Friday, 5 June 2020

#WorldReads ~ Five Books From Romania

If this is your first visit to my WorldReads blog series, the idea of the posts is to encourage and promote the reading of global literature. On the 5th of each month (or the 4th this month!) I highlight five books I have read by authors from a particular country and you can see links to previous countries' posts at the end of this post. From May 2016 until March 2020, WorldReads was hosted on my Stephanie Jane blog. From April 2020 onwards it is right here on Literary Flits
Click the book titles or cover images to visit their Literary Flits book review pages.

This month we are going to Romania!





Bottled Goods by Sophie Van Llewyn



Under A Red Sky by Haya Leah Molnar



Single in Buenos Aires by Roxana Valea




The Haiduks by Panait Istrati

That's it for June's WorldReads from Romania. I hope I have tempted you to try reading a book from this country and if you want more suggestions, click through to see all my Literary Flits reviews of Romanian-authored books!


If you missed any earlier WorldReads posts, I have already 'visited'

Africa: Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe

Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, United States of America,

Asia: China, India, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Syria, Turkey

Australasia: Australia, New Zealand,

Europe: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Wales

In July I will be highlighting five books by Trinidadian authors. See you on the 5th to find out which ones!

Thursday, 4 June 2020

The Chalice and the Crown by Kassandra Flamouri + #Giveaway


The Chalice and the Crown by Kassandra Flamouri
Published in America by Amazon Publishing on the 2nd May 2020.


Add The Chalice and the Crown to your Goodreads

Driven, talented, and determined to live up to her family's fame, Sasha Nikolayeva is ballet’s crown princess. But just when Sasha lands her most prestigious role yet, she falls prey to a host of disturbing neurological symptoms that threaten to end her career and her very life. As her mind and body deteriorate, Sasha spirals into a nightmare world where beauty and cruelty exist in the same breath and villains rule from the shadows. 

In the glittering, sharp-edged City of Roses, Sasha is no princess. She’s a thrall, a slave. Thousands like her suffer in cursed silence while citizens enjoy the splendor of the City, blissfully unaware that their servants are anything more than living dolls enchanted to do their bidding. But the City's slavers know the truth, and they are always watching. One misstep could cost Sasha her life—or her soul. 

Even as she endures the violence and indignity of captivity, Sasha can't help being drawn to the beauty of her nightmare world and the underground rebels who offer her friendship, shelter, even love. Before Sasha can break her chains for good, she'll need choose between the life waiting for her at home and the countless lives she could save if she stays. To choose a nightmare over her real life, her future, would be madness...but maybe a little madness is just what it takes to change the fate of a city built on lies. 

Dreams and reality perform a captivating pas de deux in this tale of legacy and longing. A lyrical and original fantasy that, like its heroine, has the soul of a dancer. - Adi Rule, author of STRANGE SWEET SONG 


Excerpt

There’s food. They throw a few crusts of stale bread into the cage and laugh as we fight over them. A dirty, stubbled knee smashes into my face as I reach into the melee with one hand and shove aside a frail old woman with the other. My hand closes spasmodically around a scrap of bread but, as I bring the prize to my lips, another girl tries to snatch it from me. I jerk away and bite her grasping fingers, lips pulled back from my teeth. She glares at me and rubs her hand, like I’ve done something rude, like she has every right to my food. I glare back and chew as slowly as possible, both to make it last and to rub it in the thief’s face. I hope they sell her soon. She’s been a steadily growing pain in my ass for weeks now.

I’m not sure what it is that annoys me so much, there’s just something about her. Every time I see her stupid, pouting face, I want to slap it. I try to remind myself that I don’t know her, she’s probably a nice person—and anyway, why shouldn’t she pout? We gave up hope of escape long ago. Most of us don’t even bother looking beyond the bars of our cage. We’re broken, hopeless, wretched scraps of flesh and bone. If ever there was a situation to warrant a good pout, this is it.

