Sunday, 30 May 2021

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin
Published in the UK by Inspired Quill yesterday, the 29th May 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

A brother and sister separated for fifty years and the idealistic young social worker who tries to reunite them. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

Told with compassion and humour, Anne Goodwin’s third novel is a poignant, compelling and brilliantly authentic portrayal of asylum life, with a quirky protagonist you won’t easily forget.

I quickly grew to love the character of Matilda Windsor. She has had to resort to an imagined inner life in order to cope with the extreme unfairness of her life, and I was fascinated by her interpretations of life within the longterm psychiatric institution. Anne Goodwin tells Matilda's story from three viewpoints and I really appreciated how this gave me much deeper insights into British mental health services at a time of great change in the 1980s. There is a real clash of ideologies between the old guard who treat patients as little more than recalcitrant children, and new social work staff who encourage them to develop their own opinions and make individual choices. I remembered several of the wider world events alluded to throughout the novel and felt the atmosphere of that era came through in an authentic way.

Goodwin contrasts how Matilda's life was restricted in the 1930s with how her social worker, Jen, lives at the same age fifty years later. I thought this worked brilliantly well to illustrate the differences between social attitudes in the two eras, but the prejudice against people with mental health problems persisted with certain local residents being angered by the thought of a care in the community home being located in their particular community. Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is such a poignant novel and I am relieved that women are no longer treated as shabbily as Matilda was throughout her life. 

Etsy Find!
by Dolly and Dotty UK

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Anne Goodwin / Historical fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Live Like Your Head's On Fire by Sally-Anne Lomas

Live Like Your Head's On Fire by Sally-Anne Lomas
Published in the UK by Story Machine on the 9th March 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For 20% off your paperback copy, enter the code BlogTour when checking out at Story Machine

When fifteen year-old Pen Flowers climbs out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night to dance in the empty streets, she ignites a flame in herself that will change everything.

I don't often read young adult books but was drawn to give Live Like Your Head's On Fire a try because of its dance theme and for its intriguing title. As it turned out, once I started reading the first few pages I was completely hooked and didn't look up again until several hours later - feeling pretty steam rollered by Pen's story (and also a bit thirsty!) I loved how Sally-Anne Lomas captured not only Pen's emotional confusion, but also the way in which other people's actions impinged on her state of mind. I can still (just about) remember how bewildering being a teenager can be. Pen's experience is additionally complicated by needing to care for her young brother and navigate her mother's agoraphobia and shaky mental health. 

Live Like Your Head's On Fire showed me just how vital access to arts subjects is school is, especially for young people needing an escape. Lomas understands perfectly how Pen is freed from her everyday concerns by her dancing talent and I was impressed by how she translated this to us readers. Pen's language when she talks about dancing is totally different so I could genuinely feel how fired up she became once she was lost in the music that inspired her. I frequently felt quite inspired myself!

Although different in their subjects and countries, Live Like Your Head's On Fire's themes of finding one's own passion and identity reminded me of two other young adult novels I've previously enjoyed. I would highly recommend this book to fans of The Diary of a Late Bloomer by L.M.L Gil and The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. 

Etsy Find!
by Paintings Art Prints

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

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Books by Sally-Anne Lomas / Young adult fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 27 May 2021

What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle

What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle
Published in the UK by Epoque Press today, the 27th May 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sharing stories of myths, legends and ancient bogs, a deaf child and her grandmother experiment with the lyrical beauty of sign language. Learning to communicate through their shared love of trees they find solace in the shapes and susurrations of leaves in the wind. A poignant tale of family bonding and the quiet acceptance of change.

I was impressed with Lynn Buckle's prose when I read her previous novel, The Groundsmen, in 2018. I'm now absolutely blown away by What Willow Says. I loved how this stunning portrayal of the relationship between a grandmother and the deaf granddaughter, for whom she is the primary carer, allowed me to genuinely see the world from their perspectives. The book is written as a series or journal entries that follow the passing seasons. At its heart is an exploration of communication, clearly demonstrating that the ways in which we 'talk' to each other need not be restricted simply to speaking and hearing, and that a child's own natural expressiveness can often be far clearer and deeper than any officially sanctioned language.

I felt some of the themes in What Willow Says reflect those of Jon McGregor's Lean Fall Stand, another of my recent reads that focusing around non-traditional communication methods, but emotionally I was reminded of The Beasts They Turned Away by Ryan Dennis. Buckle's evocations of the natural world and its historic Irish folklore transported me to those places. I felt as though I was alongside the grandmother and granddaughter as they each tried to explain their experiences to the other - feeling the rumble of a nearby tractor or portraying whispering leaves in sign language. Theirs becomes such an intense, yet beautiful relationship and Buckle kept me entranced throughout their story. For me, reading What Willow Says almost felt more like listening to music or watching dance than turning the pages of a book.

