Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf + #FreeBook

Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
Published in the UK by Hogarth Press in October 1922.

J for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge and a Classics Club Challenge read

I have now completed my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge and not a moment too soon! Here's my full list:
A Sky So Close To Us by Shahla Ujayli
Black Holes by Ochi
Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women by Sarah Bargiela and Sophie Standing
Demian by Hermann Hesse
Escaping Psychiatry: Beginnings by Olga Nunez Miret
Farm Land: Sentience by Gemma Lawrence
Gumshoe Blues by Paul D Brazill
How To Create A Vegan World by Tobias Leenaert
Incident At Diamond Springs by Kendall Hanson
Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
Killer In The Band by Lauren Carr
Love In No Man's Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga
Mamachari Matchmaker by S J Pajonas
Now Let's Dance by Karine Lambert
Once Upon A Time In The West ... Country by Tony Hawks
Pocket Poets: Rupert Brooke
Queen Of The Flaming Diamond by Leroy Yerxa
Razia by Abda Khan
Spiral Of Silence by Elvira Sanchez-Blake
The History Of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave
UK2 by Terry Tyler
Vizilsan: Blue Rabbit's Crystal by Marko Markovic
White Walls And Straitjackets by David Owain Hughes
XYZ by Anna Katharine Green
Yekl by Abraham Cahan
Zophiel by Maria Gowen Brooks

How I got this book:
Downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacob's Room is Virginia Woolf's first truly experimental novel. It is a portrait of a young man, who is both representative and victim of the social values which led Edwardian society into war. Jacob's life is traced from the time he is a small boy playing on the beach, through his years in Cambridge, then in artistic London, and finally making a trip to Greece, but this is no orthodox Bildungsroman. Jacob is presented in glimpses, in fragments, as Woolf breaks down traditional ways of representing character and experience.

The novel's composition coincided with the consolidation of Woolf's interest in feminism, and she criticizes the privileged thoughtless smugness of patriarchy, `the other side', `the men in clubs and Cabinets'. Her stylistic innovations are conscious attempts to realize and develop women's writing and the novel dramatizes her interest in the ways both language and social environments shape differently the lives of men and women.

I knew that Jacob's Room was considered to be 'experimental fiction' before I started reading it so I was prepared for some unusual elements. As it turns out, I didn't find it too experimental at all and thought that Woolf's structure actually felt up to date. I guess the style has been pretty influential over the past century! Jacob's Room is composed of detailed glimpses into the life of the eponymous Jacob from his Scarborough childhood as the middle son of a widowed mother, until ... until the end of the book. I won't describe the ending too closely because I really benefited from not knowing in advance! Prior to that, we see Jacob almost entirely through other people's eyes and words. Woolf switches between incredibly vivid portrayals of scenes such as Cornish sea cliffs or the sun over Athens, and fragments of conversations which presumably happen around Jacob, sometimes with his participation and sometimes without.

Jacob's Room was great reading for me even though I spent most of the book not quite sure what the point of the story would be. I loved Woolf's contradictions. For example, the main character is Jacob yet he is effectively absent much of the time leaving his story to be told by a supporting cast of predominately women (other than his Cambridge days which feel glaringly male). Woolf uses seemingly insignificant female chatter to make frequent - and often snarky - observations about gender roles and polite society in general at this time. Of course she is still snooty towards anyone she considers lower class, but over several novels now, I have got used to this in her writing.

Jacob's Room, I think, will always be more of a niche read than a widely popular classic and I am relieved I didn't have to closely study its issues and themes for school or college. I did enjoy this book though. Perhaps it would have only warranted a 3-4 star rating overall, but the gut-punch perspective shift at the end earns it a solid 5 stars from me.

Etsy Find!
by Literary Emporium in
Frome, England

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Monday, 30 December 2019

The Vegan Travel Handbook by Lonely Planet

The Vegan Travel Handbook by Lonely Planet
Published in the UK by Lonely Planet Food on the 1st December 2019.

I will link up this review with December 2019 Foodies Read at Based On A True Story.
One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads and included in my Vegan Bookshop

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whether you've been vegan for years or are travelling as one for the first time, The Vegan Travel Handbook will help you discover, plan and book a huge range of vegan-friendly adventures around the globe.

Get essential advice and expert tips on everything from where to go when and the best vegan restaurants, accommodation and cities, to how to stay healthy on the road and order food with confidence. We also reveal unmissable vegan tours, festivals and food trucks.

From cooking classes in India to wildlife watching tours in New Zealand, Lonely Planet shows you how to explore the world on a plant-based diet.

