Saturday, 29 February 2020

The Steel Flea by Nikolay Leskov

The Steel Flea by Nikolay Leskov
First published in Russian in 1881. English language translation by William Edgerton published in 1969 and republished as a Penguin Little Black Classic in 2015.

One of my Classics Club reads

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'He gave orders that they were not to get any hot glum pudding in flames, for fear the spirits in their innards might catch fire'

The Steel Flea is an uproarious and alcohol-soaked shaggy-dog story from one of Russia's great comic masters.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.

I picked up this little Penguin Classics short story at a campsite book exchange and read over an hour or so whilst lazing on a beach. It's a fun tale of national oneupmanship in which Russian craftsmen are set the task of bettering an English invention - a tiny lifesized steel flea automaton which jumps about when wound by a key. It's all quite silly and the narrative frequently wanders off at odd tangents as all good shaggy dog stories do. Especially worth noting is William Edgerton's idiosyncratic translation which I imagine echoes the original Russian text in that wrong words are substituted to humorous effect throughout the story. An entertaining short story and one which I think would benefit from being read aloud, performance style, to an audience.

Etsy Find!
by Kuladot London in
London, England

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Friday, 28 February 2020

All's Well In Jingle Valley by Martha Reynolds + #Giveaway

All's Well In Jingle Valley (A Happily Ever After Series Book 3) by Martha Reynolds
Self published in the USA in October 2019.

It's been three years since Julie Tate and her business partner Freddy saved the farm at Jingle Valley and set up their boutique wedding business. After much hard work, and some challenging clients, it finally looks like they're well on their way to success. Newly single, Julie's trying not to envy the happiness enjoyed by her wedding clients. But it's difficult to keep her mind on the job when her days are filled with other people's romances. And when a door she thought was closed appears to open again, her confusion deepens.

Second-chance couple April and Bill clearly adore each other, and they love the idea of getting married at Jingle Valley. But with each bringing complicated histories to their relationship, will their pasts interfere with them tying the knot?

As autumn softens into winter at the beautiful Massachusetts farm, Julie resolves to do everything she can to ensure a happy ending for her clients. But despite her best efforts, will there be fewer weddings than planned at Jingle Valley this year? Or could there be more?

Meet the author:
Martha Reynolds was raised in Rhode Island, spent a year of college in Switzerland, and is always planning a return visit. She completed an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and decided it was time to do something she really liked.

She now writes full-time and has set a personal goal of releasing a book a year until she dies. Her writing has appeared in Magnificat magazine and her very short poem was read by journalist Connie Schultz during NPR's Tell Me More poetry challenge.

Her novel VILLA DEL SOL won the 2018 Book Award in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!  

Win digital copies of Martha Reynold's entire Happily Ever After series (1 winner)
(open internationally to wherever Amazon delivers) (ends Mar 6)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Etsy Find!
by Michael Avakian Art in
Massachusetts, USA

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Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Girl From Nowhere by Eliska Tanzer

The Girl from Nowhere by Eliska Tanzer
Published in the UK by Mirror Books on the 13th February 2020.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For fans of Educated, this is the remarkable true story of a girl from a Romani ghetto in search of a better life.

'My mother's side of the family are Romani. Gypsies. No baby-snatching and tambourines, just resilient souls and richly coloured skin. I look most like them, with my brown eyes and scars. I don't have the richly coloured skin, though. Instead of deep bronze or golden ochre, I came out the colour of sunflower oil and, thanks to childhood malnutrition followed by years of low iron levels, I'm now the shade of an off-brand Simpson.'

Eliska Tanzer is a dreamer.
Born into a family of prostitutes in a Romani ghetto, she grows up in squalid conditions, with no running water, no education, and no future. Desperate to make her own way in the world, Eliska sets in motion a chain of events that will lead her to England, to school, and to within inches of her dreams. But the brutalities of her new life threaten to turn the dream into a nightmare. This is her story. A true story of resilience, determination, and hunger to learn. A story of a girl on the brink.

Eliska Tanzer's memoir of her life growing up as one of an outcast people in Slovakia is a stark reminder of how unequal opportunities can be, not only on a global scale but within countries and then towns. Ancestry or skin colour should not be the factors which decide a person's future practically from their birth, but all too often this is still the case and, other than for a quirk of fate, I would never have read Tanzer's searingly honest memoir because she would never have had the opportunity to write it. She quite possibly would not even have been able to write.

While The Girl From Nowhere is a shocking story of grim family circumstances, it is in no way a depressing read. Tanzer captures the vivacity and determination of her Gypsy family roots and relationships, and I did love how she captured her mother's character. Lenka is heartless, selfish and abusive towards her daughter so not an empathic woman by any account, but the more I learned about the Zlatkov family, the more I could understand how Lenka's own history drove her behaviour towards Eliska particularly, but also towards everyone else who failed to get out of her way swiftly enough.