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Books by Lynn Buckle / Contemporary fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw

Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw
Published in the UK by Ringwood Publishing today, the 26th May 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.

But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.

Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.

Everyday Magic is an uplifting book filled with humour and poignancy, and reminds us that, while our pasts make us who we are, we can always change the course of our futures.

I've enjoyed four of Charlie Laidlaw's previous books so was delighted to be offered this opportunity to read and review a copy of his newest novel, Everyday Magic. It's a heartwarming and uplifting story of a woman, Carole (with an e) who's got to a point where she feels her life is passing her by. Having formerly been a driven, respected archaeologist, she doesn't exactly regret having put her family ahead of her career, but now her husband and teenage daughter don't seem to need her as they once did, Carole is starting to feel frustrated with her lot. It's a situation with which, I am sure, many women can identify and I thought Laidlaw's portrayal of Carole was insightful and sympathetic. Fortunately, in a fun bout of automated magical realism, Carole's 'friends', Sat Nav Lady and Alexa, start pushing her to reconsider and relive her past decisions.

I did feel at times that Everyday Magic was a little too meandering a story for my tastes, but that's not to say that I ever got bored with it. I loved stepping back into the past alongside Carole as she rediscovered what used to be important to her. I'm also now inspired to visit her favourite Neolithic sites in the far North of Scotland - her archaeological enthusiasm certainly got though to me even if it didn't quite fire up her family to quite the same extent. Plus Laidlaw has a great sense of humour which had me chuckling away on several occasions. Poor Granny!

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Charlie Laidlaw / Contemporary fiction / Books from Scotland

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

The Plantagenet Chronicles by Derek Wilson

The Plantagenet Chronicles 1154-1485: Richard the Lionheart, Richard II, Henry V, Richard III by Derek Wilson

Published by Metro Books in January 2011.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plantagenet is the name given to the English royal house descended from the union of Queen Matilda of England and her second husband Geoffrey of Anjou. The name derived from Geoffrey's nickname, which came from the sprig of broom (planta genet) which he wore in his hat. The Plantagenets ruled England for more than three hundred years, from the accession of reign of the dynasty's founder, Matilda and Geoffrey's son, Henry II, in 1154, to the death of the last Plantagenet, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The Plantagenets: The Kings That Made Britain is a compelling, year-by-year chronology of a tumultuous and critical period in the development of the English nation. Each year is covered by a concise, informative and accessible narrative, amplified by extensive quotation from contemporary sources and accompanied by generously captioned and stunning images of the period - including illuminations, portraits, maps, royal seals, tapestries and other artefacts. Authoritative, informative and sumptuous, and compiled by a scholar who is steeped in knowledge of the period, The Plantagenets: The Kings That Made Britain brings a critical era of English history dramatically and vividly to life. It is the perfect gift book for anyone with a love of, or fascination for, medieval English history.

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

Having recently listened to an audiobook about The Vikings, I skipped the Norman invasion of Britain and rejoined our history with William The Conqueror's descendants still ruling at the beginning of the Plantagenet era. Derek Wilson's book is another overview and covers three hundred(ish) years from Henry II until the ascension of Henry Tudor in 1485. There are interesting snippets throughout the book including the Plantagenet name being the result of a sprig of broom, 'planta genet' in latin, worn in Geoffrey d'Anjou's hat. I learned that the Robin Hood era kings, brothers Richard (the Lionheart) and (bad king) John were actually remarkably similar characters, their historical remembrance as polar opposites the result of biased medieval Christian scribes - Richard only murdered and robbed Muslims overseas, John robbed Christian clergy within England. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose!

Huge social changes took place during the Plantagenet era such as the writing of Magna Carta (one surviving example of which we saw in Lincoln), the beginnings of Lollardy and individual religious freedom, the Peasant's Revolt, and the horrific plague years which saw the peasant class finding themselves with glimmerings of real power for the first. Unfortunately, Wilson gives these only brief mentions as most of the book, regardless of which King is on the throne, is a ceaseless round of war after war after war. The Plantagenets were essentially Normans who spoke French and saw their Kingdom as stretching from the Scottish borders straight down to southern France. The French disagreed, as did the Scots, Welsh and, on occasion, the Castilian Spanish, resulting in a merry-go-round of battles over the same bits of land that does make for dry reading, especially when sons are named for fathers. I frequently found myself with deja-vu!

