Saturday, 29 August 2020

Grubane by Karl Drinkwater

Grubane by Karl Drinkwater
Published by Organic Apocalypse on the 13th June 2020.

Included in my Vegan Bookshop

Major Grubane is commander of the Aurikaa, the most feared cruiser in the UFS arsenal.
His crew is handpicked and fiercely loyal. Together, they have never failed a mission, and their reputation precedes them.
But this time he's been sent to a key planet that is caught up in political tensions at the centre of the freedom debate. What he thought was a simple diplomatic mission turns out to be the hardest choice of his career. His orders: eliminate one million inhabitants of the planet, and ensure their compliance.
Grubane has also rediscovered an ancient game called chess, and plays it against the ship AI as a form of mental training. But maybe it could be more than that as he finds himself asking questions. Can orders be reinterpreted? How many moves ahead is it possible for one man to plan? And how many players are involved in this game?

The enigmatic Major Grubane was one of the supporting characters I met in Karl Drinkwater's full length novel Lost Solace. Already having gained a sense of him from that encounter with Opal and Clarissa it was interesting for me to flesh out more of his personality here (although if you haven't already read read Lost Solace, I think Grubane could be read independently as a satisfying standalone novella). Drinkwater concentrates his focus on a single mission in Grubane's long career and narrates it from the point of view of an AI splinter, Aurikaa12, which he is gradually coaching to play chess. Through their games, Grubane and Aurikaa12 explore deeper philosophical concepts.

Grubane himself is a very self-contained man so it was difficult for me to fully empathise with his decisions. I appreciated seeing more of the background to this world. Hints of racism and religious intolerance undermine the believed superiority of the militaristic UFS empire building strategy and Grubane's questioning of where the moral line should be drawn makes for tense scenarios. I admit I felt more distanced from Grubane than I have from the other books in this series, but it was still a good read and the unexpected reappearance of chess in this book (after The Greenbecker Gambit last month) has me tempted to start trying to play again.

Meet the author   

Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but lived in Wales for twenty years, and now calls Scotland his home. He's a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers, and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science.

He writes in multiple genres: his aim is always just to tell a good story. Among his books you'll find elements of literary and contemporary fiction, gritty urban, horror, suspense, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and more. The end result is interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.

When he isn't writing he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake, and zombies. Not necessarily in that order.

Author links: 
Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads

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Friday, 28 August 2020

Life In The Camel Lane by Doreen M. Cumberford + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from August 24 to September 4, 2020!

Book Details:

Book Title:  Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure by Doreen M. Cumberford
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction (18 +),  288 pages
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher:  White Heather Press
Release date:   April, 2020
Content Rating:  G. There are no offensive scenes or language

Book Description:

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure
is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses. The book takes the reader through the four stages of culture shock: arrival, honeymoon, frustration and adjustment stages to final acceptance followed by the return journey back to their home country – mostly the USA. From Saudi weddings, to falconry, to the inability of women to drive at that time, the book seeks to familiarize us with the Saudi culture, lifestyle, and deep traditions of hospitality, generosity and tolerance from an insider’s perspective. There are also chapters on the experiences of 9/11 in the terrorists’ home country and the “Terror Years” of internal terror tactics from inside Saudi Arabia designed to drive the expats out of the country and destroy the Saudi government. Full of examples, stories and compelling honesty the author describes their most challenging journey and many of the lessons learned in the process together. Designed to provide useful insights and inspiration to anyone considering living abroad, Life in the Camel Lane shines the light on the subject of building a new identity and home while abroad, and the difficulties of the journey home.

Buy the Book: / Amazon UK / 

Doreen Cumberford's memoir, Life In The Camel Lane, is a fascinating and very readable account of her fifteen years living in the Middle East and how the culture she encountered in Saudi Arabia informed and affected her choices on her return to the USA. As a dedicated traveller myself, albeit on a less adventurous scale, I was particularly interested in her observations and advice around liminal living, ie the inbetween stage of not quite belonging to one country or another. Already a Scot married to an American, Cumberford had already integrated into a second culture. Her family's life in Saudi Arabia however would involve the contradictions of living in a fairly free American company compound within a strict Muslim country.

