Monday, 12 April 2021

Come, Thou Almighty by FKAHerSweetness

Come, Thou Almighty by FKAHerSweetness
Self published in installments from January to March 2021.

How I got this book:

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Come, Thou Almighty is a fan fiction novella I discovered by supporting talented author FKAHERSweetness on Ko-Fi. I understand the main characters are inspired by the television series Hannibal, but I haven't yet watched any of that so I can't comment on how closely or distantly they resemble their screen counterparts. I do know that Come, Thou Almighty is set in an alternative reality with a self-contained storyline so I didn't miss out at all (I don't think) for reading this work in isolation.

I love FKAHS' prose style which is beautifully flowery and thoughtful in a way that perfectly suited the deeply traditional, monastic setting of the story. Elements of the tale reminded me of the Gormenghast reality with its rigid structures and rituals, reinforced over generations of faithful repetitions. Come, Thou Almighty is set within a closed community who live around a sumptuous cathedral, tunnelled into a mountain. I don't think I've ever read a setting quite as unique as this and I was entranced by it. 

At the centre, is sixteen-year-old Will, a boy destined to become the Godsmouth on his seventeenth birthday and to spend the rest of his solitary life channelling the word of God to his people. It's a cruelly hugh responsibility to place on such young shoulders and I could completely empathise with Will's reluctance to embrace his destiny any sooner than he absolutely must. Hannibal Lecter's character arrives as a young trainee physician, only a few years older than Will. Hannibal really doesn't have any understanding of quite what he is walking into and I won't reveal too much about it either for fear of spoiling the intense atmospheres that FKAHS creates. Suffice to say that Come, Thou Almighty is as much a coming of age story for Hannibal as it is for Will. 

Despite my eclectic reading over the years, I have hardly read any fan fiction so surprised myself in just how much I enjoyed reading Come, Thou Almighty, especially as I couldn't reference the original characters or story. No doubt fans of Hannibal would benefit from a greater familiarity with the characters, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story on its own account. There are a few pretty graphic sex scenes and a scene of grim violence, as well as moments of real poignance. I'm delighted to have discovered both this impressive new-to-me author and, on the strength of this tale, to have a whole new genre of fiction to explore.

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Books by FKAHerSweetness / Fan fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 11 April 2021

It's A Mad World by Susie Kelly

It's A Mad World: Travels Through a Muddled Life by Susie Kelly
Published by Blackbird Books on the 17th February 2021.

Unlike her daredevil husband, Susie Kelly is afraid of water, elevators, heights, skiing and flying upside down and she hates being in the spotlight. 

No matter how hard she tries, things seem to go wrong more often than they go right. Fortunately she can see the funny side of most things, even her cancer diagnosis. However, snoring transforms her from a sweet little thing into a pitiless monster.   

These often funny and sometimes poignant tales of travels through Susie’s muddled life confirm that, as Simon Reeve writes in his autobiography, Step by Step, ‘…it is always worth remembering that some of the most memorable times can happen when things go a bit wrong.’ 

If you enjoy collections of funny, poignant true stories, you'll love this.

Meet the author
Born a Londoner, Susie Kelly spent most of the first 25 years of her life in Kenya. She now lives in south-west France with her husband and assorted animals. She believes that her explosive temper is a legacy from her Irish-American grandfather, but has no idea who to blame for her incompetence as a housewife. Still, she’s very kind to animals, small children and elderly people. Susie particularly enjoys exploring the road less travelled, discovering the lives and events of lesser-known places.

Prior to publishing with Blackbird, Susie was with Transworld who sold over 50,000 of her titles in the UK.  Some of those are rights-reverted and are now available to readers worldwide for the first time. 25% of Susie’s royalties from The Valley of Heaven and Hell are shared equally between Cancer Research and Tower Hill Stables Sanctuary in Essex.

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Books by Susie Kelly / Biography and memoir / Books from England

Saturday, 10 April 2021

The Deadly Truth: A Dr Basil Willing Mystery by Helen McCloy

The Deadly Truth: A Dr Basil Willing Mystery by Helen McCloy
First published in 1941. Republished by Agora Books on the 25th March 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When psychologist Dr Basil Willing rents a cottage on Long Island for a vacation, he falls into the company of his landlady, Claudia Bethune and her friends.

But when Claudia throws a last minute dinner party with a special cocktail, Basil’s relaxing holiday takes a turn. It seems Claudia’s drink du jour has in fact been laced with a new truth serum. And as secrets begin to spill, everyone is on edge.

When morning comes, it seems there are some lasting effects to the night’s imbibing: the hostess herself is found dead at the table.

Now, all thoughts of holiday set aside, Dr Willing finds himself at the heart of the murder case. Will he be able to use his skills to untangle the lies from the truth and bring the killer to justice?

