Friday, 31 July 2020

Pinto! by M J Evans + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from July 27 to August 7, 2020!

Book Details:

Book Title:  PINTO! Based Upon the True Story of the Longest Horseback Ride in History by M.J. Evans
Category:  Middle-Grade Fiction (Ages 8-12),  243 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Dancing Horse Press
Release date:   October, 2019
Content Rating:  G. This book is taken from the actual journals that were kept by the men on the journey. There is no bad language or explicit scenes.

Book Description:

In 1912, four men, calling themselves the “Overland Westerners,” decided fame and fortune awaited if they embarked on the longest horseback ride in history. Their goal was to visit all forty-eight state capitals over the course of three years and complete their journey at the San Francisco World’s Fair on June 1, 1915. Facing rugged roads, raging rivers, thieves and near starvation, the men went through seventeen horses. Only one horse completed the entire journey … Pinto, a little horse with a heart as big as the whole country! This is Pinto’s account of his arduous adventure.

Pinto is a fictionalised account of a genuine journey that took place across all the mainland states of America just over a century ago, in the years 1912 to 1915. M J Evans has extensively researched all the contemporary material she could find relating to the Overland Westeners epic expedition and chose to tell their story through the voice of the only horse to complete the journey, Pinto. I thought this was a lovely idea which attracted me to read the book even though I don't usually pick up middle grade books. In fact, I usually forgot all about my not being of the target audience because Pinto! felt just as interesting a read to me now as it would have done in my pony-mad phase several decades ago.

Pinto himself comes across as a memorable character. He is incorrigibly vain, but is also diligent and hard-working and manages to keep himself remarkably cheerful despite all the obstacles the Overland Westerners must overcome. In reading Pinto's words, his narration style sometimes reminded me of Anna Sewell's horsey classic, Black Beauty, so I was delighted to spot, in Evans' epilogue, that she had indeed loved and been inspired by that book too. I feel that Pinto! would be a great choice to gift to horsey readers of pretty much any age and the book would also appeal to readers of travel stories and light history books.

Meet the Author:

Award-winning author M.J. Evans grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Upon graduation from Oregon State University, she spent five years teaching high school and middle school students. She retired from teaching to raise her five children. Mrs. Evans is a life-long equestrian and enjoys competing in Dressage and riding in the beautiful Colorado mountains. She has published fourteen books, most of which are fiction.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter Facebook  ~ Pinterest Instagram ~ Goodreads
Tour Schedule:

July 27 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book review of PINTO! / guest post / giveaway
July 27 - Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of PINTO! / giveaway
July 27 - My Journey Back – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / guest post / giveaway
July 28 – Splashes of Joy – book review of PINTO! / author interview / giveaway
July 28 - She Just Loves Books – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
July 29 – Svetlanas reads and views – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
July 29 - Adventurous Bookworm – book review of PINTO! / giveaway
July 29 - Krisha's Cozy Corner - book review of PINTO! / author interview / giveaway
July 30 – Splashes of Joy – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / guest post / giveaway
July 30 - My Reading Journeys – book review of PINTO! / author interview / giveaway
July 31 – Literary Flits – book review of PINTO! / giveaway
July 31 - T's Stuff - book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
Aug 3 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
Aug 3 - T's Stuff - book review of PINTO! / author interview / giveaway
Aug 3 - My Journey Back – book review of PINTO! / giveaway
Aug 4 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
Aug 4 - She Just Loves Books – book review of PINTO! / giveaway
Aug 5 – A Mama's Corner of the World – book review of PINTO! / giveaway
Aug 5 - Adventurous Bookworm – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
Aug 5 - My Reading Journeys – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
Aug 6 – A Mama's Corner of the World – book review of In the Heart of a Mustang / giveaway
Aug 6 - Blooming with Books - book review of PINTO! / giveaway
Aug 7 - Svetlanas reads and views – book review of PINTO! / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:
Win 1 of 5 print copies of PINTO! or 1 of 5 copies of HEART OF A MUSTANG! 
(USA only) (10 winners) (ends Aug 14)

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Etsy Find!
by Cross Stitch 4 Everyone in
Missouri, USA

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Books by M J Evans / Historical fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Zeru by Phillip Vargas

Zeru by Phillip Vargas
Published on the 8th October 2013.

