow in confidence and maturity. She chooses her battles wisely though and I found it interesting to learn which traditions she chose to uphold. Not everything is cast aside in the name of progress and, as a former French colony, Gabon has its share of post-colonial disasters such as the state of its maternity hospital.

I liked Mintsa's writing very much. She has created strong and memorable female characters, both ones with which I could empathise and ones who irritated or angered me. However my problem with Awu's Story and the reason it didn't hit a full five star rating is its brevity. A short volume overall, once the introductions were out the way it didn't feel to me that I really had enough time to get fully immersed in the tale before it was over. I could have happily have read many more pages about Awu's life.

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Books by Justine Mintsa / Contemporary fiction / Books from Gabon

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The White Sultana by Pierre Christin and Annie Goetzinger

The White Sultana by Pierre Christin and Annie Goetzinger
First published in French as La Sultane Blanche by Dargaud in France 1996. English language translation by Montana Kane published by Europe Comics in April 2016.

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 : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $9.53 / £6.79 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

This is the story of two women. One of those women is Lady Sheringham, interviewed in her manor house, the other is Emma Piggott, who has just passed away in her London apartment, alone. 

To the former, life has been kind. She's gone from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpar, from governess to sultana. She lives in the lap of luxury, engaged in an endless cycle of drinks parties, outings on horseback and the delicious little scandals of the British colonial community. This is a woman destined never to know hardship, other than the loss of loved ones. 

Emma Piggott, a teacher at St. John's, has lived a gray and stagnant life, experiencing Asia only through newspaper articles that she carefully cuts out and collects, but never leaving the Whitechapel neighborhood where her parents kept a grocery store.

And yet, something unites these two women--a little detail, nothing at all really, mere chance, or perhaps just a nightmare that troubles Lady Sheringham's sleep from time to time...

I chose this graphic novel because I liked the idea of its historical fiction aspect and because its illustrator, Annie Goetzinger, was reputed to be brilliant. Overall I did enjoy this story. It is set in the Far East just after the Second World War and in the decade that followed as the British Empire disintegrated. The rags to riches fairytale follows young Emma Piggott from governess to nobility and finally sultana, but we are never quite sure what is reality and what is truth. Does London-based Emma dream of Asia, or is it Asia-based Emma who has nightmares of being trapped in drab London?

I would have liked a deeper, more emotional story and felt that The White Sultana was too superficial for my tastes. However I did appreciate Goetzinger's illustrations especially the various beautifully fashionable dresses worn by the British socialites in Hong Kong. I spotted fashions changing from slim 1940s silhouettes to Dior-style New Look skirts and beyond. The contrast between colourful Asia and monochrome London was particularly effective as well. I am not sure I would seek out more Christin stories, but I would choose more graphic novels with Goetzinger artwork.

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Books by Pierre Christin and Annie Goetzinger / Graphic novels / Books from France