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
Content Rating:  R. VIOLENCE, CRIME SCENE PHOTOS
 

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



Giveaway
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.


Search Literary Flits for more:
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

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Silence is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar


Silence is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar
Published by Borough Press on the 4th March 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A young woman spends her days watching the neighbours through their windows. She is a refugee, who has seen the failure of the Arab Spring in her homeland and who has been traumatized into silence by her brutal journey from Syria to Britain. 

As an outsider, a mute voyeur, she sees everything, she hears everything: the love, the fighting, the families, the secrets, the lies, the sex, the shame.  Slowly drawn into the community that surrounds her, she begins to come to terms with all she has lost. After a brutal attack on the local mosque, she realises she is the only witness to the truth behind the violence. But will she finally speak of all she's seen? 

Rear Window meets Exit West, this beautifully written novel tells the powerful story of one woman’s trauma and her gradual healing.

Silence Is A Sense is the second of Layla AlAmmar's novels that I have read, the first being The Pact We Made which also spoke for an unheard woman although one in very different circumstances. I am so glad to have now had this opportunity, through NetGalley, to read another of her works, because Silence Is A Sense is an incredible creation. It's one of those books that kept me utterly glued to its pages - I read almost all of it in one (very long!) sitting - and I was entranced by its shifting layers, concealing and revealing truths about our mute voyeur herself, about her immediate community, and about wider British society, especially our selfish expectations of traumatised immigrants and ways in which we react to disability.

I found myself frequently wincing at magazine editor, Josie's, exhortations that The Voiceless should steer clear of political commentary in her articles because readers only wanted her personal story of loss, or details of her traumatic journey. We want to see grateful, nonthreatening refugee images that allow us to feel good about ourselves because 'our country' has taken these needy people in, whether or not we individually contributed to that effort. We don't want those same refugees to voice uncomfortable truths about less-than-hospitable treatment here or, indeed, British-made bombs having driven them from their homes in the first place.

I particularly loved AlAmmar's portrayals of the people in the tower blocks surrounding our narrator. She picks out the distinctive aspects of their lives as seen through one window across a courtyard, seeing both the humorous and the poignant. This one estate has a microcosm of modern British society from a juice-obsessed fitness fanatic to a young girl just discovering her sexuality, from an abusive husband to a noisy cook. Silence Is A Sense is a wonderful slice-of-life novel as well as a story with deeper messages. It kept me thinking in the hours immediately after I had finished it and aspects keep occurring to me still, several days after finishing, as I make more connections . I think this book would benefit from multiple readings, with each one allowing me to focus on a particular layer, developing my understanding as I do so.


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Books by Layla AlAmmar / Contemporary fiction / Books from Kuwait

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

The Place Beyond Her Dreams by Oby Aligwekwe + #Giveaway + Excerpt

The Place Beyond Her Dreams
Oby Aligwekwe
Publication date: March 16th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

“We are most courageous at our weakest; when we believe we have faced what we fear the most and have nothing more to lose.”

Set against the backdrop of two warring towns, Oby Aligwekwe’s Young Adult debut—told from the viewpoint of her main character—is inspired by her West African heritage, fables, and spiritual beliefs. Ona’s journey reveals the power of choice, the true source of happiness, and, most importantly, the transformation one must go through to realize and eventually occupy their purpose.

At the sudden death of her grandfather, Ona’s pain transports her to mystical Luenah—a place of infinite possibilities, free of turf wars and other ills that plague the earthly dimension she lives in. In Luenah, where her grandfather awaits her, Ona learns she is an Eri, one bestowed with unique intuitive and spiritual gifts passed down from generation-to-generation.

On her eighteenth birthday, she returns to Luenah and is handed a box to deposit her ‘exchange’ for love and happiness—her greatest desires. Burdened by her quest, Ona crosses paths with danger and heartbreak as the two men that love her dearly are viciously pitted against each other. As evil looms, she learns that dreams carry a hefty price, and no one is who they seem. Now, she must unmask the villain and save the one she loves, even at the risk of losing everything she holds dear.

EXCERPT:

“How did I—I mean when did I become an Eri?” I asked wide-eyed.

“It started several millennia ago when Luenah was restricted to its original inhabitants—a handful of people living in utmost serenity and joy, never growing old or dying from diseases. Everything changed when a wily princess, Ani, found her way in through a portal in an ant hole. When she arrived in Luenah, panting from exertion, our ruler had taken pity and accepted her into our fold. With time, she proved to be loyal and imaginative, wildly so, that she found immense favor in his eyes, but she wanted more.”

“What did she want?” I urged.

“For her people on earth to inhabit Luenah. At the time, the earth was plagued with famine and diseases, and she felt Luenah would provide the respite they needed. As noble as the idea was, it wasn’t feasible.”

“Why not? There’s enough space here for everyone,” I claimed, looking around at the beauty and riches in Luenah.

“There’s enough space,” he agreed. “But there is no room in Luenah for conflict and turmoil. Look at Ide and Ntebe. See what has become of them.”
I nodded once, and he continued.