I haven't yet read Tara Westover's memoir, Educated, so I can't comment on how well The Girl From Nowhere might appeal to Educated fans. I would recommend Eliska's story to readers of inspirational memoirs though, and to people who appreciate tales of succeeding against all the odds. The Girl From Nowhere is a strong read and Tanzer doesn't often shy away from unpalatable details, yet she still manages to retain an appealing dry humour and has a good sense of her strengths and weaknesses. Even having now read her story, I still can't really begin to imagine how difficult it was for Tanzer to repeatedly pick herself up, metaphorically and actually, and keep striving for her goal. That she did is amazing and I am grateful that she also has the strength of mind to share this story with us.

Etsy Find!
by El Relicari in
Alicante, Spain

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Books by Eliska Tanzer / Biography and memoir / Books from Slovakia

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Where We Belong by Shann McPherson + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Where We Belong by Shann McPherson
Published by HQ Digital on the 21st February 2020.

Add Where We Belong to your Goodreads

Can a fake relationship help her win back the one that got away?

When Alice ‘Murph’ Murphy’s beloved mother died, she promised to keep the family bakery in Graceville, Georgia afloat—even if it meant letting her high-school sweetheart and best friend, Nash Harris, go. For years, Murph has been biding her time, waiting for Nash to come home.

So when he strolls into Piece O’ Cake, Murph’s heart skips a beat—until he hands her an invitation to his wedding… There are painful secrets in both their pasts that only the two of them share, and Murph can’t bear the thought of Nash belonging to someone else.

There’s only one thing Murph can think of to do: fake a relationship with local bar owner and old friend Harley Shaw to remind Nash of what he’s losing, and win him back for good.

Nash is Murph’s best friend, a vivid reminder of her childhood and all the things she’s lost—but the more time Murph and Harley spend together, the more the lines between real and pretend begin to blur. Can Murph choose between the one that got away and the one who never left—and heal her aching heart?

I push my glasses up my nose for the millionth time, and while holding my breath and with one eye narrowed, I wipe a tiny smudge of frosting from the silver turntable holding Mr. and Mrs. Robertson’s fiftieth wedding anniversary cake. It may have taken me two full days and most of last night, but I’ve finally finished. Exhaling the breath I’ve been holding for a beat too long, I take a step back to really appreciate my craftsmanship. Four layers of lemon and blueberry perfection, covered in a fluffy whipped buttercream frosting, decorated with beautiful red roses, delicate peonies, and a smattering of baby’s breath, all of which have been hand-piped by yours truly.
I place a hand on my hip, smiling proudly. “Alice Murphy, once again you’ve outdone yourself,” I whisper under my breath, mentally high-fiving myself.
The bell above the door to the shop jingles, pulling me from my musings, and I walk through from the kitchen to the front of the store, still smiling at the thought of my latest masterpiece.
“Welcome to Piece O’ Cake,” I sing in a cheerful customer service voice. “How can I help yo—” Stopping dead in my tracks, my eyes go wide as I gawp at the unexpected figure standing in the middle of the shop. He’s shadowed by the afternoon sun shining in through the windows, backlighting him to nothing more than a darkened silhouette, and I blink hard, unsure whether or not I’m imagining things. But then he speaks. And I would know that voice anywhere. This is definitely not my imagination playing tricks on me.
“Hey, Murph.” The shadow takes a step forward, coming in to the glow of the overhead lights, and I’m immediately enamored by that all too familiar grin.
“N-Nash?” I gasp.
His smile is bright and those eyes. I’d remember those eyes anywhere after spending such a big part of my life dreaming about them.
“Oh my God!” I scream, covering my mouth with trembling hands until I finally come to, ripping off my apron before practically throwing myself over the counter. Jumping up, I wrap my arms around his neck, and emotion gets the better of me as I stand there in the familiarity of his warm embrace with tears of happiness streaming down my cheeks.
He’s here.
The love of my life.
He’s home.

Meet the Author 
With big dreams of being a published author since she was an eleven-year-old girl writing Beverly Hills 90210 fan fiction before fan fiction was even a thing, Shann McPherson has been writing angsty, contemporary romances for most of her thirty-something years. Living in sunny Queensland, Australia, when she's not writing Shann enjoys making memories with her husband and cheeky toddler son, drinking wine, and singing completely off-key to One Direction's entire discography.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prizes are 3 x $15 (AUD) Amazon gift cards.
Open internationally until the 5th March.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Etsy Find!
by Cards Gifts UK in
Birmingham, England

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Books by Shann McPherson / Romance fiction / Books from Australia

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Truth vs Illusion by Joy Su

Truth vs Illusion by Joy Su
Published in America by Balboa Press in May 2016.

A book with a vegan and included in my Vegan Bookshop

I posted my Interview with Joy Su on my Ko-Fi

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Life is about living it the way you want to exist, experiencing what you want to go through, reaching the destination you want to achieve, and obtaining the freedom to do so.