The Deadly Truth is the third in Helen McCloy's 'Dr Basil Willing' series of golden age mysteries. It took me a little while to really get immersed in this story but, once I did, I appreciated the intricacies of the plotting. I loved the Long Island setting too, especially the isolated Blessingbourne country house setting. The weekend party gathering brings together a disparate group of deftly portrayed characters all of whom profess to be friends, but whose underlying grievances come to the fore as Claudia Bethune's party rapidly descends into chaos. McCloy had a wonderful talent for writing these crime stories, liberally sprinkling genuine clues and plausible red herrings throughout each chapter. Her central character, Dr Willing, has a greater personal depth than is often the case with classic detective novels, and his bringing of psychological expertise to each case has kept me pleasantly intrigued throughout all three books in this series so far. I'm already looking forward to a fourth!

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Books by Helen McCloy / Crime fiction / Books from America

Friday, 9 April 2021

The Other Side of Magic by Ester Manzini + #Giveaway

The Other Side of Magic
Ester Manzini
(Parliament House)
Publication date: April 6th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

For fans of Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

In a world inspired by 16th century Italy, magic is a common occurrence. Everyone in the realms of Epidalio and Zafiria is gifted with it at birth, but with every spell cast, their power wanes.

Gaiane Asares is the result of an accurate selection by her mother, the queen of Zafiria. She’s infinitely powerful; a weapon of mass destruction kept segregated in a tower and used against her will to conquer Epidalio.

Meanwhile, in Epidalio, Leo was born with no magic at all, a rarity. She lost her home and family when Zafiria attacked, and her resentment toward the invaders still burns.

Gaiane manages to escape her gilded cage, and the two girls cross paths. But when war threatens the land again, their loyalty will be put to the test. Will they manage to overcome their differences in the name of freedom?


Win 1 of 10x ebook copies of The Other Side of Magic.
Open internationally until the 22nd April.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted by:


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Books by Ester Manzini / Young adult fiction / Books from America

Monday, 5 April 2021

#WorldReads - Five Books from Bulgaria

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 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 cover images to visit their Literary Flits book review pages.

This month we are going to Bulgaria!

That's it for April's WorldReads from Bulgaria. 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 Bulgarian-authored books!

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

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

Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, United States of America,

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

Australasia: Australia, New Zealand,

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

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

Sunday, 4 April 2021

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore
Published by Pushkin Press on the 25th March 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A powerful and poignant memoir of survival and resistance by the critically acclaimed author of She Would Be King, about her family's dramatic escape from the Liberian Civil War, and how they were eventually reunited

My Ol' Ma says the best stories do not always end happily, but happiness will find its way in there somehow.

When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a party at home in Monrovia, Liberia. Yet all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, studying in faraway New York. Before they can be reunited, the Civil War breaks out in Liberia. The family is forced to flee their home on foot, walking along dangerous roads to the relative safety of their ancestral village. Here they will hide until a remarkable rescue by a rebel soldier, who smuggles them across the border.

The Dragons, The Giant, The Women spans this heartbreaking journey into childhood, and Moore's years adjusting to life in the USA, where she discovers a new kind of danger, as a black woman and an immigrant. This is an unforgettable memoir of the search for home in the midst of political upheaval, and an intimate story about the tenacious power of love and family.

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women begins by showing us Liberia through the eyes of five-year-old Wayétu. I loved this first section the best because it is so vividly recollected and described, and Moore manages to perfectly capture a young child's understanding of the world around her. She weaves together imaginative ideas from the stories her grandmother tells and tries to use these images to make sense of the encroaching civil war chaos. The family's long trek to escape the fighting is heartbreaking as is Wayétu's longing for her absent mother. 

Moore then goes on to portray her experiences as a Blackgirl in Texas once her immediate family is given permission to immigrate to America, sadly having to leave her grandmother behind in Liberia. I cannot begin to imagine the intensity of the culture shock the family went through. That they escaped at all, and were reunited with Wayétu's mother is miraculous. As Moore explains it though, possibly due to her youth at the time of their escape, her sense of dislocation from her homeland is more of an influence on her adult life than the trauma from which she is expected to suffer. 

I enjoyed reading this memoir, especially Moore's prose style which I felt suited the work well. She puts her ideas across in an accessible way which was useful for me particularly in understanding the complexities of Liberia's civil war. I am now keen to also read Moore's novel, She Would Be King.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Wayétu Moore / Biography and memoir / Books from Liberia

Friday, 2 April 2021

Willow Weeps by Louise Worthington

Willow Weeps by Louise Worthington
Published by Red Escape Publishing on the 1st March 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A secret is a lie in the making.

A divorcee and his young daughter. 
The promise of a new life - together as a family in a flash apartment in a historic building. 
A fresh start – or the key to a nightmare?
Who will Willow believe – a young offender, or the love of her life?