Much of the military information in The Plantagenets I know has failed to sink in and I had to force myself to keep reading at times. For this reason I wavered between two and three stars, eventually setting on three as the history is well-written in itself. I just would have preferred more about the Kings' and the peoples' day-to-day lives.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Derek Wilson / History / Books from England

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Bonbons (astral) by Francis P Savinien

Bonbons by Francis P. Savinien
First published in 1909.

How I got this book: Downloaded from ForgottenBooks

My rating:
3 of 5 stars

The best short poems in many a decade. (Times) A small volume of highly artistic verse. The writer is a master of new measures. (Athenaeum) Bonbons adds a new fragrance and a new colour to poesy. (Spectator) Some of these short poems will rank with the best in the language. (Truth)

"Save me, for God's sake, save !" This is the cry,
The thrilling cry, of all humanity,
But he who hearkens falls
And o'er his hopes, o'er all he worshipped by,
The reeking mass of sore humanity,
One solid reptile, crawls.

The poems presented in this collection address the central themes of existence: the nature of humanity, life and death, love and hate, faith and freedom.

A quick read, Bonbons accomplishes what all poets set out to do, which is to illuminate life itself through artistic verse and a sense of craftsmanship of the English language. This collection is an enjoyable read and highly recommended for all poetry lovers 

I first blogged this review on Stephanie Jane in June 2015. I've since discovered that Bonbons was first published in 1909.

My first ForgottenBooks download for a while is this undated poetry collection by Francis P Savinien who, I think from his spelling, was an American poet. The book itself is undated and contains a few dozen short poems mostly quite overwrought affairs about life, death and love. Several are named for mythical people such as Bacchus, Eros, Medusa and the like. The writing style put me in mind of the art nouveau period but I'm not sure why!

I did enjoy reading these poems. Savinien employs different rhyming and rhythm devices to maintain interest, some more successfully than others. This isn't a volume that I think I would keep to return to, but reading it was a pleasant way to pass an evening.

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Books by Francis P Savinien / Poetry / Books from America

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor

Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor
Published in the UK by Fourth Estate on the 29th April 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The highly anticipated new novel from the Costa-award winning, three-times Booker-longlisted author of Reservoir 13.

When an Antarctic research expedition goes wrong, the consequences are far-reaching – for the men involved and for their families back home.
Robert "Doc" Wright, a veteran of Antarctic field work, holds the clues to what happened, but he is no longer able to communicate them. While Anna, his wife, navigates the sharp contours of her new life as a carer, Robert is forced to learn a whole new way to be in the world.
Award-winning novelist Jon McGregor returns with a stunning novel that mesmerizingly and tenderly unpicks the notion of heroism and explores the indomitable human impulse to tell our stories – even when words fail us. A meditation on the line between sacrifice and selfishness this is a story of the undervalued, unrecognised courage it can take just to get through the day.

Reservoir 13 was one of my favourite novels of 2019 so, when I spotted the chance to read a review copy of Jon McGregor's new novel, Lean Fall Stand, via NetGalley, I didn't hesitate to request it. McGregor uses this story to thoughtfully explore concepts of communication and heroism and I was absolutely captivated by it from the first page to the last. Similarly to Reservoir 13, Lean Fall Stand is a slow-paced, character-driven work that uses clever wordplay and mirroring to impart its ideas. I appreciated how malfunctioning radios and satellite phones are responsible for thwarted communications in the Antarctic, whereas damaged brain cells fulfil that function in England. Robert as an Antarctic explorer embodies our traditional idea of heroism, yet I understood his struggles to overcome his injury and Anna's efforts to keep her job and household functioning while caring for and supporting him, to be just as heroic even though society at large tends to overlook such everyday bravery. I loved how McGregor portrayed each of his characters through speech and silence, allowing me to fully understand their predicaments and also their motivations, both positive and negative. The pace change from the initial fast-moving Antarctic accident to the slow pull towards recovery worked very well for me. Even though I didn't particularly like either of them, I found myself willing Robert and Anna on to persevere and hoping that the investigation team would not destroy the fragile new relationship they were trying to build. Lean Fall Stand won't be a novel that appeals to every reader, but I loved it!

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Books by Jon McGregor / Contemporary fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Reflections on the Nature of Friendship by Daniel Cantor Yalowitz + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from May 4 to May 24, 2021!