It’s no use—I hate her. I hate every inch of her, from her stupid blond head to her once no doubt perfectly pedicured toes. She used to be pretty. But now her long golden hair is no longer gold so much as a dull sand color, almost brown, and it hangs in greasy tangles around her face. Not that I can point fingers. My hair looks—and smells—like something you might find smeared on the bottom of your shoe. Several weeks’ worth of grime has crusted on my body and raised angry, putrid rashes in the creases of my elbows, armpits, everywhere skin touches skin.

But at least I’m alive. A few days ago there was rain, and the next morning one of the girls began to cough and shiver. Last night the guards pulled her corpse from the cage and left it by the roadside. Our only response was to take advantage of the extra leg room. The giddy surge of relief lasted no more than a day. New aches and pains arrived to take the place of old cramps, and now we shove and twist against each other just as violently as before. Another inch or two and I could unbend my knees. Another foot and I could lean against the bars. We need more space. I consider the pouter, eyeing her emaciated form, and smile as thunder rumbles in the distance.


Meet the Author 
In retrospect, I probably should have realized a lot earlier that I was meant to be a writer. Even as early as kindergarten, I struggled to pay attention in class because the outside world was just not as interesting as what was going on in my head. By that time, I had already made my storytelling debut ("Squirm the Worm," delivered at age three) and had spent countless hours playing make-believe with my 284 stuffed animals, every one of whom had a name and detailed backstory. Though I quickly learned to pay attention (or at least look like I was paying attention) during school hours, I retained a tendency to daydream and a love of stories.

When I left high school to attend the Sunderman Conservatory at Gettysburg College, I learned to translate both emotional and programatic content into music. Now, as an exam prep and college essay tutor, I have the time and flexibility to really dig into fiction again. My work has appeared online and in print in such venues as Timeless Tales Magazine and Quantum Fairy Tales.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is an $20 Amazon gift card
Open internationally until the 25th June.

a Rafflecopter giveaway





Etsy Find!
by Vintage Tampa in
Florida, USA

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Kassandra Flamouri / Young adult fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Maggie McIntyre Is Living The Dream by Joanne Nicholson


Maggie McIntyre Is Living The Dream by Joanne Nicholson
Self published on the 8th May 2020.

A More Than One Challenge read

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When dream consultant, Maggie McIntyre, discovers an abandoned ginger kitten in her garbage bin, she makes it her mission to track down the person responsible. Under the cover of darkness, she starts her sleuth like investigation of her neighbours’ bins, meeting her handsome neighbour Sam in the process.

While the sweet, orphaned kitten melts Maggie’s heart, Maggie marvels at the coincidence of finding it on the same day that a client shared with her a dream about a cat.
A string of similar coincidences occur where Maggie’s life begins to imitate her client’s dreams. When Maggie realises she is cursed with living out the dreams she has interpreted, she is terrified she is only one client’s nightmare away from danger.

Maggie has to try to manipulate the form that dreams will be morphed into her life, try to break the curse, find the cat dumper and win the heart of her handsome neighbour, before a client shares a dream of being injured, killed or worse - being naked in public.

Maggie McIntyre Is Living The Dream is a much lighter story than my first Joanne Nicholson novel, Only The Lonely, and I enjoyed spending time with well-meaning dream analyst Maggie. She is someone with whom I could imagine myself being friends in real life and I loved her sense of humour - especially considering the embarrassing situations that her inadvertent clumsiness gets her into. Of course, having an adorable ginger kitten, Lady Marmalade, scene-stealing at every opportunity was bound to get me smiling too.

I appreciated how Nicholson manages to weave in social responsibility issues - such as homeless Elspeth's storyline - into Maggie McIntyre Is Living The Dream without either making the novel too dark or trivialising the characters' experiences. It's a fine line to tread and I thought she did a good job on this. The characters generally are very plausible and entertaining, with people such as male model Levi being over-the-top by just enough to keep them believable. The romance aspect is nicely portrayed too. Maggie and her paramour take their time in developing their relationship which made it feel genuine and I thought they were perfectly suited.

Maggie McIntyre Is Living The Dream is a cross-genre book that's difficult to pigeonhole (which, to me, is a good thing!) so I think it could appeal to a wide readership. There's romance and a mystery, a hint of magical realism and lots of humour. Personally, I can testify that it's an excellent lounging-in-the-sunshine read!