I loved the anecdotes of minor subterfuges undertaken in order to keep up various American holiday traditions without offending Saudi sensibilities. I could empathise with this desire to keep traditions from 'home', but also found it strange that the Aramco families - quite the global multicultural mix themselves - were expected to live in a closed Company community with excursions to nearby Saudi towns, rather than immigrating fully for the duration of their contracts. I imagine being so totally reliant on one's employer could feel stifling from time to time. 

Of course I was initially drawn to reading Life In The Camel Lane for its glimpses into Saudi life and Cumberford didn't disappoint. I appreciated her balanced and thoughtful discussions of concepts such as social gender segregation and the wearing of abayas. As I remembered from Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf, freedoms for women are increasing with Cumberford able to patronise a women-only mall, staffed by women, and with the long-awaited right to drive cars being granted not long after she left the Kingdom. Her insights into Life In The Camel Lane show a country quite different from its usual Western portrayal so I am grateful to have had this opportunity to see it through her eyes.

About the Author

Doreen Cumberford is a Scottish expat author who has been global traveler for more than four decades. In her 20s Doreen left her home in Scotland and drove down to London to become a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her first posting was as the youngest and most junior British Embassy staffer in Cameroon, West Africa. Later she moved back to London and took a position with an American oil-field construction company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. After moving to America, living in Louisiana then California, two extremely different cultures in the USofA, Doreen and family moved overseas to Japan then spent the following 15 years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With 13 major moves under her belt, she understands the value of moving, building a new life and handling inter-cultural hurdles. One constant has been her ability to explore through the lens of adventure. Her stories are full of multi-cultural intelligence, messy multilingual communications and multi-global perspectives.

Doreen is currently based on Denver, Colorado although spends most of the year living adventurously in the Housesitting Lane, which takes her around the globe. Currently she is doing her best to install Spanish in her brain which previously had French and smatterings of Japanese and Arabic. She is passionate about cultural intelligence, global heartedness and life on the road. Featured in the Anthology: Empowering Women, and a co-author in 2018 of Arriving Well: Stories About Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering Home After Living Abroad. 2020 sees the publication of Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure. Honest, compassionate, full of wisdom and inspiration, Life in the Camel Lane comprises stories mostly from women and men who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1950s onward. This memoir contains expert advice sage wisdom and stories that all globally mobile families can use to navigate their international journey. The principles in this book will also encourage anyone who is embracing a more adventurous life, or considering taking the leap to move overseas.

Connect with the Author:  website  ~ twitter  ~ facebook pinterest  ~ instagram  ~ goodreads

Tour Schedule:

Aug 24 – Working Mommy Journal – book review / giveaway
Aug 24 - Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
Aug 25 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Aug 25 - Over Coffee Conversations – book review / giveaway
Aug 26 – Splashes of Joy – book review / guest post / author interview / giveaway
Aug 26 - DZA's blog – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Aug 27 – Dreamidge – book review / author interview
Aug 27 - Sefina Hawke's Books – book review
Aug 28 – Literary Flits – book review / giveaway
Aug 31 – Reading is My Passion – book review
Aug 31 - Books for Books – book review
Sep 1 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Sep 1 - Pick a Good Book – book review / author interview / giveaway
Sep 1 - Library of Clean Reads - book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 2 – A Mama's Corner of the World – book review / giveaway
Sep 2 - Alexis Marie Chute Blog – book review / author interview / giveaway
Sep 3 – StoreyBook Reviews – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Sep 3 - So Fine Print – book review / author interview / giveaway
Sep 4 – fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 4 - Books and Zebras @jypsylynn – book review
Sept 4 - Olio by Marilyn - book spotlight / author interview
Sept 4 - Olio by Marilyn - book review / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:
Win 1 of 5 Kindle copies of Life In The Camel Lane or a $50 Amazon gift card (6 winners).
Open internationally until the 11th September.
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Books by Doreen M Cumberford / Biography and memoir / Books from Scotland

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Tempest In The Tea Room by Libi Astaire + #FreeBook

Tempest In The Tea Room by Libi Astaire
Published by Aster Press in January 2014.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the free ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s trouble afoot in Regency London’s Jewish community, and no one to stop the crimes—until wealthy-widower-turned-sleuth Mr. Ezra Melamed teams up with an unlikely pair: General Well’ngone and the Earl of Gravel Lane, the leaders of a gang of young Jewish pickpockets.