Z for my 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One night of terror.

Abasi is a 12-year old boy living in the Takataka Dumps, one of the largest landfills in Tanzania. He spends his days struggling to find food, searching the mountainous heaps of garbage for anything worth keeping, and living in constant fear that someone will discover his secret. 

Abasi is an albino. 

In eastern Africa, where some people believe albino body parts are a source of magic, this can be a death sentence. Until now, Abasi has managed to stay one step ahead and remain hidden in the shadows. But when a group of rebels—led by a witchdoctor—arrives at the landfill, Abasi's secret is revealed and he's forced to run for his life.

I first heard about Zeru back in December 2018 through a great review of it on Avalinah's Books blog and have now finally gotten around to reading this thriller for myself. Avalinah was right (of course)! I loved the breathtaking pace of Vargas' writing and the unique setting of the immense Takataka landfill site. I had previously heard about desperate people making their homes near to rubbish heaps they scavenge for recyclable materials to trade or sell. Through this novel, Vargas really brings home the grim realities of such a life and the everyday dangers that Abasi must avoid. His life is already difficult enough - far too difficult for someone so young I would say - yet he must also keep himself swathed in fabric, despite the heat, both to protect his albino skin from the sun and to prevent other people from finding out about it.

Abasi is a wonderfully resourceful child whose ingenuity and capabilities have allowed him to survive alone for months. Everyday chores such as finding food and drinkable water, or navigating the teetering piles of rubbish without becoming buried under a garbage avalanche, are challenging enough and compelling to read about. However, once the marauding witch doctor spots Abasi, this novel really takes off and becomes a truly thrilling thriller! I didn't expect the direction Vargas takes - and won't spoiler by dropping hints - but Zeru kept me eagerly turning its pages right through to its satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended!

Etsy Find!
by Mastenarium in

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Books by Phillip Vargas / Thrillers / Books from Canada

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

State Of The ARC - July 2020

I saw this State of the ARC meme over at Avalinah's Books blog in January 2018 and thought it would be fun to join in. It's temporarily being hosted at All The Book Blog Names Are Taken.

The idea is to keep track of all the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) books I've got awaiting reading and reviewing, and to make headway through the overdue pile. For my State of the ARC, I am including all books sent to me for review whether they are pre-publication copies (as ARCs should be) or simply review copies of books already available publicly. I don't include books that I have purchased myself, book exchange swaps, or free downloads.

In July I blogged my reviews of these ARCs:
(Click the cover images to visit their reviews)

Here's my State of the ARC numbers as of today:

Awaiting Reading

Read / Reviewed / Blogged






From Authors




Blog Tours


1 R


From Publishers




RRB (Read, Reviewed and Blogged) essentially means those book reviews are completed and I'm just waiting for their scheduled blog post date. None overdue!

No State Of The ARC would be complete without checking out the additions to my ARC stash.

Here are July's new arrivals

If you want to join this State of the ARC meme check out This Page at Avalinah's Books.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Desta and King Solomon's Coin of Magic and Fortune by Getty Ambau

Desta and King Solomon's Coin of Magic and Fortune by Getty Ambau
Published in America by Falcon Press International in May 2011.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A moving and riveting epic novel--a family saga, spanning three generations and dealing with their dark and mysterious past, set in an Ethiopian, magical mountainous countryside, in a world of monkeys, goats and spirits.

Desta, a seven-year-old boy and Abraham, his middle-aged father, are on separate but parallel missions. The boy dreams of climbing one of the mountains that circle his home to touch the sky and run his fingers through the clouds. Abraham yearns to find his own long lost father. Each faces a series of obstacles and each ultimately realizes his dream, although not in the way he hoped.

In the center of this sweeping novel is a 2,800-year old Solomonic gold coin, a family heirloom that went missing along with Desta's vanished grandfather forty years earlier. A symbol of the family's financial success and personal pride, this coin is one of the reasons why Abraham grew up fatherless and why his mother abandoned her farmland estate and came to settle in an isolated, mountainous valley, setting the family saga in motion.

