Monday, 28 February 2022

The Art of Traveling Strangers by Zoe Disigny + Giveaway


Join Us for this Tour from February 15 to Mar 7, 2022
Book Details:

Book Title:  The Art of Traveling Strangers by Zoe Disigny
Category:  Adult Fiction 18+, 272 pages
Genre:  Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction 
Publisher:  Subplot Publishing 
Release date:   February 2022
Content Rating:  PG13 + M for cursing (from a side character), reference to adultery, and discussion of AIDS. 
 

Book Description:

It’s the 1980s, and art historian Claire Markham reels from a series of heartbreaking losses. Desperate to escape her shattered reality, she becomes an art guide in Europe for quirky stranger Viv Chancey and embarks on a life-changing journey through the art-filled cities of Milan, Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Siena, Rome, and Paris.

Once abroad, Claire tries to hide her woes by focusing on Viv’s art education, but Viv—who is not who she seems—has a different learning experience in mind. Frustrated and wanting to reimagine her life, Claire embraces the idea of reality as illusion and finds herself slipping into the tales of art and history.

When threatened with one more crushing loss, Claire must learn from the spirit of her eccentric companion and the lessons from the art they encounter to take charge of her life or lose the most precious thing in it.

The Art of Traveling Strangers is a journey of self-discovery and personal empowerment inspired by the great art masterpieces of Italy and France. It’s a tale of female bonding and the amazing powers of perception. After all, reality, like art, is just an illusion.

 
The Art of Traveling Strangers was a wonderfully rewarding novel to read and I am delighted to have had this opportunity to review a copy. Leading character, Claire, has such an infectious enthusiasm for the historic artworks that she and Viv go to see that I frequently found myself wishing that I could follow in their footsteps, together with such a knowledgeable guide. I hadn't considered myself a Renaissance or Medieval art fan prior to reading The Art of Traveling Strangers, but now I think I just never had the right teacher!

I loved both Claire and Viv as characters to spend time with. Neither is actually particularly likeable as a person, but the complexity and depth that Disigny gives to each one made them feel convincingly authentic and I really appreciated being able to watch how each helped the other to overcome their personal demons. This novel is set in the 1980s and clever details, such as European currencies prior to the Euro and unashamed eating of foie gras, gave the story its historical credentials, however the problems that Claire and Viv struggled to overcome are just as pertinent today. Claire's toxic relationship with her husband rang especially true with me so I could completely empathise with her difficulty in breaking free.

While The Art of Traveling Strangers does explore challenging issues surrounding personal identity and the best way for each of us to be ourselves, it manages to do do in a very readable and engaging way. My own struggle while reading was to make myself stop and set the book aside from time to time. Disigny's writing so swept me up into Viv and Claire's adventure that I became deeply invested in these characters and didn't want to leave them for a moment. I highly recommend this book for fans of Italian-set novels or of art history, for readers who enjoy stories about women finding their true selves, and for road trip fans. If you have ever fancied going on an Italian art tour, The Art of Traveling Strangers could be inspirational.


MEET THE AUTHOR:

Zoe Disigny holds a master’s degree in art history and has taught at the college level throughout her career. She has led numerous art tours in Europe and established a business in Paris offering art history adventures for American tourists. 

connect with the author: website ~ twitter ~ facebook ~ instagram ~ goodreads
 
Tour Scheduled:

​Feb 15 – Cover Lover Book Review – book review / giveaway
Feb 16 – @booking.with.janelle – book review / author interview / giveaway
Feb 17 – mysweetenedlifebychix – book review / giveaway
Feb 18 – Books for Books – book review
Feb 22 – My Fictional Oasis – book review / giveaway
Feb 23 – @twilight_reader – book review
Feb 24 – Book Corner News and Reviews – book review / giveaway
Feb 25 – Kam's Place – book spotlight
Feb 28 – Literary Flits – book review / giveaway
Mar 1 – Splashes of Joy – book review / giveaway
Mar 2 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
Mar 3 – Review Thick and Thin – book review / author interview / giveaway
Mar 4 – Bookish Trisha – book review / guest post / giveaway
Mar 4 - The Culture Hunter – book review / giveaway
Mar 7 – Adventurous Jessy – book review / giveaway
Mar 7 - 
Working Mommy Journal - book review / giveaway
 