Page-turning and emotional, Willow Weeps is the gripping new psychological suspense novel from the author of the bestseller, Rachel's Garden.

I was impressed with Louise Worthington's previous novel, Distorted Days, so jumped at the chance of a review copy of Willow Weeps. I'm so glad I did! This psychological suspense thriller maintains an eerily unsettling atmosphere throughout its story, meaning I found it almost impossible to set the book aside. I had to know what was going to happen next!

I loved that I could never be completely sure how much of what Willow sees (and hears and smells) was also real to the people around her and how much was solely in her own head. Unreliable narrators are amongst my favourite characters, especially when stories are told from their unique perspectives. It can be a tricky point of view to portray, but Worthington absolutely nailed it for me in Willow Weeps. I could always empathise with Willow's situation and her decisions. All Worthington's characters are plausibly flawed so their emotional depth makes them interesting to read about. Even the ones I ended up really not liking - I don't want to say who in case it spoils plot surprises! - kept me intrigued and glued to the pages. 

The settings are intriguing too, particularly the repurposed former children's home which has been done up as luxury appartments. We had considered a new flat in a former hospital just a few years ago, but were concerned about echoes of the building's emotional history so this aspect rang very true for me. I did find myself getting lost at moments towards the end of the story and had to go back and reread pages to be sure what was happening. I think, as the tension ratchets up for Willow, it did for me too so I was breathlessly reading faster and faster. Too fast! Willow Weeps is not a book for bedtime because I think its excitement will keep readers wide awake!

Meet the Author

Louise Worthington is the author of six novels. She writes across genres - psychological fiction, horror and women's fiction. 

In June 2020 she signed with Bloodhound Books, leading crime and thriller publishers, for two psychological thrillers.

Louise's debut novel, Distorted Days, was described by Kirkus Review as 'a formidable work'. Her novella-in-flash was longlisted by Ellipsis Zine and many of her short stories and dark flash fiction are published in the UK and America.

Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ YouTube

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Books by Louise Worthington / Thrillers / Books from England

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Wide Awake by C H Clepitt

Wide Awake (Guild of Dream Warriors 3) by C H Clepitt
Self published on the 8th February 2020.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Smashwords

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After being forcibly retired from the police, Craig is at a loss. His injury means that he can’t work in security, and he never did like paperwork.

When a blast from his past offers him a mysterious job opportunity, his curiosity gets the better of him, but has he bitten off more than he can chew? 

Wide Awake is book 3 in the Guild of Dream Warriors series. 

Wide Awake follows on from the earlier Guild Of Dream Warriors novellas, My Dream Woman and The Night Knight. I hadn't realised it's been over two years since I read The Night Knight (having managed to miss Wide Awake's publication) so I was pleased that I could remember the overall story arc from brief prompts and mentions of previous events. Clepitt again switches POV so we follow this episode through the eyes of Craig, an injured policeman who is used to taking the lead and making decisions for everybody else. It was interesting to see how this led him into precarious situations in the dream world with which he is completely unfamiliar. I would have liked more description and details of several of the dream locations because I found myself struggling to envisage exactly what our protagonists encountered. Clepitt's characters were, as always, deftly portrayed through their dialogue though and her fast narrative pace means that this series never has a dull moment. A fun, escapist read!

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Books by C H Clepitt / Fantasy fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Out Of The Mouths Of Serial Killers by Mary Brett + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from Mar 22 to Apr 2, 2021!
Book Details:

Book TitleOut of the Mouths of Serial Killers by Mary Brett
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction (18 +),  350 pages
GenreTrue Crime
PublisherWildblue Press
Release date:   Jan 19, 2020
Format available:  print, ebook, and audible

Book Description:
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF SERIAL KILLERS​ by author Mary Brett is as close as you will ever come to discovering the answer ... and in the killer’s own words! In this one-of-a-kind book, author Mary Brett corresponded with some of America’s most evil convicted serial killers and asked just one question: ​WHY? Their return letters give an insightful look into the dark mind of each killer. The reader also will be able to scrutinize direct quotes, unedited, from ​interrogation statements, trial testimony, media interviews, and parole hearing inquests 75 Serial Killers are included in the book, some only known to the unfortunate victims’ family, friends, and community, while others are the most infamous in the annals of serial killers. All bios feature the crime, the capture, the victims, and background facts. Crime scene photos, some graphic, are featured.

Buy the Book:

I haven't read a true crime book in ages - I  think Truman Capote's In Cold Blood would be the last - but I was intrigued to give Out Of The Mouths Of Serial Killers a try because of the prospect of reading letters sent from the killers themselves to author, Mary Brett, in response to her question, 'Why?' I'm interested in that kind of psychology. Brett examines the lives and criminal activities of over seventy American serial killers giving concise details of their childhoods, killing sprees and possible motivations. I was glad that the goryness factor was not overdone and this book reminded me of the 'World's Greatest' series of books that I adored studying as a teenager. Out Of The Mouths Of Serial Killers has lots of information which I think would be ideal for readers seeking an insightful overview of this niche subject.