Book Details:

Book Title:  Reflections on the Nature of Friendship
Author:  Daniel Cantor Yalowitz, Ed.D.
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction (18+), 336 pages
Genre:  Psychology, Self-Help
Publisher:  Booksmyth
Release date:  Feb 2021
Formats Available: print-softback, ebook

Content Rating:  G. No bad language, sex scenes, or anything objectionable


Book Description:

Reflections on the Nature of Friendship is a rich, nuanced journey that delves deeply into the fascinating and complex world of friendship. Psychologist and world-traveler Dr. Daniel Cantor Yalowitz takes readers on a carefully narrated tour into the heart of what human beings need and bring to their chosen relationships. Reflections examines what makes friendships work, thrive, and connect people with one another. Using quotes across place, time, and culture, this book includes salient and seminal chapters on Identity, Longing and Belonging, Boundaries, and more, including three case studies that explore primary friendships within the author’s life. Using examples from literature, poetry, film, and music,Dr. Yalowitz brings deeper understanding about building stronger, healthier, and sustainable friendships.

Buy the Book:

Reflections on the Nature of Friendship is a deeper and more scholarly work than I had expected. Daniel Cantor Yalowitz explores the concept of friendship in all its aspects giving illustrative examples from his own experience as well as quoting a number of other astute sources on the subject from Rumi to Jane Austen. I appreciated how each chapter focused on a different theme and, rather than reading straight through at my usual rapid pace, I found it more helpful to take a break between chapters. This allowed me time to fully contemplate the thoughts Yalowitz stirred up. The chapter about befriending oneself rang particularly true as, personally, I find it easier to reach out and to interest myself in others since undertaking work to truly understand myself.

I have certainly found myself seeing my own friendships in a different light as a result of reading this wonderfully insightful book. In fact I was prompted to write to a neglected friend as soon as I finished the book, Yalowitz's thoughts on how some friendships survive over periods of inactivity and others don't spurring me to not risk losing that particular connection through my own inactivity. I think Reflections on the Nature of Friendship is a book to savour and to work through. Yalowitz includes various simple exercises at certain points and I envisage returning to them again in months or years as a way to gauge my own path. His advocacy of practices such as meditation and tai chi reminded me that I meant to look into these further after reading Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and am still to do so. 

I think Reflections on the Nature of Friendship would be an invaluable read for people who want a deeper understanding of the psychological and emotional responses underpinning human friendships, especially in situations where we find ourselves repeating negative patterns or feeling at a loss for how to repair a valued friendship that seems to be running our of steam. It is an excellent resource also for pre-emptive understanding of the mechanics of this most fundamental of human needs, one which is more often taken for granted than fully appreciated.

Meet the Author:

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz, Ed.D., is a developmental and intercultural psychologist and an international consultant/trainer focusing on team-building, human intelligences, conflict transformation, and intercultural communication and competence. He focuses his work on building greater awareness and deeper awareness of the importance of creating sustainable relationships, especially meaningful friendships. He brings all these emphases into focus in his most recent book, Reflections on the Nature of Friendship.

connect with the author:  website ~ facebook ~ goodreads

  Tour Schedule:

May 4 -
Cover Lover Book Review – book spotlight / giveaway
May 5 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
May 5 - What Polly Reads – book review/ giveaway
May 6 – Over Coffee Conversations – book review / giveaway
May 7 – Books Lattes & Tiaras – book spotlight / giveaway
May 10 – Splashes of Joy – book review / author interview / giveaway
May 11 – Lisa's Reading – book spotlight / giveaway
May 12 – Jazzy Book Reviews – gook spotlight / giveaway
May 13 – A Mama's Corner of the World – book review / giveaway
May 14 – Sefina Hawke's Books – book spotlight / giveaway
May 17 – Deborah-Zenha Adams – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 19 –Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
May 20 – Literary Flits – book review / giveaway
May 21- Books for Books – book spotlight
May 24 – Adventurous Jessy – book review / giveaway
May 24 - Gina Rae Mitchell - book spotlight / giveaway
May 26 - Fur Everywhere - book review / giveaway
June 1 – Brittany’s Book Reviews – book review

Enter the Giveaway:  
Win a $25 gift card courtesy of the author. Open internationally until the 31st May.

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz's REFLECTIONS ON THE NATURE OF FRIENDSHIP Book Tour Giveaway



Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Daniel Cantor Yalowitz / Psychology books / Books from America

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Throne Of Jade by Naomi Novik

Throne Of Jade by Naomi Novik
Published in America by Del Rey in April 2006.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

History takes flight in the second book of Naomi Novik’s deliciously addictive series which captures the Napoleonic period perfectly and skillfully layers the timeline with imagination by adding a Dragon Air Force to the battle for England.