Enter the Giveaway:   
Win an autographed copy of The Art of Traveling Strangers, 2 signed postcards designed by the author depicting locations from the book, and a pair of earrings and matching brooch from Ancient Artisans. (one winner / USA only) (ends Mar 14)

ART OF TRAVELING STRANGERS Book Tour Giveaway


 


Etsy Find!
by Cool Katz Craft

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Books by Zoe Disigny / Historical fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Áedán of the Gaels: King of the Scots by Keith Coleman


Áedán of the Gaels: King of the Scots by Keith Coleman
Published by Pen And Sword on the 2nd February 2022.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is the first full-length work devoted to Áedán mac Gabrain, 6th century king of Dal Riata in Scotland. An associate of the famous St. Columba, he was the first recorded king to be ordained in the British Isles and was the most powerful ruler in his generation. His astonishing military reach took him from Orkney, Pictland, Ireland, Northumbria and the Isle of Man. This book details his dominant career, which came to a shattering end after decades of warfare at the Battle of Degsaston in AD 603. Beyond the record of warfare, there is a unique and tantalising accumulation of legend concerning Áedán, from stories about his birth, to tales of him in battle with Irish heroes. English sources mention him and he is one of the few Gaelic kings to feature prominently in Welsh tradition, where he is remembered as a uniquely powerful player in the north of Britain. Modern writers highlight Áedán as the father of a prince named Arthur, which has led to his place in Arthurian studies. Áedán's prominence in his era qualifies him as a fascinating figure, whose life and legend are accessibly explored in this exciting account of this unique ruler.

I've started to learn Scottish Gaelic with Duolingo these past three months so was delighted to see Keith Coleman's new biography of the 'first' Gaelic speaking Scottish king, Áedán, for review on NetGalley. It seemed like a great opportunity to learn about the origins of Gaelic-speaking Scotland, complementing my language lessons, and I did indeed find myself able to translate, unaided, some of the descriptive names for various people and places Coleman mentions. There are, however, an awful lot of both people and places which briefly crop up without then ever being mentioned again and this made particularly the early chapters quite bewildering!

The main problem with a detailed biography of Àedàn is that very little is known for sure about the man himself or his exploits. Coleman has done a wonderful job of researching and collating myriad glimpses of him across various annals, records, epic poems and folklore. Putting all this together did allow me to gain a good sense of the king and the times in which he lived, but of necessity much of this book is educated guesswork. It did get frustrating to be repeatedly told how much we simply cannot know as the source material no longer - or perhaps never - existed. That said, I found Áedán of the Gaels to be a fascinating read and I am now keen to learn more of this hidden period of British history.


Etsy Find!
by Limbs Disarm

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Books by Keith Coleman / History books / Books from Wales 

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Legends And Lies (Black Magick #3) by Whitney Metz


Legends And Lies (Black Magick #3) by Whitney Metz
Self published in America on the 31st October 2021.
Featured on my vegan book blog, HirlGrend, and a Book with Vegan Characters.

How I got this book: Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In this third volume of the Black Magic Series, Ben Black must grapple with the knowledge that his quest is about much more than helping Carrie. Along with the weight of this responsibility, and its implications for the people around him, is the issue of his escape from police custody and the fact that he is now being hunted more vehemently than ever. He meets new allies, both human and otherwise, and is gifted with insight into his own past and his destiny. As he struggles to embrace this destiny, Ben also learns that the forces working against him may be even more formidable than he thought. 

The Black Magick Series is a story about the world behind the one we see everyday, the importance of the connection we all share with each other and with the Earth, and about finding our true paths. 

I'm really enjoying getting caught up in Whitney Metz's Black Magick series as can be seen by my having rushed to buy a copy of this newest installment, Legends And Lies, on its publication day back October. Admittedly it did then take me a few months to actually read it - oops! Black Magick is a series that really does need to be read in order so, if you've not yet started this series and you don't want any inadvertent spoilers from my review, I suggest clicking away to the first book, Sigils And Secrets, now. 