I was disappointed however that the main reason I chose the book - those letters - turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Lots of the cases ended in the killers being themselves put to death years ago so Brett had no opportunity to address them. Responses we could read were mostly either claiming innocence or refusing to cooperate with this project. Brett does instead include plenty of brief quotes from contemporary accounts and press reports which are interesting to read, but tricky to judge in isolation. However I appreciated the dispassionate and measured tone throughout Out Of The Mouths Of Serial Killers. Other than a closing essay which is fervently pro-death penalty, Brett doesn't glamorise violent acts. I don't feel I have a greater understanding of what individually drove those women and men to kill, but it was fascinating to try and establish causal patterns and behaviours.

Meet the Author:
I have just finished my 4th book, OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF SERIAL KILLERS. I wrote to convicted serial killers asking just one question: Why? Their letters back to me formed the basis of what I hope is a fascinating read as well as a chilling look into the mindset of 75 psychopathic killers who walked among us. WildBlue Press is the Publisher and I thank them and their amazing staff for producing my book in both paperback and Kindle format. In presales, my book hit #1 on Kindle in VIOLENCE IN SOCIETY. I am a Virginia native, living in Florida. I hold a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

connect with the author: amazon

Win an Autographed copy of OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF SERIAL KILLERS (USA only) (1 winner) (ends Apr 9)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Mar 22  - From the TBR Pile – book review
Mar 22 - Stephanie Jane - book spotlight
Mar 24 - Books for Books – book spotlight
Mar 25 – Pick A Good Book – book review / guest post
Mar 26 - Celticlady's Reviews – book spotlight
Mar 26 – Reading is My Passion – book review
Mar 29 – Bound 4 Escape – book review
Mar 30 – Sefina Hawke's Books – book spotlight
Mar 30 - Jazzy Book Reviews - book review / guest post
Mar 31 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review
Mar 31 - Literary Flits - book review
Apr 1 – Jessica Belmont – book review
Apr 1 - Leels Loves Books - book review
Apr 2 - The World As I See It – book review


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Mary Brett / True crime / Books from America

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Brotherhood by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

Brotherhood by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr
First published in French as Terre Ceinte by Presence Africaine in 2015. English language translation by Alexia Trigo published by Europa Editions on the 18th March 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WINNER of the French Voices Grand Prize, Prix Ahmadou Kourouma, and Grand Prix du Roman Métis

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s searing and thought-provoking debut novel, Brotherhood takes place in the imaginary town of Kalep, where a fundamentalist Islamist government has spread its brutal authority.

Under the regime of the so-called Brotherhood, two young people are publicly executed for having loved each other. In response, their mothers begin a secret correspondence, their only outlet for the grief they share and each woman’s personal reckoning with a leadership that would take her beloved child’s life.

At the same time, spurred on by their indignation at what seems to be an escalation of The Brotherhood’s brutality, a band of intellectuals and free-thinkers seeks to awaken the conscience of the cowed populace and foment rebellion by publishing an underground newspaper. While they grapple with the implications of what they have done, the regime’s brutal leader begins a personal crusade to find the responsible parties, and bring them to his own sense of justice. 

In this brilliant analysis of tyranny and brutality, Mbougar Sarr explores the ways in which resistance and heroism can often give way to cowardice, all while giving voice to the moral ambiguities and personal struggles involved in each of his characters’ search to impose the values they hold most dear.

My first Senegalese novel and I was impressed by the way in which Sarr portrayed deeply philosophical conversations between his characters without losing the sense of real speech and style. I wish my French was good enough to have read Brotherhood in its original language, but I felt Alexia Trigo did a good job of the translation. Brotherhood has two linked narrative strands: one recounts the efforts of a group of seven dissidents to publish a journal decrying jihadist violence and oppression in their occupied city; the other is a series of letters between two bereaved, grieving mothers who, unable to leave their separate homes, attempt together to understand the loss of their children. 

Brotherhood starts out with a scene of extreme, but dispassionate violence - a double execution - which reminded me of the opening of The President's Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli. The eponymous Brotherhood imposes their vision of correct Islamic life onto the city through bloodshed and fear, and public demonstrations of their power are an integral part of their strategy. Behind the scenes though, the Brotherhood's foot soldiers are only too keen to indulge in the forbidden behaviours they publicly punish, much to the chagrin of their leader who was probably the most fascinating character in the whole novel for me. He absolutely believes in the purity of the Brotherhood's vision, even while he is also aware of his superiors' corruption of that vision for their own ends. Sarr managed to allow me understand this man.