In this first volume of the Jewish Regency Mystery Series, a young Jewish physician is accused of poisoning his wealthy patient, Lady Marblehead, as well as stealing a priceless pearl bracelet from her jewelry box. After more outbreaks of the mysterious ailment occur in the city, an increasingly hysterical Jewish community turns to Mr. Melamed to investigate the case—who in turn enlists the aid of General Well’ngone and the Earl of Gravel Lane to find the real culprit.

But there are too few clues and too little time in this humorous mystery story featuring British detectives who are definitely in a class of their own.

I spotted this Regency-era novel as an Amazon freebie - a first of a series enticement - and, being a Georgette Heyer fan on the quiet, was tempted to give Tempest In The Tearoom a try. It's inspired more by classic British crime mysteries than historical romance, with a hint of Dickens thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed untangling the whos, whys and wherefores of the mysterious poisonings. I thought the culprits were made too obvious too early on, but I still appreciated Astaire's attention to historical detail and the varied characters with whom she populates her story. There's a good sense of place too so I could easily imagine Astaire's London locations. Tempest In The Tearoom was a satisfying read and I plan to read the next book in this series in due course.

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Books by Libi Astaire / Mystery fiction / Books from Israel

Monday, 24 August 2020

Who Killed Patrick? by Syl Waters + #Excerpt

Who Killed Patrick? by Syl Waters
Published by Eleftheria on the 22nd August 2020.

Sun, sea and… murder in Fuerteventura!

Boring. Going nowhere. That was Tarah’s life in the UK, before she moved to Fuerteventura to start a new adventure. But things came unstuck quicker than she’d planned. A dead guest on the holiday complex she manages threatens to pull apart her hoped-for dream life.

If she wants to keep her job and save the reputation of the business, she’s got to find out what happened to Patrick. Did he die of natural causes – or was he murdered?

Tarah’s pet guinea pig, Mr Bob, has a knack for sniffing out trouble and he suspects foul play. The mission is on: Who Killed Patrick? With the assistance of Mr Bob and Diego, a local plumber, Tarah turns amateur sleuth to find out the truth.

Can Tarah and Mr Bob find the murderer before it’s too late? Will they be able to save the business and protect their blissful new life?

Here’s the context to this extract:
Tarah, the main protagonist, is questioning her sanity. Patrick, a guest at the holiday apartments she manages, has been found dead. The police have ruled it natural causes, but Mr Bob her guinea pig, is acting strange whenever Patrick’s name is mentioned. Jorge, her boss, says Mr Bob can sniff out trouble and told her she needs to look into what really happened to Patrick.

Shivering from the too-cold water, I turn the shower off and wrap myself in a towel.
Am I really doing this today? Am I really going to try and work out who killed Patrick?
The thought sticks in my throat, did I really just think that?
I look at myself in the mirror, my eyes are saggy and my skin has a greyish hue.
Who am I? Who am I to be doing this and to be asking such questions?
I sit on the edge of the bath and the sick feeling in my tummy turns. My throat tightens and I wretch. My head is pounding like I’ve been drinking all night. God, I can’t believe my life has come to this, how have I got myself into this? This can’t be happening; this isn’t real life. Real life is checking customers in and cleaning up their mess, it’s not this, it can’t be this.
Shaking my head, I look about the seaside-themed home I’ve created, the hard work I’ve put into creating this dream life in the sun. How can I allow bad things to happen here? This place is my sanctuary, my home, my happiness. I’ve spent months creating the perfect holiday life that is my
real life, and I’m not about to let some bloody person come in and take that away from me. I need to feel safe in my own place, on this island. I want to feel happy again, settled. I can’t allow someone, some stranger, to take that from me. I need my life back. Mr Bob gazes at me with his wide-eyed stare and wheeks for some attention. Lifting him out of his
carrier he nestles comfortably in my lap and starts licking my finger. Stroking his soft, downy fur I feel myself becoming grounded. ‘What are we going to do, Mr Bob?’ I say to him.
‘Do you know who killed Patrick?’ Suddenly, his body freezes in my hand. I can feel all of his ligaments tighten stone-like – it’s as if he’s holding his whole body, his whole being, waiting for me to understand. Almost a minute passes until he fixes me with his wide eyes and then scurries away from me and clambers back into his carrier.
If ever I needed proof, this was it. Every mention of Patrick’s name made Mr Bob shudder to stone.
This was his hallmark behaviour of signalling trouble. No matter how crazy, this had to be done.
There was a wrong that had to be put right. I didn’t know how, but I would try my best. I’ve watched enough murder mysteries to know what I need to do – now I just need to find my suspects and put it all together. I will find Patrick’s killer and I will make my island, and my life, safe again.