Captain William Laurence of the British Air Corps and his dragon, Temeraire, begin their slow voyage to China, fearful that upon landing they will be forced to part by Imperial decree.

Temeraire is a Celestial dragon, the most highly-prized of all draconic breeds; famed for their intelligence, agility and most of all for the Divine Wind – their terrible roar capable of shattering the heavy timbers of war ships, shattering woodland and destroying other dragons mid-flight. Temeraire’s egg was captured and claimed by the British at sea, but he was meant to be the companion of the Emperor Napoleon and not captained by a mere officer in the British Air Corps.

The Chinese have demanded his return and the British cannot refuse them – they cannot afford to provoke the asian super-power into allying themselves with the French – even if it costs them the most powerful weapon in their arsenal and inflicts the most unimaginable pain upon Laurence and his dragon.

I eagerly grabbed a good condition paperback copy of Throne Of Jade when I spotted it in a village book exchange cabinet last week. I knew nothing about the Temeraire series, but simply remembered how much I had previously enjoyed reading Uprooted and was keen to experience more of her work. As it turned out, it didn't matter to me that Throne Of Jade is the second Temeraire novel because I was easily able to pick up the premise and loved how Novik has imagined a flying dragon corps into British history. Despite this obviously incongruity, the novel did feel like light historical fiction and I had no trouble in completely believing in dragons' existence within the world she created. The relationship between Temeraire and his captain, Laurence, is convincingly portrayed. I particularly appreciated the time given over to showing the depth of their emotional bond which allowed me to really feel their angst at potential separation in China.

The story is written from a British viewpoint so I was disappointed that the Chinese contingent didn't get the same detailed characterisation as their Western counterparts. I even noticed a stereotypical 'inscrutable' at one point, but that aside I thoroughly enjoyed the hours I spent immersed in this beautifully built world. Novik includes lots of vivid detail, some historical and some fantasy, and I was impressed by how well the two aspects melded together. I have now added book one of the series to my wishlist so I can go back and find out what had already happened to Temeraire and Laurence.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Naomi Novik / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Saturday, 15 May 2021

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
Published in Spanish as La niña alemana in October 2016.English language translation by Nick Caistor published by Simon And Schuster in January 2017.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The German Girl sweeps from Berlin at the brink of WWII to Cuba on the cusp of revolution, to New York in the wake of September 11th, before reaching its deeply moving conclusion in the tumult of present-day Havana. Based on a true story, this wonderful novel gives voice to the joys and sorrows of generations of exiles, forever seeking a place called home. 

Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in swastikas and Hannah is no longer welcome in the places she once considered home.

A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St Louis, a transatlantic liner that promises Jews safe passage to Cuba. The Rosenthals sell everything to fund visas and tickets. At first the liner feels like luxury, but as they travel the circumstances of war change, and it soon becomes their prison.

Seven decades later in New York, on her twelfth birthday Anna Rosen receives a package from Hannah, the great-aunt she never met but who raised her deceased father. Anna and her mother immediately travel to Cuba to meet this elderly relative, and for the first time Hannah tells them the untold story of her voyage on the St Louis.

The German Girl is a dual timeline novel which tells of the experiences of two twelve year old girls, Hannah and Anna, seventy five years apart. The story is told from their alternating perspectives so, as readers, we only understand as much of what is going on around them as Hannah and Anna do. I quite liked this approach because it gave an engaging immediacy to the narration, however it was also occasionally frustrating because I wanted greater depth of information about certain events that the girls only alluded to in passing. I was also disappointed at how passive all the adult women are. I understand that Correa wanted to demonstrate parallels between Hannah and Anna, but having both their mothers disengage from general life so similarly seemed forced to me.

I did appreciate the opportunity to learn the story of the St Louis exodus which I don't think I'd read before although the 'Benitez visas' idea seemed familiar to me so I think I had previously heard of that aspect of it at least. The German Girl describes a less harrowing side to the Jewish ethic cleansing during World War Two and the prose style necessitated by its young narrators made this novel feel like a young adult read rather than historical war fiction, which isn't a detraction although it was initially unexpected. Overall I found this book to be a very readable fictionalisation of the St Louis tragedy.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Armando Lucas Correa / War fiction / Books from Cuba

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Garden In A Seed by Nazanin Mirsadeghi

Garden In A Seed by Nazanin Mirsadeghi
Published by Bahar Books on the 27th March 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

GARDEN IN A SEED is a collection of modern poems touching on the subjects of self-worth, love, loss, and survival. The poems in this collection reflect the emotional struggles of women, especially when it comes to discovering their true and authentic voices. These short poems shed light on the enormous strengths hidden in the human soul. They remind us that despite experiencing despair and sorrow, we are all capable of healing.