Etsy Find!
by Stitch And Wood in
Australia

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Joanne Nicholson / Women's fiction / Books from Australia

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

A Dark History of Tea by Seren Charrington-Hollins


A Dark History of Tea by Seren Charrington-Hollins
Published in the UK by Pen And Sword on the 30th March 2020.

I am linking this review up with June 2020 Foodies Read at Based On A True Story

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A Dark History of Tea looks at our long relationship with this most revered of hot beverages. Renowned food historian Seren Charrington-Hollins digs into the history of one of the world's oldest beverages, tracing tea's significance on the tables of the high and mighty as well as providing relief for workers who had to contend with the ardours of manual labour. This humble herbal infusion has been used in burial rituals, as a dowry payment for aristocrats; it has fuelled wars and spelled fortunes as it built empires and sipped itself into being an integral part of the cultural fabric of British life.

This book delves into the less tasteful history of a drink now considered quintessentially British. It tells the story of how, carried on the backs of the cruelty of slavery and illicit opium smuggling, it flowed into the cups of British society as an enchanting beverage. Chart the exportation of spices, silks and other goods like opium in exchange for tea, and explain how the array of good fortunes - a huge demand in Britain, a marriage with sugar, naval trade and the existence of the huge trading firms - all spurred the first impulses of modern capitalism and floated countries.

The story of tea takes the reader on a fascinating journey from myth, fable and folklore to murky stories of swindling, adulteration, greed, waging of wars, boosting of trade in hard drugs and slavery and the great, albeit dark engines that drove the globalisation of the world economy. All of this is spattered with interesting facts about tea etiquette, tradition and illicit liaisons making it an enjoyable rollercoaster of dark discoveries that will cast away any thoughts of tea as something that merely accompanies breaks, sit downs and biscuits.

Tea and books go so well together that as soon as I saw this book about tea on NetGalley I was looking forward to reading it. Charrington-Hollins has researched the history of the valuable tea plant right back to its earliest recorded origins in China over 1700 years ago. I was fascinated by these first glimpses of a drink that is an important part of my life and settled back with a cup of Russian Earl Grey to find out more!

Of course the title - A Dark History Of Tea - had already given away that this was not going to be a happy story and indeed it isn't, due in a large part to British imperial arrogance, selfishness and cruelty particularly towards both China and India. (Anyone British who's still spouting about China making reparations for Coronavirus would do well to read up on the Opium Wars!) As well as hugely influencing our foreign policy, tea was also surprisingly instrumental in determining domestic policy too, far more than I had expected for what is now seen as a fairly basic foodstuff. Tea was a main reason for tackling smuggling and its purity (or lack of) triggered our first food safety laws. If you are a keen tea drinker, the section on how it used to be adulterated by the unscrupulous will probably turn your stomach. Plus, because we're British, good old class snobbery takes it turn with tea drinking being perfectly acceptable for the lazing upper classes, but as soon as the working class can afford to partake there's all sorts of questions asked about whether this sort of thing should really be allowed.

I did find parts of A Dark History Of Tea to be too repetitive, almost as though the book had originally been intended as a series of articles rather than a single work. However, I loved the variety of information that is included. From its history to the various fashions in serving, appropriate attire for taking tea, and even a detailed resource on the interpretation of tea leaves for the fortune tellers amongst us. A Dark History Of Tea is a very interesting read.


Etsy Find!
by WW Ceramics UK in
Swindon, England

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Seren Charrington-Hollins / History books / Books from England

Monday, 1 June 2020

Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth + #Giveaway


Incandescent Visions by Lee Hudspeth
Published by George Lee Hudspeth Jr. in America in December 2019.