Meet the author 

Sign up to Syl Waters newsletter to receive a free copy of The Little Book Of Curiously Fascinating Facts about Guinea Pigs

Most people know crazy cat ladies are a ‘thing’, but I’m a proud crazy guinea pig lady! I love fun in the sun and plenty of cocktails. My happy place is flip flops. I write stories to keep me company - my characters ensure I’m never lonely and always smiling (when I’m not tearing my hair out!)

Author links: 
WebsiteTwitterFacebook ~ Instagram

Etsy Find!
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Books by Syl Waters / Crime fiction / Books from England

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Ghosts by Paul Auster

Ghosts (The New York Trilogy #2) by Paul Auster
Published in America by Sun & Moon Press in 1986.

One of my More Than One Challenge reads

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The New York Trilogy is perhaps the most astonishing work by one of America's most consistently astonishing writers. The Trilogy is three cleverly interconnected novels that exploit the elements of standard detective fiction and achieve a new genre that is all the more gripping for its starkness. It is a riveting work of detective fiction worthy of Raymond Chandler, and at the same time a profound and unsettling existentialist enquiry in the tradition of Kafka or Borges. In each story the search for clues leads to remarkable coincidences in the universe as the simple act of trailing a man ultimately becomes a startling investigation of what it means to be human. The New York Trilogy is the modern novel at its finest: a truly bold and arresting work of fiction with something to transfix and astound every reader.

I picked up a copy of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy at a charity shop and, having last month been pleasantly baffled by City Of Glass, went on to read the second story, Ghosts. I'm not sure whether this would be classed as a short story or a novella. It's just over 70 pages long. The story shares similarities with City Of Glass in that both are set in New York, feature a private detective as the central character, and prominently feature a character hired to watch another character. In Ghosts, the men are named for colours - Mr Blue, Mr White and Mr Black - and aren't described in any great depth of detail. I could tell them and their roles apart without a problem, but never got the sense of them as fully rounded people which was disappointing as I felt this prevented me from getting really immersed into this story. The eponymous ghosts are famous men - Henry Thoreau, Walt Whitman and others - who had been associated with the street in which this story pans out, but as I haven't studied their work I couldn't realise exactly what the importance of their connection was. I didn't understand what Auster was trying to get at in Ghosts. The basic tenet of the story made sense, but the whys and wherefores unfortunately completely passed me by. I'm hoping for more success with the final story of the trilogy, The Locked Room, which I will be reading and reviewing soon.

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Saturday, 22 August 2020

5 Books 1 Theme - Refugee Memoirs

As hysterical fury is again being whipped up by English newspapers against migrants in a desperate (and depressingly successful) attempt to distract mainstream attention from yet more Tory sleaze, I thought I could at least try to show the other side of the story - the grim reality of these horrendous journeys and the reasons they are undertaken - by sharing five memoirs I have read.

It makes me so angry to see the ignorant idiots who were parroting 'but All Lives Matter' just a few weeks ago are the same people now calling for Navy gunships to open fire on dinghies. As a major arms dealing nation, British-made bombs and guns drove many of those migrants from what was left of their homes onto those barely-afloat boats in the first place.

(Click the cover images to visit each book's Literary Flits review.)