I was so happy when Nazanin Mirsadeghi got in touch to offer me a review copy of her powerful new poetry collection, Garden In A Seed, which is beautifully complemented by Nasim Etemad's graceful illustrations. Mirsadeghi's previous collection, a jarful of moonlight, was one of the highlights of my reading last year so I approached Garden In A Seed with high hopes. I am delighted to say that I wasn't disappointed! This poet has such an amazing talent for cutting straight to the heart of her themes with just a few perfectly chosen words and, it is fair to say, I do harbour some envy!

The collection comprises mostly short verses, some barely longer than haiku, yet I could understand and empathise fully with every emotion portrayed. Garden In A Seed is very much a woman's journey through love and life, though that's not to say that male readers would not appreciate this poetry too. None of the poems are individually titled, but they are grouped by theme which allows the whole book to tell a profound story of overcoming a failed love affair, regrouping emotionally, and finding joy in new romance. 

I will quote two of the poems that really spoke to me to give a flavour of Garden In A Seed and enthusiastically urge all other poetry fans reading this review to give the work a try. Nazanin Mirsadeghi has cemented herself as one of my absolute favourite poets with Garden In A Seed.

You can look at
and old rotten bridge
and see nothing 
but lumber and rope

or you can wonder 
where it goes

* * * * *

You think 
I have to follow you
everywhere you go

sit if you sit
run if you run
fall when you fall

I will stand still and tall
I am not your shadow on the wall

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Nazanin Mirsadeghi / Poetry / Books from Iran

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Death Drives an Audi by Kristian Bang Foss

Death Drives an Audi by Kristian Bang Foss
First published in Danish as Døden kører Audi by Gyldendal in 2012. English language translation by Caroline Waight published by Parthian Books on the 1st May 2021.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kristian Bang Foss’s darkly comic, prize-winning road-novel satire sees two unlikely friends set out to defy the Danish welfare state – and Death himself – with both hilarious and tragic consequences.

Life is looking pretty bleak for Asger. After a fiasco at work finds him unceremoniously booted from both his advertising job and his family home, he finds himself the carer of Waldemar, arguably Denmark’s sickest man. Their initial days together in a Copenhagen ghetto only serve to pile on the hopelessness. But then Waldemar hatches a plan: fabled healer Torbi el Mekki offers a miracle cure to all who seek an audience. Only thing is, he’s in Morocco – over two thousand miles and another continent away. Piling into a beaten up Volkswagen, the two set off on a zany road trip across Europe towards a dubious salvation. But it soon seems they may have unwanted company, for on their tail is a pitch-black Audi...

I was disappointed to not have enjoyed this satirical novel more than I did. It's a very readable tale of two very different people bonding in unlikely circumstances and Foss, together with Waight's translation, does an amazing job of bringing the varied locations to life. His descriptions of the dismal social housing tower blocks in Stentofte was particularly vivid, making it easy to understand why the people who lived there were so unmotivated and despondent.

Neither Asger or Waldemar are typical literary heroes and Asger's initial self-centred attitude meant I didn't like him much, but his burgeoning friendship with Waldemar does redeem him to a certain extent. It is unusual for such a chronically ill character as Waldemar to take a leading role in this way and I liked seeing how he blossomed mentally once his dream of escaping Stentofte became a reality. I hope Foss' portrayal is realistic. The one character I felt was underused was Death himself. The mysterious setup is cleverly done, but I didn't think its early promise really came to fruition which was a shame.

Overall I enjoyed reading Death Drives An Audi. There are darkly humorous moments, although I didn't spot any 'hilarious consequences' as per the synopsis. I did however frequently feel as though I wasn't quite on the same page as Asger and Waldemar so much of their humour was probably lost on me. It was a bit like being the designated driver at a drunken party, hearing the same joke s everyone else, but not understanding why they have all dissolved into hysterics.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Kristian Bang Foss / Contemporary fiction / Books from Denmark

Saturday, 8 May 2021

At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop

At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop
First published in French as Frère d'âme in August 2018. English language translation by Anna Moschovakis published by Pushkin Press on the 11th November 2020.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alfa and Mademba are two of the many Senegalese soldiers fighting in the Great War. Together they climb dutifully out of their trenches to attack France's German enemies whenever the whistle blows, until Mademba is wounded, and dies in a shell hole with his belly torn open. 