Explore the wilds of Patagonia, Argentina
Go trekking and wildlife watching in Ethiopia
Meditate in the mountains in Taiwan
Melt any stresses away in a Japanese onsen
Wild camp by a pristine lake in Scandinavia
Go wine tasting in Piedmont, northern Italy
Eat your way around Delhi, Agra and Jaipur
Dance and dine the night away in Seville
Monitor jaguars in the Amazon Rainforest
Savour local produce at a New Zealand farmers' market
Spot the 'Big Five' in safari in South Africa
Explore the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia
Shake up a rum cocktail in the Cayman Islands
Road-trip your way up the east coast of Australia
Embark on a DIY doughnut tour of the USA's west coast

I was excited to be offered the opportunity to review this first edition of Lonely Planet's new Vegan Travel Handbook and am glad to say that it didn't disappoint. The successful Lonely Planet formula of gorgeous photographs combined with local information and insider tips works well with a vegan angle. I'm now eager to travel to countries that I might never have considered before and am confident of at least starting off on the right foot when I get there! Suggested countries are grouped by vacation style so Adventure, for example, gives us Argentina, Ethiopia, Taiwan and Vietnam suggestions while Culture leads us to Eastern Europe, India, Israel and my current location of Spain. (I can confirm that southern Spain at least is proving to have plenty of vegan eating options, even in smaller towns!)

Within each suggested country's entry we are given ideas for accommodation, eateries and entertainment. I loved the little language sections which explain how to say 'I am vegan' in each local language and list the words for taboo foods. This is a nice touch and I imagine will prove helpful to travellers. The novelty of The Vegan Travel Handbook does show in some of the suggested activity and accommodation choices. Several can be 'veganised on request' which, admittedly, is great but implies that these businesses aren't vegan in themselves. Strict vegans may also disapprove of mentions of horse riding excursions and aquarium visits. With the blossoming of veganism globally I imagine future editions of this book will be able to pick and choose from a much wider variety of completely vegan businesses.

The Vegan Travel Handbook, I think, provides a great overview of global destination options for vegans who want to get a bit off the beaten track, but not feel completely isolated for the duration of their vacation. It's reassuring to know ahead of time where pockets of vegan-friendly culture can be found in Berlin or Stockholm or Rio De Janeiro. With so many countries included, individual entries are understandably brief, but were easily enough to whet my appetite for many vacations to come. If you're planning your 2020 vegan holidays, I think this book will be a valuable and inspirational resource.

Etsy Find!
by The Sunshine Bindery in
Crewkerne, England

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Sunday, 29 December 2019

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
First published in the UK by Simon and Schuster in November 2004.

How I got this book:
Bought a paperback copy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An Extraordinary and Death-Defying Tour of Edwardian Low Life and High Society, accompanied by our host Lucifer Box Esq - artist, dandy, rake ... and lethal secret agent.

Lucifer Box is the darling of the Edwardian belle monde - society's most fashionable portrait painter is a wit, a dandy, a rake, the guest all hostesses (and not a few hosts) must have.

But few know that Lucifer Box is also His Majesty's most accomplished and daring secret agent. Beneath London's façade of Imperial grandeur and divine aesthetes seethes an underworld of crazed anarchists, murder, and despicable vice, and Box is at home in both.

And so of course when Britain's most prominent scientists begin turning up dead, there is only one man his country can turn to.

Lucifer Box ruthlessly deduces and seduces his way from his elegant townhouse at Number 9 Downing Street (all his father left him), to private stews of London and the seediest, most colourful back alleys of Italy, in search of the mighty secret society that may hold the fate of the world in its claw-like hands - the Vesuvius Club.

This review was first blogged on Stephanie Jane in May 2014.

I first read The Vesuvius Club seven years ago and it is still my favourite steampunk novel. Our hero, Lucifer Box, is wonderfully decadent and louche, his adventures as bizarre as the improbable names of his supporting cast. Allegedly set in early twentieth century London and Naples, I know other readers have criticised the writing for historical inaccuracies, but I think they've missed the point. The Vesuvius Club isn't a extensively researched historical novel, it's a fun, dark, fantasy sci-fi spy thriller or, as Mr Gatiss claims, A Bit Of Fluff. If you're into lightly depraved escapism, this is the book for you!

Etsy Find!
by Yos Finds in

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Saturday, 28 December 2019

XYZ by Anna Katharine Green + #FreeBook

XYZ by Anna Katharine Green
Published in America by G P Putnam's Sons in 1883.

X for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge

How I got this book:
Downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anna Katharine Green (November 11, 1846 - April 11, 1935) was an American poet and novelist. She was one of the first writers of detective fiction in America and distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories. Green has been called "the mother of the detective novel." Green is credited with shaping detective fiction into its classic form, and developing the series detective. In addition to creating elderly spinster and young female sleuths, Green's innovative plot devices included dead bodies in libraries, newspaper clippings as "clews," the coroner's inquest, and expert witnesses. Green was in some ways a progressive woman for her time - succeeding in a genre dominated by male writers - but she did not approve of many of her feminist contemporaries, and she was opposed to women's suffrage.

In this short story, an unnamed detective is sent to a small town, Brandon, in Massachusetts where he hopes to uncover the ringleaders of a counterfeiting scam. Instead, in following his suspicions, he finds himself in the midst of a very different crime altogether.