Have you read any of these five books? If so, what did you think of them?

Friday, 21 August 2020

The Journey: A Traveling Companion Through the New Testament by Debbie Johnson + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from August 10 to August 28, 2020!

Book Details:

Book Title:  The Journey: A Traveling Companion Through the New Testament by Debbie Johnson
Category:  Adult Non-fiction 18 yrs +,  293 pages
Genre:  Memoir, Religious, Inspirational
Publisher:  Convenant Books
Release date:   2019
Content Rating:  G. No obscenity, violence, sexual content

“With the New Testament in one hand and Debbie’s guidebook in the other, you will experience the Christian journey to be an exciting venture–though not one for the fainthearted.”                           
Dr. William W. Klein, Ph.D. Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary         

Book Description:

At a time of unprecedented crisis in our lives comes an inspirational book, THE JOURNEY: A Traveling Companion Through the New Testament by Debbie Johnson, who has spent decades as a mission worker, and is the founder DenverWorks, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the unemployed find work. Whether you are a Christian, religious, or irreligious, Johnson’s contemporary interpretation of The New Testament will inspire all who read her book.

Years ago, Debbie took a glorious six-week backpacking trip to Europe. Now she takes readers on a metaphorical trek through the New Testament, filling her backpack with a year’s worth of inspirational items. For Debbie, her destination is love, plus the sense of “mission accomplished” in her life’s work.

“Maybe this is a time for homebound people (all of us) to read through the NT,” says Debbie who begins her journey as Christ began his, when he met two sets of brothers and said, “Follow me” and eventually there were 12 friends, the 12 apostles. Jesus was no longer by himself,” says Johnson and got to experience the strength of friends. “My best friends and I remind each other that we are never alone, even though some of us live hundreds of miles apart.” Here are some of her many useful and inspiring key insights:
  • Love of God versus Love of Money. In Matthew 6:19-34, she quotes Jesus: “you cannot serve both God and money.” Johnson explains that Jesus did not say you can’t be materially wealthy, as some interpret that quote. He just said you can’t serve two masters, so you have to choose which one wins your heart. Johnson explains further that you should be responsible with money. “I never saw a passage that says, “though shalt not make money,” “she says. “It’s all about what we love the most.”
  • Neighborliness Matters. Romans 13:8-14 tells us that how we treat our neighbors is essential to living fulfilling Christian lives. Half of the Ten Commandments address being a good neighbor. No killing, committing adultery, stealing, slandering, or coveting. We’re to love our neighbors as ourselves, meaning we need to love ourselves sufficiently enough to love them. If we can love our neighbors, even the unlovable ones, then we’ve fulfilled The Law as Christ commanded.
  • What to Wear Today. We’re to put on, says Debbie, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We’re to bear with one another and forgive each other. We’re to put on love. We’re to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.
  • We Are People of the Day. We’re people of the day, so we need to act like it, even in this long in-between time. We’re to be sober and faithful and loving and hopeful, encouraging one anther and building each other up. We’re to appreciate our coworkers and leaders. We’re to live in peace.
  • The Journey with Our Partners. “My best friends and I remind each other that we’re never alone, even though some of us live hundreds of miles apart. And for all of us who believe God is real and in a relationship with us, we’re never apart from him either. Our beautiful challenge is to understand that fact more and more, experiential. Life takes an enormous amount of personal strength. Jesus spent a lot of time in conversation with God to gain strength. And if Jesus needed that, how much more do we need it! But we can also draw strength, counsel, wisdom, and emotional safety from each other.” (Matthew 4)
  • Solid Foundations. Luke 5:12-6:49 is full of rock-solid teaching about building life on a firm foundation. Building a rock-solid life isn’t about sharing his words and then going about our business. It’s about acting on those words. Not intending to act on them, but literally acting on them. The words are powerful and life-altering, but not easy. Nobody ever said building a life on a solid foundation would be easy, just worth it.
  • The Gift. Romans 3:23-24 just might be the best gift in the whole wide world, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” In other words, we can lay our burdens down—our guilt, regrets, little sins, big sins. The reason? The gift. The gift of unmerited favor. Some people spend their whole lives striving for approval trying to be good enough, when all along, God has said all we have to do is have faith. All we have to do is ask God for the gift.
  • Practical Matters (1 Corinthians 16). Christianity is hard. G.K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” But we can do this. There is a way to follow Christ in good times and bad times, in heavenly matters and practical matters.
In trying times such as these, Debbie Johnson’s THE JOURNEY will brings readers daily inspiration and comfort for themselves and their families.