Without his more-than-brother, Alfa is alone and lost amidst the savagery of the conflict. He devotes himself to the war, to violence and death, but soon begins to frighten even his own comrades in arms. How far will Alfa go to make amends to his dead friend? 

At Night All Blood is Black is a hypnotic, heartbreaking rendering of a mind hurtling towards madness. 

At Night All Blood Is Black is a powerful historical fiction novel set in the French trenches of World War One. Written from the perspective of Senegalese soldier, Alfa, it vividly depicts this man's rapidly declining mental health in the aftermath of witnessing his best friend's drawn out and agonising death in No Man's Land. I feel that this novel would appeal to readers of Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' trilogy in its understanding and portrayal of how the horrific Great War conditions drove so many soldiers to the brink of insanity and, in this case, far beyond that line.

I found several scenes difficult to read because of the grim violence they describe. The path Alfa chooses to follow is extreme, yet makes perfect sense when viewed from the disturbed turmoil of his mind. What particularly interested me too was how his fellow surviving soldiers initially applauded and encouraged his actions. Diop's first-person narration has an enthralling, poetic quality which I found compelling. Despite his monstrous actions, Alfa always came across to me as a broken man, not as the evil demon his comrades see.

It is rare to find a Great War novel written from a non-white point of view - a timely reminder of the thousands of African and Asian soldiers who were conscripted into European-led armies only to have their sacrifices downplayed and overlooked afterwards. I am grateful to Pushkin Press for translating At Night All Blood Is Black into English because my French isn't strong enough to have fully appreciated the work in its original language.

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Books by David Diop / War fiction / Books from Senegal

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Farewell My Herring by L C Tyler

Farewell My Herring by L C Tyler
Published by Allison And Busby on the 22nd April 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ethelred Tressider and his agent Elsie Thirkettle have been invited to lecture on a creative writing course at Fell Hall, a remote location in the heart of ragged countryside that even sheep are keen to shun. While Ethelred’s success as a writer is distinctly average, Elsie sees this as an opportunity to scout for new, hopefully more lucrative, talent. But heavy snow falls overnight, trapping those early arrivals inside, and tensions are quick to emerge between the assembled group.

When one of their number goes missing, Ethelred leads a search party and makes a gruesome discovery. With no phone signal and no hope of summoning the police, can Ethelred and Elsie identify the killer among them before one of them is next?

People who believe that series should be read in order had better look away from this review because I've managed to read the first Ethelred Hengist Tressider novel, The Herring Seller's Apprentice, and then jumped straight to this ninth installment, Farewell My Herring, leaving seven unread mysteries in between. That's an oversight I need to correct because Farewell My Herring reminded me just how much I enjoy L C Tyler's wit and humour. The insider sarcasm directed at writers and the publishing industry in general is also great fun, as is watching how Ethelred's imparted literary wisdom is reflected within the storyline.

Farewell My Herring is a cosy mystery set on a creative writing course at a suitably isolated historic farmhouse - one which swiftly imprisons all the characters when a heavy snowfall cuts off access to the outside world. And there's no mobile reception. Or internet access. There is, however, soon to be a dead body in the woodshed prompting Ethelred and Elsie to don their amateur detective hats. Chocolate obsessed Elsie is still my favourite character. As a literary agent, she has a sharp eye for a potential 15% yet always seems to be not quite so on the ball when it comes to important clues (and their whereabouts). I loved how this mystery unravelled. It's myriad herrings and potential scenarios reminded me of the classic film, Clue, and I can honestly say I was completely convinced by the wrong herring. I hope to demonstrate greater detection skills for my next Ethelred And Elsie mystery! 

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Books by L C Tyler / Crime fiction / Books from England

Monday, 3 May 2021

Little Brother by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia

Little Brother: an odyssey to Europe by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia 
First published in Basque as Miñan by Susa in 2019. English language translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker published by Scribe on the 15th April 2021.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heartbreaking and magnificent account of a poor and illiterate young West African’s odysssey.

Ibrahima, whose family live in a village in the West African country of Guinea, helps his father sell shoes at a street stall in the capital, Conakry. At the sudden death of his father, he becomes the head of the family and picks up various skills, always alone and away from home, although his dream is to be a truck driver in his country.

But when his little brother, Alhassane, suddenly disappears, heading for Europe in a bid to earn money for the family, Ibrahima leaves everything behind to try to find him and convince him to go back to their village and continue his education. In an epic journey, Ibrahima risks his life many times searching for his little brother.

Each waystation that Ibrahima passes through takes him to another world, with different customs, other languages, other landscapes, other currencies, and new challenges to overcome. His willpower is astonishing, and the friendship and generosity of strangers he encounters on the way help him to keep going.