Brotherhood is a novel that, as I guessed pretty early on, is never going to end with a happily ever after. I found the narrative structure satisfying, however, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the novel even though it doesn't have the kind of rich detail that usually appeals to me. For example, Sarr takes a whole chapter to introduce one character, an incredible chef, without ever identifying a single meal or ingredient more precisely than 'food'! That said, I liked how this work drew me in to this city and its people's lives.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr / War fiction / Books from Senegal

Friday, 26 March 2021

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness  by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman
Published by Bloomsbury in June 2012.

A Book About a Vegan and included in my Vegan Bookshop.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Run until you can't run anymore. Then run some more. Find a new source of energy and will. Then run even faster.' The words of Scott Jurek, a dominant force - and darling - in the gruelling and growing sport of ultrarunning for more than a decade. In 1999, as a complete unknown, he took the lead in the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile jaunt over the Gold Rush trails of America's Sierra Nevada. He went on to win that race seven years in a row. Jurek was also one of the elite runners who travelled to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara Indians, as profiled in the international bestseller Born to Run. His accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary.

In Eat and Run, Jurek opens up about his life and career as an elite athlete, and about the vegan diet that is key to his success. From his Midwestern childhood of hunting and fishing to his slow transition to ultrarunning and veganism, to his epic, record-breaking races, Jurek's story shows the power of an iron will and the importance of thinking of food as fuel. 

Full of stories of endurance and competition as well as practical advice and some of his original recipes, Eat and Run will motivate people to go the distance, whether that means getting out for a first run, expanding your food horizons, or simply exploring the limits of human potential.

I first heard about Scott Jurek by reading Chris McDougall's now-famous book, Born To Run, a decade ago during the years when I was a runner myself, abeit a much slower one whose personal best distance was a half marathon. After knackering my calf muscles, I drifted away from anything to do with running so was surprised to see Jurek's name reappearing recently in connection with veganism. If I had known about his plantbased diet back then, I hadn't remembered, but I did recall how inspirational he had been in getting me moving so I wondered if Eat And Run would be a similar motivator for my vegan journey. Not that I really need motivation there. I'm yet to experience a single day when I regret becoming vegan!

Eat and Run tells Jurek's life story from childhood until 2010 with each chapter focused towards a particular ultramarathon that he ran in. I liked this structure which is mostly chronological, but with asides where necessary. The book is very readable in style and tone and I devoured it in just two days. Jurek includes his own vegan recipes at the end of each chapter and I appreciated how he takes time to explain his plantbased food discoveries alongside his running achievements (and disasters). I haven't yet tried any of the recipes, but have listed ingredients for a selection of the simpler ones ready for my next shop. The recipes do understandably have a strong American bias, ingredients-wise, but I can substitute European-grown foods in several cases.

I finished Eat And Run feeling wonderfully energised and promptly took myself off for a good walk around the local fields for an hour. I don't think the book will tempt me to risk running again any time soon, but I am glad that Jurek's enthusiasm for exercise and movement came through to me so effectively. I've been too sedentary, and gradually getting even more so, through lockdown. Hopefully Eat And Run's motivational vibes can help me turn that around.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Scott Jurek / Sports books / Books from America

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley
Published by Solaris on the 16th March 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Drink down the brew and dream of a better Earth.
Skyward Inn, within the high walls of the Western Protectorate, is a place of safety, where people come together to tell stories of the time before the war with Qita.
But safety from what? Qita surrendered without complaint when Earth invaded; Innkeepers Jem and Isley, veterans from either side, have regrets but few scars.
Their peace is disturbed when a visitor known to Isley comes to the Inn asking for help, bringing reminders of an unnerving past and triggering an uncertain future.
Did humanity really win the war?

I leapt at the chance to read Skyward Inn having previously been equally enthralled and baffled by Aliya Whiteley's historical science fiction novel, The Arrival Of Missives. Skyward Inn shares some similarities in its rural English setting, this time in the Western Protectorate which is a future independent Devon and Cornwall, politically split away from the rest of what was England, but still financially dependent for trade. Elements of Western Protectorate life are recognisably unchanged - council meetings, evenings in the pub, apple harvests, and inappropriate humour from the vicar - but this is obviously an impoverished community which cannot afford to waste any of its resources.

I loved how Whiteley sets up the circumstances of this novel, hiding the most salient points in plain view so, as a reader, I accepted as normal things that I should perhaps have questioned much earlier. This lack of suspicion however is also true for the villagers, struggling through their daily lives without really noticing anything untoward. Jem herself is a fascinating character. A woman who, when young, abandoned her son in order to escape claustrophobic Western Protectorate culture, she spent a decade on the alien world of Qita, only to eventually find herself pretty much exactly back where she started with only the existence of her Qitan love, Isley, as a remembrance of her travels. Isley, the sole Qitan in this community, is subject to jokey racism from the villagers. Pub goers compliment him on how well he fits in, but fail to include him in anything more companionable than cooking their food.