Buy the Book:
Add to Goodreads

About the Author

Debbie Johnson is the author of two previous books, A Pocketful of Seeds and Lessons Learned from the Bottom of the Stairs: A Story of Faith and Resilience with Randy Milliken. She graduated from Ouachita Baptist University (BME, MME) and has done graduate work in social work at the University of Denver. In 1995, she founded DenverWorks to equip the unemployed in her community. She led the organization for ten years before engaging in international ministry, first as the vice president of Programs at the Dalit Freedom Network and then as executive director of India Transformed. She grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Today she and her husband live on a farm in Colorado with two dogs and a bunch of chickens.

Connect with the Author:  website  ~ twitter  ~ facebook instagram  ~

Tour Schedule:

Aug 10 – Splashes of Joy – book review / guest post / giveaway
Aug 10 – Cover Lover Book Review – book review / giveaway
Aug 11 – Over Coffee Conversations – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Aug 12 – My Journey Back – book review / giveaway
Aug 13 – Sefina Hawke's Books - book spotlight
Aug 14 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Aug 17 –Books for Books - book spotlight
Aug 18 – Books and Zebras – book review / giveaway
Aug 19 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Aug 20 – A Mama's Corner of the World – book review / giveaway
Aug 21 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 24 –Confessions of the Perfect Mom – book review
Aug 25 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
Aug 26 – The Epistles Of Mark Paul – book review / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:
1 of 3 print copies of THE JOURNEY: A Traveling Companion Through the New Testament by Debbie Johnson 
(USA only) (ends 4th September) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thursday, 20 August 2020

When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors

When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Published in America by Canongate Books in January 2018.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook via Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, three women – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors – came together to form an active response to the systemic racism causing the deaths of so many African-Americans. They simply said: Black Lives Matter; and for that, they were labelled terrorists.

In this empowering account of survival, strength and resilience, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and award-winning author and journalist asha bandele recount the personal story that led Patrisse to become a founder of Black Lives Matter, seeking to end the culture that declares Black life expendable. Like the era-defining movement she helped create, this rallying cry demands you do not look away.

Prior to spotting this autobiography in Amazon's recommended reads for me, I had never given much thought to how the Black Lives Matter movement had actually started or to the individuals who had been inspired to first shout the compelling slogan. In When They Call You A Terrorist, Patrisse Khan-Cullors recollects her impoverished childhood and the years of blatant racial injustice which gave her the impetus to bravely stand up firstly for herself and her tribe, then for black people across America and the world.

When They Call You A Terrorist is a very readable and powerful work. Khan-Cullors writes with such clarity and vision that I would struggle to believe anyone would not be moved by her words. That the double standards practiced by the police, judiciary and politicians across America are intended to continue a form of Jim Crow segregation and provide ultra cheap labour for greedy corporations who profit from slave labour via the prison system is a shocking reality for thousands of people. Reading this personal account of the effects of divided families, inhumanely low wages, slum landlords and no effective healthcare system really brought home to me how vital BLM is and how important it is that the people making a stand are not ignorantly dismissed as 'terrorists'. As a child, I was told that the Black Panthers were just violent terrorists 'like the IRA' and had no idea until I read a biography of Assata Shakur of the positive contributions Panthers made within black communities. Khan-Cullors family were recipients of essential food parcels, for example.

Khan-Cullors talks extensively about the need for healing as much as change, about the importance of truly equal access to education, art and self-care programmes, and that communities be allowed to exist for themselves without an oppressive police presence that insists on seeing (and overreacting to) wrongdoing in innocuous situations that would be ignored on white streets. Her demands, and those of Black Lives Matter, seem so basic that it's difficult to understand how they cannot be simply granted. I fervently hope that this decade will see real and lasting change.