I'd never heard of Anna Katharine Green prior to stumbling upon this X book for my Alphabet Soup challenge. I certainly had no idea of her legacy as a detective fiction author and, having now read XYZ, I wonder why she isn't as famous as Agatha Christie. Indeed, it's all too possible that Christie was inspired and influenced by Green's writing. Perhaps we need a similar book to Monster, She Wrote, but detailing early female crime fiction authors. Is anyone currently writing this book?

XYZ is an ingenious and cleverly plotted story. It's first person narrator never identifies himself other than to say that he is a detective, so he has a compelling level of mystery surrounding him especially as we learn very little about him as a person. We read his innermost thoughts concerning the investigation as it unfolds, but this isn't a man given to recounting past anecdotes or diverting from his focus. In fact, none of the characters are portrayed in any great depth. Green manages to put across their essential attributes through brief sketches which suits the feel of the story. XYZ is only about fifty pages long so spending more time on description would slow its pace right down. As it is, I felt I knew enough to envisage the people and locations while remaining gripped by the mystery. I very much enjoyed reading XYZ and would happily pick out more Anna Katharine Green books in the future.

Etsy Find!
by Masks And Tiaras in
Crewe, England

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Friday, 27 December 2019

Dragon's Burn by Brooke Warren + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Dragon's Burn (Legion's Fallen Motorcycle Club Book 1) by Brooke Warren
Published on the 27th December 2019.

Add Dragon's Burn to your Goodreads

High school is over which means summer vacation has officially begun. I just spent the last four years busting my butt making sure I secured a one way ticket out of hicksville and the suffocating small-town life.

To celebrate my impending freedom I attend an end of year party with the same people I can’t wait to escape from. Except this party is different from the rest, there’s someone new.

What starts as a summer fling quickly turns into more. My carefully guarded heart is split wide open. Meeting him sends my life on a detour and threatens to destroy all my future life plans.

He’s not supposed to happen, he’s not part of my plan. He spins my world out of control, like a drug addiction I can’t seem to kick.

Can he escape his obligations with Legion’s Fallen MC or will our love destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve?

This is a medium-burn contemporary reverse harem romance. The build of harem is slow and will be complete by end of series. Anticipated 3-4 books in series. ***This book is intended for those 18+ due to adult content and language.***

I sneak up on her, catching the feminine scent of her perfume mixed with a hint of berries, and lean close to her ear. “Looking for me?”
She squeaks and whips around to face me. “Holy shit, you scared me.”
Her hand goes to her chest and she takes a few deep breaths. I take a sip of my drink, which is disgusting at this point, but I need to keep my mouth occupied—drown out the need to taste her.
“You seemed interested in what I was doing.”
“I was not,” she scoffs, taking a step back. The move presses her against the staircase.
I follow her, like a string is attached to both of us, pulling us together. The string is thin, something I could break easily to sever this connection, but I don’t. Instead, I take it one step further and rest my forearm near her head and bend down, putting myself at eye level.
“So, then you weren’t watching that other girl grind against me, rubbing her hand over my dick, while imagining it was you instead?”
Her pupils enlarge, eating up the mesmerizing color of her irises. Whether she did it consciously or not, I track the movement of her tongue flicking out to wet her lips. It’d be so easy for me to take that pretty mouth, give her a taste of what her body is craving, even though she’s fighting it. For a brief second, I see the thought cross her face as she wonders if I’m going to kiss her. And in that second, I almost do. I glance up in time to see her friend make her way up the stairs.
I look back at Poppy, who crosses her arms under her breasts, which pushes them higher. I do my best not to stare at them but fail, I can’t help it. They’re practically in my face, taunting me with their perfection. What color are her nipples? How hard could I get them if I sucked on them?
She clears her throat and gives me a pointed look. Oh well. No point in saying sorry, because I’m not.
“I wasn’t staring at you,” she says with husky breathiness.
No point in calling her out on it. Indecision is written all over her face. She’s trying hard to convince herself her own lie is real. It heightens my curiosity, which is the exact opposite of what I want to happen. I lick my lips, not meaning to, but she’s fucking sexy, and seriously, that wrinkle between her eyes only adds to it.
“Fine.” I move back a step, creating a hole between us that looked better filled. “You weren’t staring at me like you wanted to fuck me.”

She glances down at the spot I was just inhabiting almost like she wishes I didn’t leave it either, but when she lifts her head back up, I’m met with a fixed determination. “Your narcissism knows no bounds, that’s for sure.”

Meet the Author 

Brooke Warren is a new Indie author who lives in Florida with her husband and three dogs. When she is not writing, you can find her reading, playing online video games (World of Warcraft and Fallout are her favs), or getting lost for hours on You Tube and Netflix. Her love for books and over active imagination has inspired her to share the stories stuck in her head.

Thank you so much to all the readers and supporters. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a $10 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally until the 2nd January.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Etsy Find!
by Kris Batchelder ART in
Colorado, USA

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Thursday, 26 December 2019

Zophiel by Maria Gowen Brooks + #FreeBook

Zophiel by Maria Gowen Brooks
Published in America by Richardson and Lord in 1825.