Desta and King Solomon's Coin of Magic and Fortune is certainly an epic of a novel, especially considering the youth of its intended audience and that it is the first of a four book series. I am considerably older than its 8-12 year old target readers, but I think I would have been engrossed in the story at that age. The combination of historical fiction, magical realism, and coming of age narrative kept my interest even now. This first part of Desta's story is set in the 1950s so I had a nice sense of continuity from Maaza Mengista's excellent The Shadow King (as Abraham fought in the 1930s Ethiopian-Italian War).

The story focuses on the males in Desta's family so this book would probably be a better choice for boys to read. The women's primary function is to silently provide endless injera flatbreads with pea sauce and I was disturbed to read of the girls' being routinely married off into strangers homes at the age of just eleven. Abraham has never gotten over the loss of his father at a young age and the impact of that misfortune reverberates through the generations as he struggles to fulfil the father role for his own children. As the youngest, daydreamer Desta experiences the full effects of dysfunctional family, but without understanding the cause. I liked how Ambau portrayed the relationships between the young brothers and with their emotionally absent father. Desta himself is an interesting creation. His immaturity allows the magical realism scenes to flow plausibly because I could easily believe in his visions. His occasional morphing into an apparently much older boy did jar though - would a seven year old boy even notice an eleven year old girl's breasts, let alone describe them as 'succulent pears'?

Desta and King Solomon's Coin of Magic and Fortune does have problems with its pacing which is unfortunate. The later stages include a long history of the eponymous coin which quickly got too dry and Desta's frequent reminiscing over all his woes could be curtailed, but otherwise I did enjoy reading this book. I felt I got a good sense of how daily life unfolds for this rural valley community and it was interesting to read about their co-existing traditional and Christian beliefs, especially in instances where the two clash. I'm not sure I would go on to complete the whole series, but I appreciate this opportunity to read its beginning.

Etsy Find!
by Greenskerry Gifts in
the USA

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Books by Getty Ambau / Historical fiction / Books from Ethiopia

Monday, 27 July 2020

Resurrection Men by David Craig

Resurrection Men by David Craig
Published in the UK by Elsewhen Press in 2018.

Glasgow 1893.

Wilton Hunt, a student, and Tam Foley, a laudanum-addicted pharmacist, are pursuing extra-curricular careers as body snatchers, or ‘resurrection men’, under cover of darkness. They exhume a girl’s corpse, only for it to disappear while their backs are turned. Confused and in need of the money the body would have earnt them, they investigate the corpse’s disappearance. They discover that bodies have started to turn up in the area with ripped-out throats and severe loss of blood, although not the one they lost. The police are being encouraged by powerful people to look the other way, and the deaths are going unreported by the press. As Hunt and Foley delve beneath the veneer of respectable society, they find themselves entangled in a dangerous underworld that is protected from scrutiny by the rich and powerful members of the elite but secretive Sooty Feathers Club.

Meanwhile, a mysterious circus arrives in the middle of the night, summoned to help avenge a betrayal two centuries old...

I finished reading Resurrection Men earlier today and am struggling to think how to review this rich historical novel without giving away too much to anyone who has not yet read it! It's set in a suitably gothic late-1800s Glasgow and I thought Craig used the city settings brilliantly to add atmospheric depth to his novel. We move from grim, impoverished street dwellers to luxurious private clubs, and meet people from all echelons of society along the way. At times there were so many minor characters involved in a scene that I couldn't always keep their back stories and allegiances clear in my mind, however the male leads - Hunt and Foley - are nicely defined with differences that complement each other well. I enjoyed their sporadic squabbling too.

The narrative is surprisingly complex for a debut and I appreciated that it reads as a fully realised novel, not just the first-of-a-series. I wasn't left with the sense that Craig was leaving gaps to be explored in future books and we get a properly satisfying conclusion too. The unfolding mystery kept my attention and I loved how the fantasy-horror elements were plausibly interwoven. I was always convinced by Craig's world-building, even when events start getting very weird, and there's several wonderfully unique twists on standard lore. I was initially tempted to read Resurrection Men for its historic Scottish setting above anything else, however now find myself having added its sequel to my TBR more on the strengths of the dark fantasy elements. I think Craig is turning me into a v****** novel fan!