Etsy Find!
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Wednesday, 19 August 2020

The Promise Kept by Maggie Mae Gallagher + #Giveaway + #Excerpt

The Promise Kept
Maggie Mae Gallagher
(Echo Springs, #2)
Publication date: August 19th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Cybil Roe gave her heart away thirteen years ago only to have it wind up shattered. With painstaking determination, she has rebuilt her life into something to be proud of today. Yet all her future plans are upended when the only man she has ever loved returns to Echo Springs. Nor does it help that he seems bound and determined to draw her back into his life. Cybil vows to stay away from him, no matter what seeing him all the time does to her resolve.
Miles Keaton wiped the dust of his hometown off his shoes years ago, never expecting that life would lead him back to the place where he had begun. Coming home to Echo Springs, to Cybil, to start a new law practice and a new life is a risk he never thought he’d take. She hates him – with good reason. Years ago, he walked away when she needed him the most. But now is he back, and intends to argue the case of his life, one more important than any he has debated in a courtroom, because she is the one woman he cannot live without.
Can Miles convince Cybil to take a second chance on him, or will a secret she has kept all these years destroy any future they might have?
PLUS! Book 1 - The Fixer Upper - is only 99¢ for a limited time!
“Oh, yes. Right there,” she murmured.
Cybil sighed at the strong hands kneading her tense shoulders. Golden sunshine warmed her skin. Azure waves lapped against the pristine, ivory sand not fifteen feet from where she lounged on a luxurious padded chaise. Her tanned skin glistened in the sun. The coconut scent from her suntan lotion wafted on the gentle breeze and mingled with the salt from the ocean waves. The simmering heat of the tropics caused perspiration to bead on her forehead and evaporate with the light wind. The sunglasses perched on her nose shaded her gray eyes from the radiant sunlight.
It was without a doubt a perfect day.
The light breeze played with the loose tendrils of her inky hair while the sexy-as-sin Pablo—he of the broad, tanned shoulders, gorgeously thick black hair, and soulful eyes—massaged her shoulders with his long, talented fingers. The man had the most wonderful, gifted hands and knew precisely where to exert the most pressure. And those thumbs of his were singularly skilled at ferreting out every ache and pain.
God, she had needed this getaway—away from the cold, the snow, the dreaded holidays, and nonstop work.
She muffled a moan.
Cybil couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this relaxed. She could still taste the lime and salt from her frozen margarita. And she was a breath away from suggesting to Pablo that they take the massage indoors to her beachside bungalow. The thought of those hands massaging other regions of her body left her achy and needy. It had been so long since she had been with a man. Since this was a vacation, she didn’t have to worry about getting attached. Cybil moaned as he dug into a knot on her left shoulder.
Pablo lowered his face. Cybil shivered, heady anticipation humming along her skin. Was he going to nibble on her ear? Suggest naughty, decadent delights to be had if they retreated indoors? She was ready and willing for anything the guy had in mind.
“Purrr.” A cold, wet nose pressed against the side of her cheek where it met her ear, amplifying the sound. The purr increased in tenor. Something tickled her nose.
Cybil cracked an eye open. A pair of golden eyes stared at her with expectation and determination, with a side of feline disdain that she had yet to acknowledge him.

Author Bio:
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maggie grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Maggie never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.
Maggie is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes erotic romance under the name Anya Summers. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the United States Midwest with her two furry felines.

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by Fancyem Studio in
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Tuesday, 18 August 2020

The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
First published in the USA by Algonquin on the 17th March 2020. Published in the UK by OneWorld Publications on the 20th August 2020.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War, The Mountains Sing is the enveloping, multi-generational tale of the Trần family, perfect for fans of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing.

Hà Nội, 1972. Hương and her grandmother, Trần Diệu Lan, cling to one another in their improvised shelter as American bombs fall around them. Her father and mother have already left to fight in a war that is tearing not just her country but her family apart. For Trần Diệu Lan, forced to flee the family farm with her six children decades earlier as the Communist government rose to power in the North, this experience is horribly familiar. Seen through the eyes of these two unforgettable women, The Mountains Sing captures their defiance and determination, hope and unexpected joy.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn's richly lyrical debut weaves between the lives of grandmother and granddaughter to paint a unique picture of the country's turbulent twentieth-century history. This is the story of a people pushed to breaking point, and a family who refuse to give in.