Z for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge

How I got this book:
Downloaded the free ebook from Project Gutenberg

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wishing to make a continued effort, in an art which, though almost in secret, has been adored and assiduously cultivated from earliest infancy, it was my intention to have chosen some incident from Pagan history, as the foundation of my contemplated poem. But, looking over the Jewish annals, I was induced to select for my purpose, one of their well-known stories which besides its extreme beauty, seemed to Open an extensive field for the imagination which might therein avail itself not only of important and elevated truths but pleasing and popular superstitions.

As you can probably tell from the start of Brooks' flowery introduction quoted above, Zophiel is very much a book of its time! I chose it based purely on its title beginning with a Z and its page count being low because, at the time, I had three weeks left in the year and five letters still to tick off my Alphabet Soup challenge. Brooks herself was an interesting woman, married to a much older man who had been her guardian before she came of age and, through selling her poetry, the breadwinner of this partnership. I'd love to read a biography of her, if one does exist, however I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to find more of her poetry. It's very much of the Get On With It school of writing!

Zophiel, eventually, became a poem in seven cantos of which this book is the first. I did like the story and Brooks does have a vivid turn of phrase when evoking scenes or characters. A retelling of an ancient epic, here a young woman, Egla, is persuaded by her parents to marry a man she doesn't particularly care for. However on her wedding night another man, the eponymous Zophiel, attempts to seduce her instead - with disastrous results. Unfortunately Brooks takes many, many verses to get to the action (for want of a better word!) and frequently diverts into footnotes describing relevant history, recounting moments from her sojourn in Cuba, or explaining literary allusions. I found it difficult enough to understand the poem without constantly being led astray. If you love Regency-era poetry or are in desperate need of a Z book, then Zophiel might be worth a download. Personally though, while I'm pleased that I struggled through the main poem and I did prefer a couple of her other short works tacked on the end, I can't say I'm now converted to a Brooks fan.

Etsy Find!
by Holy Spirit Art in
Thessaloniki, Greece

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Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Published in the UK by Bradbury And Evans in 1854.

One of my Classics Club reads

How I got this book:
Bought an ebook edition via Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hard Times – For These Times (commonly known as Hard Times) is the tenth novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1854. The book tells the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage, falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to reconsider his cherished system. Yet even as the development of the story reflects Dickens's growing pessimism about human nature and society, Hard Times marks his return to the theme which had made his early works so popular: the amusements of the people.

Coketown is dominated by the figure of Mr Thomas Gradgrind, school owner and model of Utilitarian success. Feeding both his pupils and his family with facts, he bans fancy and wonder from young minds. As a consequence his young daughter Louisa marries the loveless businessman and “bully of humility” Mr Bounderby, and his son Tom rebels to become embroiled in gambling and robbery. And, as their fortunes cross with those of free-spirited circus girl Sissy Jupe and victimized weaver Stephen Blackpool, Gradgrind is eventually forced to recognize the value of the human heart in an age of materialism and machinery. 

I've initiated two Christmas reading traditions over the past few years. One is to immerse myself in Deborah Garner's latest Moonglow Cafe Christmas novella. The other is to blog my review of a Charles Dickens novel on Christmas Day, necessitating reading one each December. I never read proper Dickens when I was growing up, instead we had a few children's abbreviated versions of his most famous stories. I've noticed though that many of his characters and storylines are referenced in other novels leaving me somewhat at a disadvantage by not always understanding or even recognising them. Hence the annual Dickens project. I admit I am easily intimidated by the sheer length of his books which is why I only attempt one a year and am gradually working up from A Christmas Carol to David Copperfield. This December I chose Hard Times which actually turned out to be very apt considering I started reading it on Election Day!

My overriding memory of Hard Times, unfortunately, will probably be boredom. I really did want much more storyline and a lot less small talk dialogue, especially from the characters whose words were entirely written phonetically. This was seriously overdone! I understood Dickens wanted to put across an idea of their speech, but I found it frequently almost unintelligible! That said, overall, the characterisations were my favourite part of Hard Times, particularly those of the older people. Thomas Gradgrind's insistence on Facts! Joseph Bounderby with his terrible childhood,  demure Mrs Sparsit and overlooked Mrs Gradgrind. Dickens' illustrating the social injustices endured by Coketown's workers must have a brave move at the time, especially as I imagine more of his contemporary readers would have been Owners and their families rather than Hands. It's both a look at England of 160 years ago and a glimpse into the far-too-near future! I'm glad to have now read Hard Times, but I probably won't ever read it again.

Etsy Find!
by Literary Lodge in
Manchester, England

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Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The Abbot's Ghost by Louisa May Alcott + #FreeBook

The Abbot's Ghost by Louisa May Alcott
First published under the pen name A M Barnard in 1867.