Meet the author 

Aside from three months living on an oil tanker sailing back and forth between America and Africa, and two years living in a pub, David Craig grew up on the west coast of Scotland.
He studied Software Engineering at university, but lost interest in the subject after (and admittedly prior to) graduation. He currently works as a strategic workforce planning analyst for a public service contact centre, and lives near Glasgow with his wife, daughter and two rabbits.
Being a published writer had been a life-long dream, and one that he was delighted to finally realise with his debut novel, Resurrection Men, the first in the Sooty Feathers series, published by Elsewhen Press in 2018. Thorns of a Black Rose was David’s second novel, also published by Elsewhen Press.
He returns to the Sooty Feathers series with Lord of the Hunt.

Author links: 
FacebookTwitter ~ Goodreads Blog

Etsy Find!
by Snobb Ltd in
the UK

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Books by David Craig / Fantasy fiction / Books from Scotland

Sunday, 26 July 2020

The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
First published in the UK by Viking in 1995.

How I got this book:
Bought the paperback at a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1918, the closing months of the war. Army psychiatrist William Rivers is increasingly concerned for the men who have been in his care - particularly Billy Prior, who is about to return to combat in France with young poet Wilfred Owen. As Rivers tries to make sense of what, if anything, he has done to help these injured men, Prior and Owen await the final battles in a war that has decimated a generation. The Ghost Road is a vivid and unforgettable account of the devastating final months of the First World War.

I swept on into reading The Ghost Road straight after finishing the second of the trilogy, The Eye In The Door, because I was so keen to remain in the compelling world Barker portrays throughout the trilogy. In hindsight, I wonder if actually leaving a short refreshment gap between the novels, as I had done between Regeneration and The Eye In The Door, might have been a better idea. I can't put my finger exactly on what the problem was, but I was a little disappointed to find that The Ghost Road didn't grip me in the same way. Don't get me wrong, I still think this is a good novel, but it just didn't feel as amazing.

There are three strands to the story, each one woven around the theme of death and our perceptions of it. Dr Rivers is trying to come to terms with curing men only for them to be sent back to the Front. He is also remembering his studies of a native people in Melanesia before the war, particularly their end of life beliefs and rituals which, as he dreams the scenarios he witnessed, seem far more compassionate and humane than the mechanised slaughter of Europe. And Billy Prior continues shagging his way around London, becoming more and more reckless towards his personal safety as his time to be shipped back to France approaches.

Barker's understanding of her characters and their motivations remains superb and I liked the way she captures the seemingly endless waiting the soldiers endure in France. Through the whole book though, I had the sensation that it had all gone on too long and, for the War itself of course, that was very true. Rumours of the impending Armistice are whispered up and down the lines despite the Generals' best efforts, but still the soldiers wait and fight, kill and die.

Etsy Find!
by Waihunga in
New Zealand

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Books by Pat Barker / War fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 25 July 2020

And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon: Essential Stories by Nikolai Gogol

And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon: Essential Stories by Nikolai Gogol
First published as individual stories in the 1830s and 1840s. This five-story compilation, translated into English by Oliver Ready, published by Pushkin Press on the 5th December 2019.

A Classics Club Challenge read

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Admired by writers from Nabokov to Bulgakov to George Saunders, Gogol is considered one of the more enigmatic of the Russian greats. He only wrote one novel, Dead Souls, and destroyed much of his later work, so his stories constitute his major output.

In this collection, beautifully and skilfully translated by Oliver Ready, Gogol’s three greatest St Petersburg stories – ‘The Nose’, ‘The Overcoat’ and ‘The Diary of a Madman’ – are presented alongside two masterworks set in the Ukrainian and Russian provinces - 'Old World Landowners' and 'The Carriage' - demonstrating the breadth of Gogol’s work.

Gogol’s extraordinary work is characterised by his idiosyncratic, and often very funny sensibility, and these stories offer us his unique, original and marvellously skewed perspective on the world.