After enduring many trials and tribulations, he learns of Alhassane’s fate. Unable to return home, he embarks on the journey to Europe himself.

Little Brother is a testimonial account that gives a voice, heart, and soul, and flesh and bones to the seemingly nameless masses of people struggling and dying, trying only to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.

Little Brother is a beautifully haunting account of Ibrahima Balde's lengthy journey in search of his brother, one which unintentionally led to him boarding an overcrowded boat from Algeria to Italy when he found himself unable to return home to his mother and sisters. What made this book such a unique voice in the genre of migrant memoirs is Basque poet Amets Arzallus Antia's prose style which I thought Timberlake Wertenbaker has so effectively captured in this English translation. Despite Balde's words having had to pass through two other minds and languages in order to reach me, I felt as though I was really listening to him speak as I read this book.

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Books by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia / Biography and memoir / Books from Guinea and the Basque Country

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Sankofa: Born Equal Only by Beenie T Mel

Sankofa: Born Equal Only by Beenie T Mel
Published in America by the Independent Book Publishers Association on the 1st May 2021.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Sankofa: Born Equal Only is an Afrofuturism adventure that takes on gender injustice from the perspective of rival fraternal twins, Toomi and Ras, born to be the Guardians of Maat, the first Queen to rise to the throne in the kingdom of Axindar in a post-apocalyptic medieval Africa, where the future of our technology shapes the past of our time.

I loved this vivid and exciting fantasy adventure! Sankofa: Born Equal Only is set in a vastly different future Africa, one in which our present-day civilisation collapsed centuries previously. Strictly patriarchal societies live in warring Kingdoms which recall Medieval history, but their armies are strengthened by 'metalji' - a futuristic technology that seems to combine armour with living tissue and a hint of magical realism to create superior human and animal warriors. The symbolism of the Sankofa bird itself is an important theme of this novel. Its representation of looking backwards while moving forwards, making sure learning from the past influences the future, allows Mel to deeply explore ideas around colonialism, slavery and male supremacy while still delivering an utterly gripping story. It's a wonderful piece of work. Through reading Sankofa: Born Equal Only, I felt I was really seeing from a new perspective, yet never felt lectured. Mel's ideas are completely integral to his story and I thought they gave this novel a satisfying sense of authenticity.

What most amazed me though was how such depth could be imparted without ever dragging down the narrative pace. Sankofa: Born Equal Only keeps up a breathtaking speed throughout. The world is never fully explained, by which I mean readers aren't subjected to lengthy descriptions of augmented creatures. I still don't know, for example, exactly what a metallion looks like or how the pedals on horses work, but I do have a wonderfully powerful sense of Mel's imagined world as a whole. I could clearly envisage Axindar's impregnable walls, Meerakan's grim slave market, and Emma's home village. I was also moved by the intensity of Toomi and Ras's filial relationship and intrigued by their mystical connection to the future Queen, Maat. These are three memorable characters.

Sankofa: Born Equal Only is not an easy read. I found I had to consciously slow my more usual frenetic reading pace in order not to miss important details. It was easy to get caught up in the emotional aspects and overlook a disguised political affiliation between minor characters! There is a fair amount of rather grim violence too, from scenes of genocide, rape and enslavement in the early chapters to bloody Medieval-style battles later on. That said, even for a normally squeamish reader such as myself,  I never found myself unable to continue reading. In fact I was quite disappointed to reach the final page. I hope Mel is already writing the second book in this series. Sankofa: Born Equal Only did end in a satisfying place, but I am already keen to get started on its sequel!

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Books by Beenie T Mel / Fantasy fiction / Books from Ethiopia

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Fleeced by FKAHerSweetness

Fleeced by FKAHerSweetness
Published on the 19th April 2021.

How I got this book:

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fleeced is a 'Hannigram Short Story' which features the characters Will and Hannibal Lecter inspired by the TV series Hannibal, but in very different incarnations to that original series.

This is the second of FKA's fan fiction pieces I read - the first was Come, Thou Almighty - and I love how, although both stories feature the same central characters, FKA reimagines these people into very different situations. The mysterious Hannibal comes to Will's rescue, but in a way I totally didn't anticipate! Fleeced feels like a timeless fairytale with its Grimm-style rural setting and hints of magical realism. There's a lovely naivete about the story and I think it could suit a younger audience and be read aloud as a performance piece. A good escapist story for a rainy Bank Holiday weekend!

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Books by FKAHerSweetness / Fan fiction / Books from America