I was fortunate to recently read a Vietnamese memoir, American Dreamer by Tim Tran, which touched upon some of the country's history that Nguyen Phan Que Mai so eloquently portrays throughout her novel The Mountains Sing. This story of three generations, forced apart by events completely out of their control, is quite the sweeping epic, yet I was drawn in by little details of daily life. Nguyen frequently has her characters quoting Vietnamese proverbs and I liked this device for allowing readers to get closer to Huong, her stalwart grandmother Dieu Lan, and the rest of the family. Huong's parents are absent, physically or psychologically, for much of the story so instead we have the relationship between grandparent and grandchild at the heart of the book.

Dieu Lan is an amazing woman, but one who isn't convinced of her strength. I loved spending time effectively eavesdropping on her telling Huong her memories and I am in awe of the presence of mind she showed in preserving as many of her family members as she could across decades of violent turmoil. Vietnam to Western minds primarily conjures up horrific images of the Vietnam War, but the country was also ravaged by the Second World War, the partition of the country, and the Communist Party's brutal Land Reform programme. The Mountains Sing doesn't flinch from showing what ordinary Vietnamese people endured at the hands of foreign armies or from other politically manipulated citizens. Scenes of people persuaded to murderously turn on each other due to greed or fear are heartbreaking to read, especially when the result is formerly strong, supportive communities being left broken and poverty-stricken.

The Mountains Sing is a beautiful story of a particularly turbulent period of Asian history. I appreciated the point of view changes which enable readers to witness first-hand the repeated waves of destruction that swept across Vietnam and the effects of this that lingered long after. Nguyen sensitively depicts not just the physical injuries that people must learn to live with, but also the long term psychological damage which scarred several generations. Even for a 'lucky' family such as Dieu Lan's who mostly survive, the price is unbearably high.

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by Mom Knit And Weave in
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Monday, 17 August 2020

Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer

Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer
First published in Spanish in Argentina in 1979. English language translation by Amalia Gladhart published by Penguin Classics on the 6th August 2020.

My 1970s read for my 2019-20 Decade Challenge - which I have now completed! - and one of my Classics Club Challenge reads.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Part pulp adventure, part otherworldly meditation, this is the story of Trafalgar Medrano: intergalactic trader and lover of bitter coffee and black cigarettes. In the bars and cafés of Rosario, Argentina, he recounts tall tales of his space escapades - involving, among other things, time travel and dancing troglodytes.

Trafalgar has got to be one of the weirdest books I have read in quite some time and it's one that is difficult to describe in a way that really does it justice. It's a series of short stories recounting the spacewide adventures of Trafalgar Medrano, yes, but without much in the way of technical information that would characterise a science fiction novel these days. Trafalgar flies between various worlds in his Clunker spaceship, but we never get to find out how it works or, indeed, how he can travel such vast distances in the short periods of time his travels last. No one else, it seems, has ever seen the Clunker, but the Rosario locals enjoy sitting back with a whiskey to listen to his latest unbelievable adventure. I suppose I can best evoke Trafalgar by saying it's a blend of the The Old Man in the Corner by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, The More Known World by Tiffany Tsao and The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish.

Trafalgar Medrano himself is quite irritating as a character and I think this is probably deliberate on the part of Gorodischer to make him so. I loved his coffee obsession though and appreciated the device of having most of his storytelling taking place in the elegant Burgundy club. Marcos the waiter is an amusing diversion and elderly Aunt Josefina is a brilliant creation. It's a shame she only gets the one interlude. By the end of the book, I felt Trafalgar had pretty much outstayed his welcome. There's a lot of scene-setting repetition between each of Trafalgar's flights of fancy which would work better if the stories were read maybe one a day, or performed individually on a weekly radio play or podcast. Overall, I'm glad to have had this opportunity to read Gorodischer although I probably won't rush to search out more of her work.

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by 11pixali in

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