I've only got a short review of this new Gogol Essential Collection because, unfortunately, his storytelling style wasn't really to my taste. I quite liked the characterisations and did enjoy Gogol's lively descriptions of scenes, but the stories themselves seemed more weird than anything else. I think from the synopsis I had been hoping for something along the lines of Daniil Kharms' surrealism or Mikhail Bulgakov's sharp satire. Instead, these five tales felt more along the lines of The Steel Flea by Nikolay Leskov and Gogol's sense of humour just didn't chime with my own. I'm glad to have had this opportunity to read a selection of Gogol's work so I now at least know what he was about and I could understand why the stories are considered classics, however I probably wouldn't make a point of reading this author again.

Etsy Find!
by Cool Bookmark in

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Books by Nikolai Gogol / Short stories / Books from Ukraine

Friday, 24 July 2020

Duke by Kiru Taye + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Kiru Taye
Publication date: June 29th 2020
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
Duke’s life is about honour, loyalty and respect for the business.
Nothing else.
One look at Carla across a crowded nightclub, and he breaks his own rules.
One night with the seductive woman who calls to him like no other, and he wants to keep her.
His troubled angel is a mafia princess who lives dangerously on the edge.
She plays a desperate prank and sparks a cartel war.
Duke is in a high-stakes battle to keep everything he loves.
And he intends to win, come Hell or high water.
“Do you come to Club Arufin often?” she asked, attempting to make conversation. The silence unnerved her.
“No,” he replied with a grunt.
Jide didn’t say a word or flick his gaze at her in the rear-view mirror.
Interesting. Her chauffeur wouldn’t be quiet. When she wasn’t on the phone, they would chat or listen to music on the stereo. She could pull her ear pods from her purse and listen. But she would rather talk to this sexy man.
“My friend and I go there almost every weekend,” she tried again, hoping he enjoyed listening to her voice as much as she wanted to hear his. “We’re local, so it’s our joint. But some other people travel a long way to visit Arufin. Even tourists from different countries, all to have the experience. What about you? Do you live in Lori Osa?”
Triple-D said nothing, his neutral expression unchanged.
Seriously, did this guy never lose his cool?
Carla couldn’t be this unruffled to save her life. But if the man wouldn’t budge, then she had to shut up and find another way to get comfortable. She shifted until their bodies touched and tugged her legs onto the leather seat.
As if he knew what she needed, he settled his arm around her shoulder.
She relaxed, warmth spreading through her body. There was something deeply satisfying and comforting about having his arms around her body, making her feel safe as if she could trust him. As if she could give more than her body to him.
The quiet reassurance seemed more potent than a thousand platitudes.
She drew in a deep breath and filled her nostrils with his warm, masculine scent. He hadn’t been in the club long enough for his fresh smell to be polluted, which reminded her that she’d bagged the best man available.
She snuggled deeper, wanting to burrow under his skin, to mark him, so her scent lingered on him and acted as a deterrent to others.
What was wrong with her? She’d met the man less than two hours ago, and she never got attached to hook-ups?
Because this was a hook-up, right? It couldn’t be anything more.
So why was she clinging onto his body and nuzzling him as if she was a cat, hoping he would take her home for keeps and make her purr with pleasure?
Seriously, what was this about?
Yet with all the berating, she couldn’t bring herself to untangle from him, couldn’t bring herself to pull away.
He was too damned secure and comfortable.
“You finally stopped talking,” Mr Triple-D’s seductively low voice drew her from her thoughts.
Tilting her head, she met his gaze. Breath caught in her throat, her stomach tightening.
Mr Dark Dangerous and Decadent was smiling—the kind that made his dark eyes sparkle and indented his cheeks with dimples that would charm old ladies.
Then there were those sensuous lips. Lips designed to claim and caress, to cajole and conquer, to whisper words of arousal or comfort.
She was a goner. Heart-racing, panty-melted goner.

Author Bio:
Kiru wanted to read stories about Africans falling in love. When she couldn’t find those books, she decided to write the stories she wanted to read. Her stories are sensual, her characters are flawed and sometimes she adds a dash of exciting suspense.
She is the founder of Love Africa Press and co-founder of Romance Writers of West Africa.
When she’s not being a writer/publisher/boss-lady, she is also a wife/mother/sister/daughter/aunt/niece/friend somewhere in the south of England.

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Etsy Find!
by Designs By Aymara 2 in
Florida, USA

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Books by Kiru Taye / Romance fiction / Books from Nigeria