Life is about enjoying what you have, using what you have to make what you can at your will, having fun with it, and being happy about it, regardless if you are better or worse than anyone else.

We have to know that the negative feelings about ourselves are just illusions that our egos created to improve ourselves. The truth is that our reality is our choice. There is nothing to improve. At our discretion, we can make another choice for a different reality.

Through meditation, the mind can be more resilient to stressful situations. It is more resistant to negative influences and recovers faster from them. Thus, the person is in good spirit and happy.

I was drawn to Joy Su's book, Truth vs Illusion, because of the author's personal journey towards the peace and happiness she now enjoys. I understood that she hadn't always been able to deal positively with life events and that this had previously led to episodes of severe depression. At one point Su talks about having never felt as though she truly belonged anywhere. I could identify with that sense. Truth vs Illusion is a deeper, more philosophical work than I had expected. It draws upon varied religious and spiritual traditions, and I appreciated learning how their practices overlap, particularly in the area of meditation. Usually I feel as though religious teachings are deliberately identified as being as different from each other as possible so this was one of several eye-opening topics for me.

I found that I am noticeably happier and more content within myself since I became vegan last year, and diet choices is one of Su's themes. However I still want to improve upon this positive mindset. Truth vs Illusion has good ideas towards achieving this goal. I admit I didn't understand everything that was laid out for readers, but feel I now have a sound grasp of the basics of Su's suggestions regarding the connectedness of life, the destructive tendencies of the subconscious mind, and the benefits of engaging in regular meditation which I now plan to undertake. I will be interested to return to Truth vs Illusion once I have established this new habit because I feel I will understand more of the detailed philosophy once I actually have personal experience of what Su is discussing, rather than trying to imagine so much at once.

I'm glad to have discovered Truth vs Illusion and am grateful to Joy Su for sharing her book with me. It is not an instruction manual so readers wanting to be told how to meditate, for example, will be disappointed. At times Su writes in almost a stream of consciousness style so this is a work to study and reflect upon. It doesn't offer easy answers, but I feel it was a rewarding read.

Etsy Find!
by Complete Unity Yoga in
Cambridge, England

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Books by Joy Su / Philosophy / Books from China

Monday, 24 February 2020

Revelation by Jo Fenton + #Giveaway

Revelation (A Becky White Thriller) by Jo Fenton
Published by Darkstroke Books on the 27th January 2020.

Manchester, 1989

A student, Rick, is found dead in halls of residence.

His friends get caught up in the aftermath: Dan, who was in love with Rick; and Becky, who is in love with Dan. Their fraught emotions lead them into dark places – particularly a connection to a mysterious Kabbalistic sect.

Will Becky discover who killed Rick in time to save her best friend?

Meet the author   

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.

Author links: 
WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win A signed copy of The Brotherhood by Jo Fenton
Open to the UK only until the 27th February.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Etsy Find!
by Past Page Posters in
the United Kingdom

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Books by Jo Fenton / Thrillers / Books from England

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Fang And Claw by Evangeline Anderson + #Giveaway

Fang And Claw (Nocturne Academy, #2) by Evangeline Anderson
Published on the 22nd February 2020.

Add Fang And Claw to your Goodreads

My name is Kaitlyn Fellows and I'll never be the same.
The Fire stole everything from me.
My family...even my beauty...

The right side of my face is normal--even pretty. But the left side, I hide in shame. That's where The Fire marked me...scarred me forever. 
At Nocturne Academy I'm nothing--just a little Norm girl with no supernatural powers and a disfigured face.
Which is why it's so strange that a big, Handsome Drake like Ari Reyes should take an interest in me.
But it isn't only Ari who's interested in me. 
For under his high cheekbones and clear amber eyes, he hides another, much more frightening visage--A Drake, the fire-breathing monster that lives within him. 
A monster who has decided I should be his alone.

Can I survive Ari's love for me? And more importantly, can I survive the love of his Drake? 
Because once a girl has been claimed by a Drake, the only way out is through The Fire.
What am I going to do? 

Meet the Author 
Evangeline Anderson is the USA Today and NYT Best Selling Author of the Brides of the Kindred, Alien Mate Index, and Born to Darkness series. She is thirty-something and lives in Florida with a husband, a son, and two cats. She had been writing erotic fiction for her own gratification for a number of years before it occurred to her to try and get paid for it. To her delight, she found that it was actually possible to get money for having a dirty mind and she has been writing paranormal and Sci-fi erotica steadily ever since.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a $50 Amazon gift card + 2 paperback copies of Lock and Key by Evangeline Anderson, the first book in the Nocturne's Academy series.
Open to the USA only until the 27th February.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Etsy Find!
by Bionic Cat Blacksmiths in
Elland, England

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Books by Evangeline Anderson / Fantasy fiction / Books from America