The tension ratchets up significantly throughout Legends And Lies so, although the novel does have a 'middle of series' feel to it, I was still glued to its pages. I appreciated Metz's skill in interspersing present day action with Ben's memories of his relationship with Carrie before she disappeared. The diversions allowed me to understand these characters in greater depth, but didn't slow the narrative pace or ever feel like extraneous padding. I was a little disappointed that Carrie only had a minor role to play this time, but I loved spending time with Grandma Denning who is a brilliant creation and I think Julie will become a compelling character too. I'm intrigued by the idea of new beginnings being just as valid no matter what has gone before. Ben and Julie have a degree of mirroring in this aspect so it will be interesting to see how their companionship develops.

The Black Magick series obviously includes a lot of supernatural content and I'm impressed by how naturally this supernatural world is portrayed with the series' reality. Events and the characters' behaviours always feel utterly plausible and the liminal settings mean that I can never predict where Metz's imagination might next take her readers. Universal human problems give this series its roots and its magick allows it to fly! A satisfying series to lose oneself in through grey wintry days.


Etsy Find!
by Bryony B Jewellery

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Books by Whitney Metz / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Friday, 25 February 2022

Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys


Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys
Published in the UK by Doubleday in October 1994.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1986 Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker, investigated a woman's claim that, aged four, she had been put on a boat to Australia by the British government. At first incredulous, Margaret discovered that this was just the tip of an enormous iceberg. Up to 150,000 children, some as young as three years old, had been deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a 'new life' in distant parts of the Empire, right up until as recently as 1970.

Many were told that their parents were dead, and parents were told that their children had been adopted. In fact, for many children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse far away from everything they knew. Margaret and her team reunited thousands of families before it was too late, brought authorities to account, and worldwide attention to an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

I saw the film, Oranges and Sunshine, which is based upon Empty Cradles, several years ago so was already aware of the human tragedy at the centre of this book. Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys discovered evidence of a massive resettlement scheme undertaken by the British government together with several then Commonwealth governments that sent thousands and thousands of unaccompanied British children to foster families, children's homes and institutions in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. The scheme ran for several decades with the last children leaving the UK in 1967. Nearly always described as orphans in press reports, the children themselves were mostly told that their parents had died or just didn't want them anymore. Most weren't given any choice in their exile or destination and many were systematically abused, sometimes for years, in their new lives.

It is difficult to write a review of a book which deals with such an inhumane and emotive subject. Many of the former child migrants who spoke to Humphreys related terrible stories of their treatment. Isolation, desperation and long-term mental health problems have blighted many of these lives and the accumulation of these tales is harrowing. Not all the children were treated badly, but there aren't many of the happy tales in Empty Cradles. The book was written to help raise awareness and, ultimately, funds for the Child Migrants Trust - a charity set up by Humphreys to help reunite lost children with their families - so it does tug at heartstrings pretty much relentlessly. Also, this is Humphreys' story of her own efforts so we get to read a lot about her familial sacrifices, long hours, sleepless nights and manic globetrotting. I have no doubt that Humphreys and her family did give up a lot and the irony of her own frequently left-behind children wasn't lost on me, however the mixing of history and personal biography didn't sit well for me and I frequently found myself wondering who I was really supposed to be feeling sorry for.


Etsy Find!
by Tinas Ideenfabrik

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Thursday, 24 February 2022

No Baggage by Clara Bensen


No Baggage: A Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen
Published in America by Running Press on the 5th of January 2016.

How I got this book: I received a copy of No Baggage by Clara Bensen from its publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One Dress, Three Weeks, Eight Countries, Zero Baggage.

Newly recovered from a quarter-life meltdown, Clara Bensen decided to test her comeback by signing up for an online dating account. She never expected to meet Jeff, a wildly energetic university professor with a reputation for bucking convention. They barely know each other's last names when they agree to set out on a risky travel experiment spanning eight countries and three weeks. The catch? No hotel reservations, no plans, and best of all, no baggage.

Clara's story will resonate with adventurers and homebodies alike, it's at once a romance, a travelogue, and a bright modern take on the age-old questions: How do you find the courage to explore beyond your comfort zone? Can you love someone without the need for labels and commitment? Is it possible to truly leave your baggage behind? 