Whiteley contrasts Qita with the Western Protectorate so well that I was completely convinced by both environments. In fact, despite its alien landscapes and life, I never once found myself questioning the plausibility of any of the characters or their decisions. I even experienced a real yearning to join at the end (which surprised me. I'm rarely a 'joining in' kind of person.). It's difficult to really talk about Skyward Inn without giving something away that should be discovered through reading this profound novel, rather than its reviews. I am delighted to have had this opportunity to read it myself and enthusiastically recommend the book to fans of speculative fiction, thoughtful science fiction, and stories about loners.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Aliya Whiteley / Science fiction / Books from England

Monday, 22 March 2021

The Cursed Village by Harripersad Samaroo

The Cursed Village by Harripersad Samaroo
Published by Troubador on the 14th October 2020.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Usati is a four year old growing up in Sunnyvale, a small, poor and remote sugar cane farming village in Trinidad in the 1940’s. He describes the world he sees, and captures the language and culture of the mainly illiterate peasant workers who live around him. There is widespread belief in black magic, and nearby is the infamous silk-cotton tree which houses the evil spirits who are responsible for all the ills of the village. Usati looks after his two younger siblings. Even as a four year old he has to be a human shield for the neighbour on several occasions in the face of domestic violence. Life is hard and brutal with constant fear of violence and beatings. 

Following his mother’s death the children are brought up by their grandparents, but there are further constant upheavals within the family. Violence remains within all parts of this society, as is crime and suffering. Usati observes how his family suffers through their illiteracy and the society within which they live. 

Usati battles for a good education. He vows to bring literacy to the village and to fight against the cruelty that surrounds him. Usati and B started as teenage lovers, but can their love survive and endure a lifetime from the wicked curse and traumas of the intervening years?

The first thing, I think, to say about The Cursed Village is that it is a grimly violent novel. Scenes of child abuse, domestic violence, and grinding poverty follow one upon another which made this a difficult novel for me to read. In a lot of ways, the story reflects issues and practices I read about in The Secrets We Kept by Krystal A Sital. However, while character portrayals in that book drew me in, I felt I was always kept at arms length from The Cursed Village. I think most of the problem was my inability to believe in Usati as the young boy we are supposed to see. Usati is well-read, pompously erudite and very knowledgeable about medical matters. This is entirely plausible towards the end of this novel when we encounter him as a seventy year old man, or even possible for him in the chapters where he is a young man returning from five years of college, but four-year-old pre-school Usati making statements such as 'They are the ones responsible for and contributing towards the high infant and child mortality rates in the village', when his parents and neighbours speak exclusively in a phonetically-written local patois, just didn't work for me. This was a shame because Samaroo has a lot to say about typical rural life in this 1940s Trinidad community and he obviously has strong ideas about the importance of education in improving the people's lives. The settings were described in lots of detail and I felt I got a good sense of people's daily lives. Overall, I am glad to have read The Cursed Village, but I am also glad to have finally got to the end.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Harripersad Samaroo / Historical fiction / Books from Trinidad

Sunday, 21 March 2021

The Colour of Hope by Jen Feroze

The Colour of Hope: Poems of Happiness in Uncertain Times by Jen Feroze
Published in the UK by Matador on the 3rd March 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Colour Of Hope is a poetry collection with happiness at its heart. The 45 poems inside were created during lockdown, at a time when finding beauty and comfort in the everyday seemed at once fraught with difficulty and vitally important.

Each was written for a specific recipient, based on three things they guaranteed would make them feel happy. I received a wonderful range of briefs. From the beautifully universal a longing for nature and freedom, time spent with family, summers spent in other lands to the gloriously specific snaffling a Toffee Crisp from the fridge late at night, Fleetwood Mac songs, foam banana sweets, and Ceilidh dancing.

The result is a collection of poems that serves both as a record of this intense and intensely strange year, and as an uplifting reading experience that will connect and resonate with a much wider audience than the individuals they were initially written for. 2020 will be one for the history books, a year that has created emergencies on many fronts, not least the emotional. 60% of adults, and 68% of young people in the UK reported a decline in their mental health during lockdown.

Mental health charities are working harder than ever to provide support to the vulnerable and in need, and every little helps. As such, £2 from the sale of this book will be donated to Mind, to help provide a bit of light in these uncertain times.

Hope comes in many shapes and colours, and it's my hope that you ll find some of your own pieces of happiness, comfort and, yes, hope within these pages.

I was drawn to read this unusual poetry collection when I discovered how the individual poems were inspired. As with much poetry, each work is incredibly personal yet, here, it is personal to its recipient rather than to the poet herself which I thought was a beautiful idea. The Colour Of Hope comprises 45 poems, each dedicated to the woman whose three happiness prompts led to its creation. Obviously I could identify more fully with some than with others, but I was amazed how every single poem brought a smile to my face and several prompted a chuckle too. I'm usually more of a fan of gloomy, angst-ridden poetry, but this happy collection cut straight through my habitual cynicism in a way that I really didn't expect.