How I got this book:
Downloaded via Project Gutenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maurice Traherne is wrongly accused of fraud and gambling and must play a careful hand if he is to win his love, Octavia, from the grasp of other, less honorable men and retain the trust of those who had faith in him. Traherne is temporarily crippled saving the life of his well-born friend, Jasper. Thus, Jasper is assured of inheriting his father's estate, but it is expected that Traherne will inherit great wealth as gratitude for saving the heir. But--surprise!--on the death of Jasper's father all are shocked to learn that Traherne has been disinherited: the will has been changed at the last minute and only the suffering Traherne knows why but won't tell and then he falls in love with Jasper's sister, the fair Octavia. However, Octavia is forbidden to marry, as Traherne is penniless.

I wanted to find a short ghost story, preferably a free one, for a traditional Christmas Eve blog post so was delighted when Project Gutenberg showed me The Abbot's Ghost by Louisa May Alcott - it's a ghost story and a Christmas story in one, plus at one point the characters are telling each other ghost stories on Christmas Eve. I don't think I could have found a more apt tale to feature than this! It's a gothic story of a country house gathering where a young woman is persuaded to abandon her love for her disabled cousin in favour of a more socially acceptable match. Over the course of Christmas week, guilty secrets are uncovered and the eponymous ghost puts in an unwelcome appearance.

Admittedly, The Abbot's Ghost isn't the best example of Alcott's talent as a writer although I found it a pleasant enough diversion for a couple of hours. Perhaps this is why it was originally published under a pseudonym? The storyline is surprisingly compelling and the characters become more distinct as the tale progresses. I kept muddling people up early on which made everything more confusing than it needed to be! There's lots of repressed emotion and characters trying to coolly pretend they're not madly in love with unsuitable partners. Throw in eerily screeching peacocks and easily frightened servants, improbable peril and a heartbreaking death scene, and you've got an entertaining seasonal read!

Etsy Find!
by The Huge Manatee in
Ballarat, Australia

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Monday, 23 December 2019

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Published in the UK by HarperCollins on the 15th April 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

British-born Punjabi sisters Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina have never been close but when their mother died, she had only one request: that they take a pilgrimage across India to carry out her final rites. While an extended family holiday is the last thing they want, each sister has her own reasons to run away from her life.

Rajni is the archetypal know-it-all eldest but her son dropped a devastating bombshell before she left and for the first time she doesn’t know what the future holds.

Middle sister Jezmeen was always a loudmouth, translating her need for attention into life as a struggling actress. But her career is on the skids after an incident went viral and now she’s desperate to find her voice again.

Shirina has always been the golden child, who confounded expectations by having an arranged marriage and moving to the other side of the world. But her perfect life isn’t what it seems and time is running out to make the right choice.

As the miles rack up on their jaunt across India, the secrets of the past and present are sure to spill out…

I had such a good time reading The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, The three sisters are very different, yet believably so, and I could appreciate their somewhat fraught relationships. This is a novel about building friendships which seems very apt in today's angry world! Having recently read Soulla Christodoulou's story, Unlocked, also set in India, I was interested to see how the Shergill sisters view of this country was coloured by their personal experiences while travelling. Being effectively women alone for the duration of their journey allows readers to see deep misogyny running rife through society. Rajni's experience particularly shows that this hasn't changed in recent decades and Shirina discovers that other women can be just as abusive as men.

The only aspect I struggled to believe was the device of the whole India trip being prompted by the sisters' mother writing a letter to them during her last night alive. It's a long letter and, being reminded of my own mother's last weeks with cancer, I just couldn't see how she had the energy. That aside though, I loved Jaswal's engaging prose style and would happily pick up more of her books in the future. I think The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters would appeal to fans of writers like Amanda Prowse, and to readers who appreciate a good family drama.

Etsy Find!
by Claudines Art in
Worthing, England

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Sunday, 22 December 2019

Can’t Buy Me Love by Janet Elizabeth Henderson + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Can’t Buy Me Love by Janet Elizabeth Henderson
Published on the 25th December 2019.

Add Can’t Buy Me Love to your Goodreads

Three awesome series meet in one explosive book!

It turned out hell was a small town in the Scottish Highlands. Oh, sure, the locals called it Invertary, but Agnes Sinclair knew better—the town even had an old woman everyone called Satan. If that wasn’t a sign she was in hell, she didn’t know what was. All Agnes had ever wanted was to get out of Scotland, and now she was stuck there with no escape. And all because of one teeny, tiny incident (he totally deserved it!) that got her blacklisted in the hotel industry. Now, her only career option is managing a hotel owned by a guy who looks like Disco Santa, in a town where everyone marched to their own damn beat. And, as if being trapped in hell wasn’t bad enough, a spate of thefts at the hotel makes the owner call in a member of Benson Security to help her get to the bottom of them. Agnes doesn’t need help. She especially doesn’t need it from a sexy single father whose every breath tempts her to reevaluate what she wants out of life. A man who makes her wonder if Invertary is where she truly belongs.