Having written numerous works of nonfiction, this is Lee Hudspeth’s debut book of poetry. Incandescent Visions explores the meaning of the human experience, as the author encourages his readers to ponder the universe and their place within it, and to catalyze their own creative potential. From the sublime shores of the Mediterranean to the majestic expansiveness of deep space, this book contemplates nostalgia, perspective and the gift of love. Through five short yet powerful, thought-provoking chapters of contemporary poems—and a dash of elegant, evocative haiku—Hudspeth takes his readers on a journey across the inner landscape of struggle, triumph, self-realization and imagination.


I used to be offered lots of poetry for review, but perhaps the genre is having a quiet spell because it seemed to me as though Incandescent Visions is the first collection I have immersed myself into in ages. I was, of course, initially attracted by this book's gorgeous cover art - the work of Preston M. Smith. It's called Elements And Dreamscapes and I love it!

Once inside Incandescent Visions, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Hudspeth talks briefly about his poetry as well as offering readers the poems themselves. At the start of each chapter, he explains the themes of the works to follow and, at the very end of the book, there is also a full explanation for two of the works which I personally found particularly useful. One of them, Framework, I hadn't understood at first reading, but on returning to it with an idea of its background I had a wonderful lightbulb moment!

I think my favourite of Lee Hudspeth poems are Inspire Me Again and Wanderlust, both of which I felt strongly connected to. I also really appreciated Mom and Goodbyes which resonated, but were painful reads because I have also lost my own mother. On a lighter note, I was delighted by the haiku. I've had a love of this poetry style since reading The Peculiar Life Of A Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault and enjoyed the examples here. Incandescent Visions reminded me how important poetry is to me. Thoughtful work like Lee's enables me to think about the world in a different way to fiction or nonfiction books and I am grateful for this opportunity to experience his ideas.


Meet the author:
Lee Hudspeth is a poet, writer, musician and fellow human being. Incandescent Visions is his first book of poetry. He is the co-author of ten nonfiction books in the field of Information Technology. He has written articles for professional journals like PC Computing and Office Computing. He is the author of over one hundred articles in the online magazine The Naked PC, which he co-founded and co-published. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two sons and their cat. Find out more about Lee, his books and his music at LeeHudspeth.com.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!  

Win an Autographed Copy of Incandescent Visions plus a $25 Amazon Gift Card,
or 1 of 4 autographed books,
or 1 of 5 ebooks
(Open internationally until June 19)

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Etsy Find!
by artsyletters in
South Carolina, USA

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Lee Hudspeth / Poetry / Books from America

Sunday, 31 May 2020

A Month In Books - May 2020

Welcome to May's Month In Books roundup. I celebrated my birthday on the 3rd, but don't actually feel any older so I guess that's good?

My daily yoga habit is now at about 8 continuous weeks and I'm really starting to see improvements in my strength and flexibility. I even managed my first good Chaturanga pose (one that requires serious arm and core strength!) on Friday morning which I am sure is due to my new-to-me 1970s-inspired leggings from the excellent Zon Boho Vintage Etsy shop in Sweden! Anything this vivid has to be motivational, right?

Pic from Etsy listing - this is Not me! 

Regular blog series:
In May I blogged another African WorldReads, this time from Rwanda. This month's Cover Characteristics collection featured Bicycles and my 5 Books, 1 Theme quintet were all Shakespeare Retellings because I was feeling envious of all the theatre broadcasts we can't see. I also shared my favourite Bookish Etsy Finds.
I'm now up to date on State of the ARC which I am very pleased about though I may have hauled Too Many New Books.

Now, on with this Reading Roundup!
I have linked up with Nicole's WrapUpRoundUp over at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

(Clicking each cover image will take you directly to my Literary Flits review or Spotlight page)

My Reviews

(Click the cover images to visit their reviews)

  
   
  
  
   
  

Spotlights


  
 
 


My Book Of The Month could have been Elizabeth Wein's The Enigma Game or Wasteland by Terry Tyler - both eagerly awaited and I loved reading them, but for me Braiding Sweetgrass is just too important a book not to sweep the accolade.


I hope you have found some books to tempt you in this selection! You can keep up with my daily book posts on Literary Flits plus there's now loads of Book Spotlights and Cover Reveals blogged on Stephanie Jane. Don't forget to keep up with my Giveaway Listings too!