I love how Feroze captures a sense of place in the poems inspired by travel and in those that are set within a single room or garden. Many celebrate the simple pleasures of a picnic or a flower (or a secret chocolate bar!). This, I felt, was very much a reflection of Spring 2020 when rediscovering time-consuming rather than time-saving activities (more sourdough anyone?) became a national pastime. In a way, The Colour Of Hope is a snapshot of those months, only at most a year ago, hard though that is to believe. Yet I think the collection also taps into something more essential about the way we live or, rather, the way we would prefer to live and briefly did when the opportunity arose. I hope that The Colour Of Hope won't just be a record of one year, but will continue to quietly remind readers that true happiness is more often found through small acts and time spent with the people we love than as a result of grand, expensive gestures.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Jen Feroze / Poetry / Books from England

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Cinnamon Gardens by Shyam Selvadurai

Cinnamon Gardens by Shyam Selvadurai
Published by McClelland & Stewart on the 1st September 1998.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Shyam Selvadurai's masterful second novel, set in repressive and complex 1920s Ceylon, the Cinnamon Gardens is a residential enclave of wealthy Ceylonese. Among them is Annalukshmi, an independent and high-spirited young teacher intent on thwarting her parents' plans to arrange her marriage. In a parallel narrative, her uncle, Balendran Navaratnam, respectably married but secretly homosexual, has his life disrupted by the arrival in Ceylon of Richard, a lover from long ago. 

I bought myself a copy of this novel over two years ago and have no idea why it has taken me so long to get around to reading it. I think I expected it to be a deeply literary work whereas it is actually a much lighter, very readable story of people trying to be true to themselves in an era and place of stifling repression. I recognised elements of Annalukshmi's predicament - to have the freedom to determine her own fate whilst still remaining respectable - replicated in many women's stories from around the world. Her advanced education has already rendered her unmarriageable in the eyes of some potential suitors' families and Annalukshmi herself has no intention of abandoning her burgeoning teaching career for a housewife's life. This storyline intertwines with that of Annalukshmi's uncle, Balendran, a homosexual man who, in deference to his father's privileged place in society, has attempted to completely repress his tendencies toward 'inversion', as he calls it.

I appreciated Selvadurai's having his characters focus their thoughts on the happiness potential of their life choices especially, as in Balendran's case, where he has convinced himself that he is better off living as he should rather than as he wants to. Each of these two central characters stubbornly follows a narrow example of what they believe to be their ideal lives and it isn't until they gain much greater insights that they start to question their determination. Selvadurai contrasts these individual stories with that of Ceylon's struggle towards self-government and independence which took place during the era in which the book is set. Having spent decades under colonial British rule, the Ceylonese people might have a chance to finally choose their own path, but of course, every possible ruling faction has their own ideas about what is best for everybody else.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Shyam Selvadurai / Historical fiction / Books from Sri Lanka

Friday, 19 March 2021

The Abominable Man by Sjowall and Wahloo

The Abominable Man by Sjowall and Wahloo
First published in Swedish as Den vedervärdige mannen från Säffle in Sweden in 1971.

How I got this book:
Borrowed the ebook from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The seventh classic instalment in this genre-changing series of novels featuring Detective Inspector Martin Beck.

On a quiet night a high-ranking police officer, Nyland, is slaughtered in his hospital bed, brutally massacred with a bayonet. It's not hard to find people with a motive to kill him; in fact the problem for Detective Inspector Martin Beck is how to narrow the list down to one suspect. But as he investigates Nyland's murder he must confront whether he is willing to risk his life for his job.

Written in the 1960s, these masterpieces are the work of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo – a husband and wife team from Sweden. The ten novels follow the fortunes of the detective Martin Beck, whose enigmatic, taciturn character has inspired countless other policemen in crime fiction. The novels can be read separately, but do follow a chronological order, so the reader can become familiar with the characters and develop a loyalty to the series. Each book will have a new introduction in order to help bring these books to a new audience.

I first blogged this review on Stephanie Jane in October 2015.

It's been months since I read any of Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck series. Dave had bought this seventh story, The Abominable Man, through his Amazon account so I got to share it via Family Library. As the novel was first published some forty years ago, I am including The Abominable Man as my 1970s read for the 2015-16 Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

The tense thriller had me gripped from the start and I couldn't put it down so read the whole book in an afternoon. This is one of the strongest storylines so far and I liked how Sjowall and Wahloo wove in biting criticism of the Swedish social system at the time without interrupting their narrative flow. The whole drama takes place in less than a day which is remarkably fast for this series, yet none of the intricate and careful plotting had been sacrificed. The large cast of characters, some new and some already known, are all realistically portrayed and I loved the sense of world-weariness that pervades every page. This is a thrilling thriller, but viewed through eyes that have already seen too much which gives it a distinctive voice. Many authors have since emulated Sjowall and Wahloo - in fact I have read uncannily similar plots in other books - but I would say that the Swedish series are still the best. And, other than the lack of technological gizmos, haven't dated at all.