***This is a full length, standalone romance with an HEA***
**It includes characters from the Invertary (Scottish Highlands) series and the Benson Security Series**
*You don't need to have read any other books in any series to enjoy this one!*


This is the start of the book, where we find out the heroine is in a job she doesn’t want and the hotel she works in has been suffering a spate of thefts since she started. No clues for guessing who’s suspect number one! So, the hotel owner calls in a member of the local security team to look into things. And Logan and Agnes do NOT hit it off!

It turned out the Catholics were right—purgatory was real. And it was a small town in the Scottish Highlands. Oh, sure, the locals called it Invertary, but Agnes Sinclair knew better. She wasn’t fooled by the picturesque loch or the rows of crooked white houses. Invertary was where souls came to have the hope sucked out of them—or whatever it was that happened in purgatory. Not being Catholic, Agnes wasn’t sure what went on there, but with a name like purgatory, it couldn’t be good. All she knew for sure was that she’d only been in town for three weeks, and already she’d lost the will to live.
“You called a security firm to investigate me?” She glared at her new boss, Dougal Jamieson, the owner of Invertary’s only hotel, and he didn’t even squirm.
He tugged down his red tartan waistcoat, which he’d teamed with a pink button-down shirt, and glared back. “I called them in to investigate the thefts. The ones you informed me were happening. Was I supposed to ignore them?”
“You were supposed to let me do my job and investigate them myself. That’s why you employed a hotel manager. To free you up to take care of the pub and build your new conference center.” The conference center that was still in the planning stage because the land Dougal needed to build it was being held hostage by an old woman the town called Satan. Which seemed appropriate, because if this was truly purgatory, Satan should live in it. Right? She really needed to find a Catholic and have them explain this stuff to her.
“You might be the day-to-day manager, but this is still my business,” Dougal snapped.
It was clear to Agnes, after only three weeks in the job, that Dougal didn’t actually want to let go of the responsibility of managing his hotel. So he’d taken to managing her instead. 
In detail. 
His micromanagement was beginning to make her skin crawl, and the urge to gag him and lock him in a closet grew stronger by the minute.
Dougal’s white brows furrowed as he huffed a breath that made his matching mustache and beard flutter. Her boss was Santa dressed as Elton John, with a booming voice and a deep Highland burr. Talking to him was like having a bad acid trip. 
It was on the tip of her tongue to demand to know why he’d hired her when he seemed so set on doing the job himself. But Agnes already knew the answer—her sister’s husband had talked him into it. Yep, that’s how pathetic she’d become. Even though she’d spent ten years studying part time to get a degree in hotel management and had countless hours of practical experience under her belt, she needed her sister to find her a job. 
There were days, like this one, when she second-guessed the decision that’d landed her in her current predicament. She’d been offered a job managing a large hotel that was part of a famous chain, and all she’d had to do to secure the position was have sex with the owner. Agnes had politely declined, kicking his nuts into next week as she did so. Less than twenty-four hours later, she’d been blacklisted throughout the entire UK hotel network. Which had led her to this moment—a face-off with disco Santa.
She should have had sex with the creepy hotel owner.
Taking a fortifying breath, she reached deep for what little patience ran in her genes. “I know this is your hotel, and I understand that I work for you. But I just want the opportunity to do my job before you decide you need someone else to do it for me.”
“This isn’t a judgment of your abilities.” Dougal’s voice reverberated off the walls. “It’s an attempt to give you some help. Benson Security can investigate the thefts while you manage the hotel.”
What was left hanging in the air between them was the fact the bulk of the thefts had only started when she’d arrived in Invertary. She looked her boss straight in the eye. “I’m not the one stealing from you.”
He smacked a beefy hand on her desk. “Did I say that?” He turned to the man leaning in the doorway. The man Agnes had been steadily ignoring since he’d arrived with her boss ten minutes earlier. “Did I, at any point, suggest my manager was stealing from me?”
Agnes tossed her long, straight blonde hair over her shoulder, folded her arms over her gray suit jacket, and tapped her toe. Yes, what exactly did the almighty ‘security specialist’ think of this situation?
The corner of the man’s mouth quirked as he uncrossed his arms and ankles and stepped into the room. At about five foot eight or nine, he wasn’t massively tall, but he would still tower over her. He wore a black long-sleeved tee with the sleeves pushed up, a pair of dark blue jeans, and brown suede boots. His thick, mahogany hair, shorter at the sides, was pulled back in a rough right parting. He reminded her of a younger Tom Cruise. Only with a nose that’d been broken at some point and set crooked. They shared the same lean, muscled physique, and the same amused sparkle in their eyes.
“What I think,” he said, “is that we all need to take a step back and calm down.”
And that was all she needed to hear to know he was an ex-cop—it was in his tone. The same tone she’d heard many times over the years. Perfect. This was just what she needed.