“A few years passed, and Ani presented her plea again. She threatened to expose the ant hole so her people could enter if our ruler failed to grant even a few ‘chosen ones’ access to live here.”

“Did they fall for it?” I asked, my heart beating in anticipation.

“The negotiation was tough, but they later struck a deal. Ani was permitted to select a handful of good earthly humans to visit Luenah. These humans, called Eris, were bestowed gifts to be passed on to chosen ones in their future generations, and they were assigned missions to help the earth regain its balance.”

“So, Eris are born?”

Author Bio:

Oby Aligwekwe is the author of Nfudu and Hazel House. Her Young Adult debut, The Place Beyond Her Dreams, takes readers on a magical journey to discover what matters most. Oby’s writings incorporate her favorite things: fashion; travel; business; humor; mystery, and strong female protagonists. She supports her community through her charity Éclat Beginnings.

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Books by Oby Aligwekwe / Young adult fiction / Books from Canada

Monday, 15 March 2021

7 Unicorn Drive by Dani Polajnar


7 Unicorn Drive: From Startup To A Billion Dollar Sale In 7 Years by Dani Polajnar
Published by Login5 Aphrodite Limited on the 28th February 2021. English language translation by Noah Charney.

A Book with Vegans and included in my Vegan Bookshop

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In this head-twirling business memoir, the founders of a billion-dollar tech startup prove how putting purpose before profit, and cultivating people-first leadership, results in massive financial success.

Between the covers of the book is a...

BEYOND PROFIT MINDSET that carries the flag for conscious leaders of businesses that address the real needs of time and space. Iza and Samo Login didn't even know what they were going to sell when they started... But the purpose of entering philanthropy powered them to 5 billion downloads of their apps!

GUIDE INTO THE SPIRITUAL. This success story was manifested in advance. The founders set audaciously high goals and surpassed them x10. The book demonstrates the under-used tools for realizing and sticking with your big dreams.

FLASHLIGHT LEADERSHIP MODEL that visualizes all of the must-have components of a billion-dollar business in a simple way; as parts of a flashlight. A battle-proven way to establish strong company culture.

LOVE STORY of Iza and Samo Login, the first married couple in the world to build a unicorn business together.

This review was first blogged on my Ko-Fi as one of my Friday Reads recommendations.

I chose to read 7 Unicorn Drive for its Slovene authorship, my second WorldReads book from this country, rather than because I previously knew anything about Iza and Samo Login or their stupendously successful startup business. I don't tend to read many business-themed books, but was delighted that this one inspired me in a similar way to Manifesto, Dale Vince's ecological energy memoir. The Login's company, named Outfit7, devised and created the popular Talking Tom and Friends apps (a trend which completely passed me by) and this book tells their story.

I loved that the book focuses on the company's culture and ethos, demonstrating repeatedly that one needed insist upon a hard-hearted capitalist business model in order to succeed. 7 Unicorn Drive invents an American journalist, Danny, to represent an everyman reader and this device helps to highlight the differences between standard practices and how Outfit7 operated. To be honest, while I could understand why Polajnar utilised the Danny character in this way, I'm not sure that relating his back story in such great detail really benefits the book. When I discovered he was fictional, I did feel a bit cheated and wondered how much else had been made up for the book. That said, the Logins beautiful life philosophy, philanthropic aims, and veganism appealed strongly to my sense that we all need to find new ways of living and working together if humans are to survive this century with anything like our current infrastructures and societies. Iza's firm belief in spirituality and interconnectedness makes for a great path to follow. If only the Outfit7 insistence on living their mottoes and truly valuing their staff could widely influence the current generation of entrepreneurs.


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Books by Dani Polajnar / Biography and memoir / Books from Slovenia

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Nightmares by Dan Sihota


Nightmares by Dan Sihota
Self published in the UK in September 2015.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A collection of stories which chill the senses with tales of vivid imagery. Prepare to be drawn into worlds of dark innermost secrets, bleak violence, and ancient lore.

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

Nightmares author, Dan Sihota, politely contacted me through Goodreads to ask if I would be interested in reading and reviewing his book. The short story collection is independently published and consists of nine tales which Sihota describes as 'modern horror'. This means no vampires, but instead spooky tales that incorporate mysticism, spirits and supernatural happenings.

I am not particularly a horror fan so appreciated the lack of gratuitous gore although one story, Torture, was too relentlessly sadistic for me so I did speed-read it! Sihota writes diverse characters from different cultures and his stories are set in Britain, India and America. I liked The Bus Journey and The Field best - two very different tales, but with interesting settings, characters and final flourishes that were satisfying. I think tighter editing could help with creating a stronger sense of atmosphere. The prose does tend to ramble and divert at times which, in the build-up, can work well as a wave heightening and then releasing tension. However, I did find it distracting when stories reached their climax and would have preferred sharper focus. As in a genuine nightmare, several tales stop suddenly - almost like a waking up - which is an interesting device and works well.

I am pleased to have read Nightmares and am happy to recommend it, in October, as a good Halloween collection. Just maybe not as a book for bedtime! 