I was intrigued by the unusual premise of No Baggage - a young American woman takes off on a three-week trip across Europe with pretty much nothing other than a credit card, a toothbrush and the clothes she stands up in. And in the company of a man she met about a month beforehand via a dating website. What could possibly go wrong?!

Using the course of the three week journey as her book's skeleton, Bensen describes her burgeoning relationship with Jeff, the dating website find; the mental health issues that had put her life on hold for most of the previous couple of years; her close-knit family and Austin, Texas lifestyle; and a little about the cities she visits during the whistle-stop tour. While I think I would have liked more detail about the journey itself, I was unexpectedly fascinated by Bensen's candid discussion of her mental health - the problems she had had, their causes, and her post-recovery outlook. It is an odd facet of our society that allows physical ailments to discussed easily and openly, but still insists that mental ailments be hidden away. It must have taken a lot of courage to write this and she has done an excellent job of explaining her illness.

I was less taken with the repeated attempts to define and categorise her new relationship although the 'what are we' tension did lead to some of the more entertaining (for the reader at least!) moments. I was interested in Bensen's thoughts on places that I too have visited - Austin, Dubrovnik, Edinburgh - and now have more must-sees on my future travel list - Istanbul, Sarajevo. The Couchsurfing website - a way to get accommodation in local people's homes - was a new notion to me and sounds like a wonderful idea for independent travellers. In return I offer a find of my own for women travellers - get a mooncup. Bensen's period tribulations are funny in hindsight in a been-there-too kind of a way.

I enjoyed Bensen's easy-going writing style and would be interested to read more of her later travels. The couchsurfing particularly allows for a different view from the standard tourist angle and I loved the idea of leaving practically every arrangement to chance although I am not sure I could ever be brave enough to travel like that myself. 


Etsy Find!
by forageandfinduk

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Books by Clara Bensen / Travel books / Books from America 

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Heart of Swine by Freddy F. Fonseca


Heart of Swine by Freddy F. Fonseca
Published by Obex Publishing on the 17th September 2021.

Featured on my vegan book blog, HirlGrend.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The last swine left on Earth, Captain Grunter, is on a quest for justice.

With the support of his improbable companions, he delves into the inescapable nightmares of a late-capitalist mediascape
characterised by sensationalised poverty,
fetish consumerism and glamourised environmental catastrophes.

Through the lies and riddles of the villains he faces, the porcine superhero begins his philosophical journey
of what it means to be more-than-bacon.

Heart of Swine is likely the strangest novel you’ll read for some time – until the other two books in this trilogy arrive, at least. Rushing by like a late-night conversation very much under the influence, the subject matter comes thick and fast: climate change, exploitation, existentialism, dick jokes, the media, veganism and how tasty bacon is. It’s a theatrical rush of arch dialogue telling the story of a very familiar world, gone wrong for very familiar reasons but with psychedelically outlandish results.

This cartoon alternative reality begins in the early 21st century when Russia decided to turn off the gas supplies to Western Europe. Freezing in our homes, it was decided that climate change was actually going to save us, if only it could be accelerated. So – following the blackly comic logic that underpins the book – the most expedient way to do so was massively increase our meat consumption, as we all know that farming animals increases greenhouse gas emissions. So frenetic was the Bacon Wave that we managed to eat all the pigs. Except one. And he had superpowers, along with an unresolved issue or two...

I was drawn to read Heart Of Swine by its brilliant cover design which evokes the graphics of Animal Farm by George Orwell with a titular nod to Heart Of A Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov, both of which rank highly amongst my favourite classics. Heart Of Swine is a brilliantly surreal tale, often nonsensical but with stark truths about how we live and especially about how easily fashionable trends can persuade vast swathes of the population to act against their best interests. While several aspects of the story did remain frustratingly unexplained - and were possibly just inexplicable - the whole concept does make a dark, warped sense. It's certainly a cautionary tale for our times.

Vegan truisms had me chuckling and I loved the whole London vibe that permeates Heart Of Swine. I found it best to go with the flow in reading this book. Overthinking individual aspects only served to make them more confusing whereas allowing the ideas to wash over me clarified them. There's so many wickedly funny nods to current and recent trends as well as Fonseca's unusually angled viewpoints which illustrate how daft some of our accepted wisdom really is. If, like me, you enjoy losing yourself in inspired surrealism, I heartily recommend picking up Heart Of Swine. 