Meet the Author 

Janet is a Scot who moved to New Zealand fifteen years ago. Among other things, she's been an artist, a teacher, a security guard at a castle, a magazine editor, and a cleaner in a drop in center for drug addicts (NOT the best job!). She now writes full-time and is working on her 19th book. Her books have won several awards, including the Daphne du Maurier award for excellence in mystery and suspense. When she isn't living in her head, she raises two kids, one husband, and several random animals. She survives on chocolate and caffeine.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a $25 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally until the 2nd January.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Etsy Find!
by Roots Design in
Michigan, USA

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Books by Janet Elizabeth Henderson / Romance fiction / Books from Scotland

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Yekl by Abraham Cahan + #FreeBook

Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto by Abraham Cahan
Published by D Appleton and Company in America in 1896.

Y for my 2019 Alphabet Soup Challenge and a Classics Club read

How I got this book:
Downloaded a free copy via Project Gutenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The operatives of the cloak-shop in which Jake was employed had been idle all the morning. It was after twelve o'clock and the "boss" had not yet returned from Broadway, whither he had betaken himself two or three hours before in quest of work. The little sweltering assemblage—for it was an oppressive day in midsummer—beguiled their suspense variously. A rabbinical-looking man of thirty, who sat with the back of his chair tilted against his sewing machine, was intent upon an English newspaper.

Yekl is one of a selection of obscurely titled Project Gutenberg books I downloaded last week in an attempt to complete my 2019 Alphabet Soup challenge before I run out of year! It was first published in 1896, but I didn't feel as if the writing style dated from more than 120 years ago and the actions and attitudes of the characters are reflective of the present day. Yekl's themes of immigration and integration are very timely.

The novel follows Eastern European Jew Yekl, who has renamed himself Jake, through several months of his life in New York City. He arrived in America a couple of years previously and has already acclimatised himself to some extent. Jake is very much the young metropolitan man - cutting a dash at dances and entertaining a number of girlfriends - but he has a wife and child back in Europe desperately waiting for him to send their tickets to follow him. I loved Cahan's portrayals of Jake and of Gitl, his wife, even though I didn't actually like either of the people themselves. Jake is immature, selfish and, ultimately, weak. He treats Gitl appallingly allowing her no time to get used to American life but instead sneering at her backwards dress and behaviour. Gitl is, understandably, completely bewildered by her new environment. Even though the couple have rooms in the midst of a Jewish community, it comprises Jews from various nations and traditions so even their Yiddish differs from person to person. Cahan makes a brave effort to illustrate these pronunciations through differing phonetic spellings for each person. The idea comes across well, but I found the device detracted from my comprehension, especially in the early chapters. This annoyed me until Gitl arrives in New York and I realised that my earlier language difficulties were nothing compared to her experience!

Yekl is not a particularly long book, but I felt it gave an accurately detailed impression of New York life for Jews at the turn of the last century. Cahan expertly captures personality through speech so his characters spring to life and don't descend into caricature. I would recommend this novel for its immigration theme and also for its depiction of women's expectations in 1890s America. It was interesting for me to remember that Yekl isn't historical fiction, but was written at the time it is set so Cahan's ideas aren't filtered through a twenty-first century lens.

Etsy Find!
by Chromatone in

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Friday, 20 December 2019

Viper by Marteeka Karland + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Viper (Bones MC #4) by Marteeka Karland
Published in America by Changeling Press today, the 20th December 2019.

Add Viper to your Goodreads

Who knew I’d find my destiny at Christmas? Not me. Or her daddy. Don’t mean I ain’t keeping her.

Darcy: I didn’t run away from a sadistic stepfather and a mother who wouldn’t protect me just to be carted off by some strange man. I fought the son of a bitch. Woulda won, too, except the bastard had help.

Viper’s rough around the edges and some kind of badass biker, so there’s no way this is going to work out well. Unfortunately, he calls to me on a purely sexual level. Makes my heart race and my body melt just looking at me. It doesn’t help he’s actually nice to me. He claims to know my dad. My real dad. Says he’s been sent to bring me back. I have no idea if I believed him or not. Just don’t really have a choice but to go along. At least for now.

Viper: I tracked the cunning little wench for three fuckin’ days. In the fuckin’ snow. She’s good, too. She survived on her own in a hostile environment with only a little trouble. That alone would make me respect for her, but then she had to go and kick me in the balls. Had I not been on the ground in agony, I’d have been turned on beyond belief. Now, with her safely under my protection, I’ve got to figure out how to keep my hands off her so her father won’t kill my sorry ass. He’s our intel man and one of my best friends, so I don’t want to cause him grief. But I want Darcy. Badly.

It’s Christmas Eve, and there’s an enemy on our doorstep with a unique gift. One that will leave us all with some hard choices -- Darcy especially. What unfolds next is something none of us ever planned for.

Warning: Viper (Bones MC 4) deals with issues of abuse and human trafficking that may be triggers for some readers.