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Books by Sjowall and Wahloo / Crime fiction / Books from Sweden

Thursday, 18 March 2021

It Happened In Tuscany by Gail Mencini + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from Mar 8 to April 2, 2021!

Book Details:

Book Title: It Happened in Tuscany by Gail Mencini
Category Adult Fiction (18+), 408 pages
Genre Mainstream Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher Capriole Group
Release date Feb 18 2020
Content Rating: PG-13. The novel includes violence in war scenes and non-explicit sex scenes, but not f-words, religious profanities, or crude terms as described. 

Book Description:

From the multiple-award-winning author of To Tuscany with Love comes a captivating story of the epic tug of war between honor and duty, the irrepressible power of love, and the concept of family.

In 1945, Will Mills and his fellow soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division scaled Italy’s treacherous Riva Ridge in the frigid night to break through the nearly impenetrable German line of defense. Severely wounded, Will was rescued by Italian partisans and one, a beautiful girl, tended his injuries until he had the strength to rejoin the U.S. troops.

Tormented and haunted by his decisions and actions during wartime, Will knows he has unfinished missions in Italy to complete. The passage of time and years of carrying this unfulfilled need have molded Will into a bitter, angry man.

Seventy-five years later, Will’s spunky thirty-two-year-old neighbor, Sophie Sparke, faces disaster in her life. Everything is going wrong—her job, her love life, even her dog. Part of the problem is that confident and fiercely independent Sophie lets her quick mouth get her into trouble.

Grouchy, mean-spirited Will finagles Sophie into traveling with him to Tuscany to find the partisan who saved his life. Will also secretly hopes to confront the demons his wartime actions created. Sophie and Will comb enchanting Tuscan hill towns on an improbable and unfolding mission with few clues to aid them. Will’s passionate tenacity drives their quest and in the process exposes their darkest secrets. The journey alters the course of their lives, and Will and Sophie find more than they had imagined in the hills of Tuscany.

Buy the Book:
Amazon ~ Audible
B&N ~ IndieBound ~ Apple

Meet the Author:

Gail Mencini is the acclaimed author of It Happened in Tuscany and To Tuscany with Love, both of which are Denver Post #1 bestsellers and award winners. Gail grew up in DeWitt, Nebraska, graduated from Wartburg College with a BA in Accounting and Economics, and earned a master of taxation degree from the University of Denver. A frequent visitor to Tuscany and a homegrown gourmet cook, Gail has toured Italy by car, train, bus, Vespa, and foot. She lives in Colorado with her husband.

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

Mar 8 –
Working Mommy Journal – book review / giveaway
Mar 8 - Cover Lover Book Review – book review / author interview / giveaway
Mar 9 – She Just Loves Books – audiobook review / giveaway
Mar 10 – Laura's Interests – audiobook review / giveaway
Mar 11 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Mar 12 – Stephanie Jane – book spotlight / giveaway
Mar 15 – I'm All About Books – book spotlight / giveaway
Mar 16 – Book Corner News and Reviews – book review / giveaway
Mar 17 – Library of Clean Reads – book review / giveaway
Mar 18 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
Mar 19 - Rockin' Book Reviews – audiobook review / guest post / giveaway
Mar 19 - Hall Ways Blog - audiobook review / giveaway
Mar 22 – Book World Reviews – book review
Mar 23 – Splashes of Joy – audiobook review / author interview / giveaway
Mar 23 - Viviana MacKade – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Mar 24 – High Society Book Club & Review – book review / author interview / giveaway
Mar 24 - Celticlady's Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Mar 25 –Pass Me That Book – book review  
Mar 25 - Lisa Everyday Reads  - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Mar 26 – Deborah-Zenha Adams – book spotlight / guest post
Mar 26 - Books Lattes & Tiaras – book review / giveaway
Mar 29 – Sadie Spotlight – book spotlight / giveaway
Mar 30 – StoreyBook Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Mar 31 – Pick a Good Book – book review / guest post / giveaway
Apr 1 – michellemengsbookblog3 – book review / author interview / giveaway
Apr 1 - Books for Books – book spotlight
Apr 2 - Locks, Hooks and Books – audiobook review / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:

Win 1 of 5 copies of IT HAPPENED IN TUSCANY (choice of signed print, ebook, or audiobook) or GRAND PRIZE (book plus high-quality canvas bag (6 winners) (USA only) (ends Apr 9)

 a Rafflecopter giveaway



Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Gail Mencini / Historical fiction / Books from America