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Books by Dan Sihota / Horror fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 13 March 2021

The House With Twelve Rooms by Stefani Christova + #FreeBook


The House With Twelve Rooms by Stefani Christova
Published by Ignis Books in January 2014.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Published in various literary journals between 2006 and 2012, the stories that make up this collection have enjoyed reprints, translations, and podcasting. Each of the stories touches on the themes of solitude and the unattainable longings of the heart. 
The author’s version of reality is that of her Bulgarian forebears--a reality that is lusher and more colorful, and keeps a door ajar for the unexpected; yet it feels more convincing than our day-to-day lives. 
 
I needed a fifth Bulgarian-authored book to complete my WorldReads quintet for that country and am thrilled to have discovered this gem by Stefani Christova on Smashwords. A collection of eight short stories including the title story, The House With Twelve Rooms, which is actually the final story, this book has a wonderfully dark and surreal atmosphere to it. A woman leaves her home by climbing a rope ladder to the sky, a village is almost entirely inhabited by ghosts (only two homes lack their own specific hauntings), another woman keeps a coffin for her eleven-year-old self in the garage. I loved how Christova sets the ordinary and mundane against outlandish images and unusual characters. These tales have a hint of fairytale inspiration mixed with vivid magical realism and Christova's unique voice. I think my only complaint could be that there are only eight stories here to read. I felt I could happily have spent at least twice as long within these pages.


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Books by Stefani Christova / Short stories / Books from Bulgaria

Friday, 12 March 2021

The Beasts They Turned Away by Ryan Dennis


The Beasts They Turned Away by Ryan Dennis
Published by Epoque Press on the 11th March 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Iosac Mulgannon is a man called to stand. Losing a grip on his mental and physical health, he is burdened with looking after a mute child whom the local villagers view as cursed. The aging farmer stubbornly refuses to succumb in the face of adversity and will do anything, at any cost, to keep hold of his farm and the child. This dark and lyrical debut novel confronts a claustrophobic rural community caught up in the uncertainties of a rapidly changing world.

I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read The Beasts They Turned Away, an astounding novel by Ryan Dennis which vividly portrays Iosac Mulgannon's grim, just-scraping-by existence on his long-neglected farm. For the opening scene where Iosac dumps a dead cow's corpse I knew this was going to be a uniquely powerful novel and I remained utterly engrossed by every page. That said, The Beasts They Turned Away is bleak. It does have its lighter scenes - mainly depicting three perpetually drunken ex-farmers in the pub - but I couldn't say it is an enjoyable read! From having initially been horrified by Iosac's apparent callousness towards his animals, I grew to feel pity for his predicament, made so much worse by his stubbornness in clinging to the life he has always known despite everything, from the farm buildings to his own mental health, obviously irreparably collapsing around him. Dennis gradually allows us insights into why Iosac has ended up so isolated so I could understand his brusque ways. The mute child is an eerie character and I did wonder, at first, whether the boy actually existed outside of Iosac's mind. He does and his silent presence gives the whole story a deeply unsettling atmosphere. That Iosac is always doing his very best, for the boy and for his farm, is what makes The Beasts They Turned Away such a poignant read. If only he made just a little more money, or was twenty years younger and fitter, then there might be genuine hope for his future. Instead, I felt I always knew this story would not end well. 


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Books by Ryan Dennis / Contemporary fiction / Books from Ireland

Thursday, 11 March 2021

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue


How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
Published by Canongate on the 11th March 2021.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations are made – and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest only. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. But their fight will come at a steep price . . . one which generation after generation will have to pay.

Told through the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.

How Beautiful We Were is an environmental novel exploring how an American oil company's irresponsible practices and lack of care causes the gradual death of a small African village, Kosawa, from pollution. It'a David and Goliath story of a powerless people attempting to establish their right to Not have their farmlands regularly flooded by leaking oil pipes and Not to have their river used as a dumping ground for industrial waste. In the face of commercial and political greed through, and with the distant decision makers unaffected personally, Kosawa's Sisyphean struggle will take generations to be resolved.

Having already read a couple of early reviews, I was prepared for the change of pace that occurs after about a fifth of the novel. It's a realistic reflection of the changes of mindset in Kosawa, but I did find the device to be a little disconcerting as a reader. I wondered if a stronger Part 1 and Part 2 distinction would help? The leaders of Kosawa realise that the swift favourable response they had been led to expect from Pexton, the oil company, is just the first in many obstacles and the whole process will be stacked in favour of money, not lives.

Mbue tells her story from several increasingly desperate perspectives which I liked as it allowed me to hear a whole chorus of Kosawan voices. The primarily agricultural village would already have been struggling against modernity, but being sold out so others can profit appears to be the final straw. What Mbue effectively puts across here is  for how long these people must suffer in isolation. Kosawa is a single fictional community, but its story is being repeated for real in hundreds, probably thousands, of impoverished communities across the globe right now. It's all very well for us in the rich countries to tut and sigh and maybe donate a tenner towards a school bus to alleviate our consciences. However, until we stop expecting people with far less than ourselves to pay the price for our luxuries, How Beautiful We Were is a story that will continue to ring uncomfortably true.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Imbolo Mbue / Historical fiction / Books from Cameroon