“We’re not gonna hurt you,” Viper said, hands out in front of him as he approached her.
“I know,” she said, her voice a whisper of sound.
“Viper!” It was the only warning Arkham could issue before the girl attacked. She launched herself at Viper. In reflex, he caught her.
Two things happened when he closed his arms around her. First, Viper recognized she was more than a girl. The woman had curves aplenty, two of which were mashed against his chest, rubbing over him with every movement of her body. Second, the woman was fucking fierce. Viper was perfectly capable of defending himself, but he was hesitant to do anything for fear of hurting her. So she pummeled him with that fucking rock. By sheer luck, she didn’t catch his head with it, only his jaw. Viper retained his hold on her with one arm securely around her waist while using the other to block her blows as best he could. For such a small little thing, she packed quite a punch! Despite his efforts, she still connected several times before Arkham disarmed her. Bastard didn’t help him any more than that. And still, she fought. Apparently frustrated with her lack of progress, Darcy shrieked, kicking out and continuing to hit at him with her fists.
“Knock it the fuck off, woman!” Viper finally set her on her feet and captured her wrists in his hands and wrapped his arms around her, trapping her with his superior strength. “Look at me, Darcy!” Viper used every ounce of command he possessed. In the end, it was probably the use of her name that made her pause in her tirade. “Look at me!” When she gave him a wary look he took a breath. “Your father sent us to find you and bring you home.”
“I’m not going back! I’m old enough to make my own decisions, and I’ll be damned if I go back to that bastard!” Her struggles resumed. She tried to hike her knee up into his groin, but he managed to avoid it, pulling her tighter against him. It was getting exceedingly hard to ignore the lush curves pressed against him. The woman was tempting in the worst way.
“You’ve never even met your dad,” Viper said, struggling to hold her while not hurting her. “I assure you, he’s a good man.”
“Rayburn, my stepdad, is a molesting bastard and my mom is nothing more than his pimp! I’ll kill both of them and you before I go back!”
Viper was so shocked, he relaxed his hold for a second, giving the girl enough leverage to break free. Darcy promptly kicked him in the balls before spinning around to flee again. Arkham caught her, spun her back around, and zip-tied her hands behind her back, ensuring he didn’t get a repeat of what Viper got. Once she was secured, he looped a length of rope around her waist and tied her to a tree.
“That should take care of that.” Arkham turned his attention to Viper, kneeling down beside his biker brother. “You gonna be all right?”
“Shut the fuck up, you smug bastard.” Viper tried to sound menacing, but it was hard to do when his balls were singing. Didn’t help with him down on one knee looking up at the big man, either.
“Just trying to help a brother out.” Arkham raised his hands in surrender before turning back to their prisoner.
“You gonna fight me, girl?”
“You gonna try to take me back to that hellhole?” She had to look up at Arkham, but Darcy didn’t seem the least bit intimidated. In fact, she looked to be sizing him up, looking for the easiest way to take him down.
“Hadn’t planned on it,” he said.
When Arkham didn’t offer anything else, Viper added, “It’s your biological father who sent us. We’re takin’ you back to the clubhouse.”
She looked from Arkham to Viper. “Biological father. Clubhouse?”
“Yeah.” Viper groaned as he got to his feet. “Look. I’m Viper. This is Arkham. We’ve been huntin’ you for three fuckin’ days, sweetheart. I’d like to get out of the fuckin’ snow.”
“Three days? I’ve only been gone like five.” They had Darcy’s attention now. Viper could see her calming down and really listening to what they had to say.
“Data set us on you less than an hour after he got the news from your mother.”
“Bullshit,” she spat. “My mother hasn’t had contact with my dad since right after I was born. She said he had no use for a kid.”
“Don’t know their story. Or yours.” Viper shrugged. “All I know is a man as steady as a rock under any kind of pressure is on my ass in a big way to get you home and out of danger.”
“Well, he hasn’t been in my life for the first eighteen years. I don’t need him for the next eighteen.”
“You don’t even want to hear what he has to say? Not gonna cost you anything but a few hours of your precious time. You don’t like what he says or think he’s feedin’ you a line of bullshit, you can leave. Hell, I’ll even take you anywhere you wanna go.”
She was silent for a moment as she pondered what he’d said. Viper had to stifle a groan. It was the first time he’d had a chance to really study her. Her stocking hat had fallen free, releasing a riot of bright red curls that spilled around her face and down her back. Her skin was nearly as pale as the snow around her but smattered with a light dusting of freckles across her forehead and the bridge of her nose. Delicate eyebrows rose in a fiery arch above sparkling pale blue eyes. Her appearance matched her temper, but also gave a man black ideas. Like spreading her out right here in the snow and fucking her until they melted the clearing around them. God! Would she have fiery curls on her c**t? In an instant, Viper was hard and aching, his need to claim this woman here and now so strong he had to bite back a growl.
Finally she relaxed against her bonds. “Fine. Kinda cold out here anyways.”

Meet the Author 

Romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of. Now, she breathes life into faeries, space hunters, werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, and a few just plane ole ordinary people. She loves to see the awkward, self-conscious band geek get the captain of the football team and make him beg for it.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a $10 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally until the 2nd January.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Etsy Find!
by Bored Koalas in
California, USA

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Marteeka Karland / Christmas stories / Books from America