Etsy Find!
by ReKINDle By Lisa

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Books by Freddy F Fonseca / Dystopian fiction / Books from Italy 

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Myths And Legends of The Sioux by Marie McLaughlin


Myths and Legends of the Sioux by Marie L. McLaughlin
Published in America in 1916 

How I got this book: Downloaded an ebook from ForgottenBooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In publishing these "Myths of the Sioux," I deem it proper to state that I am of one-fourth Sioux blood. My maternal grandfather, Captain Duncan Graham, a Scotchman by birth, who had seen service in the British Army, was one of a party of Scotch Highlanders who in 1811 arrived in the British Northwest by way of York Factory, Hudson Bay, to found what was known as the Selkirk Colony, near Lake Winnipeg, now within the province of Manitoba, Canada. Soon after his arrival at Lake Winnipeg he proceeded up the Red River of the North and the western fork thereof to its source, and thence down the Minnesota River to Mendota, the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, where he located. My grandmother, Ha-za-ho-ta-win, was a full-blood of the Medawakanton Band of the Sioux Tribe of Indians. My father, Joseph Buisson, born near Montreal, Canada, was connected with the American Fur Company, with headquarters at Mendota, Minnesota, which point was for many years the chief distributing depot of the American Fur Company, from which the Indian trade conducted by that company on the upper Mississippi was directed.
I was born December 8, 1842, at Wabasha, Minnesota, then Indian country, and resided thereat until fourteen years of age, when I was sent to school at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

I downloaded a copy of Myths And Legends of The Sioux by Marie McLaughlin when it was the ForgottenBooks daily free download. As the book was originally published in 1916 I included it as my 1910s read for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge when I first blogged this book review on Stephanie Jane in October 2015.

Marie McLaughlin had a Sioux grandmother and spent much of her life living amongst the remaining Indians after they were forced into reservations. She spoke the Sioux language and recorded the tales in this collection directly from the tribal elders, understanding that their community, culture and oral tradition would soon be lost to the world. I did find the tone of her introductory essay rather patronising as she describes the Sioux as primitive and childlike, dismissing their achievements and history. Ironically such a lifestyle, in tune with nature instead of wilfully destroying it, is now seen as perhaps the only way for us all to survive!

There are thirty-eight stories in the collection, some of which I enjoyed very much, others that were interesting as representations of Sioux culture and beliefs. Humanised animals feature frequently as do magical spirits and witches and I was frequently reminded of African tales such as Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord. Some of the moral fables are similar in message to Aesop's fables and I liked several of the creation myths explaining why bears travel in twos or why frogs are even lower in the world hierarchy than rabbits. However, without any existing knowledge of Sioux culture, many of the twists and turns seemed bafflingly arbitrary and I didn't understand why events happened as they did.


Etsy Find!
by Cuddly Stinkbug

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Books by Marie McLaughlin / Fairytales / Books from America

Monday, 21 February 2022

L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom + Giveaway

 

Join Us for This Tour from February 1 to February 21!

Book Details:

Book Title L'Origine: The secret life of the world's most erotic masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom
Category Adult Fiction (18+), 255 pages
GenreHistorical Fiction
Publisher:  Girl Friday Books - a new imprint from Girl Friday Productions
Release Date: 2020 first edition. October 2021 re-released by Girl Friday Books
Content Rating:  R. My book does not have bad language and only one descriptive sex scene, but the protagonist is a painting whose explicit depiction of a woman's lower torso and genitals has made it a controversial work of art for over a century and a half.

 

Book Description:

The riveting odyssey of one of the world's most scandalous works of art.

In 1866, maverick French artist Gustave Courbet painted one of the most iconic images in the history of art: a sexually explicit portrait of a woman's exposed genitals. Audaciously titled L'Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), the scandalous painting was kept hidden for a century and a half. Today, it hangs in the world-renowned Orsay Museum in Paris, viewed by millions of visitors a year.

As the first artist authorized by the Orsay Museum to re-create Courbet's The Origin of the World, author Lilianne Milgrom was thrust into the painting's intimate orbit, spending six weeks replicating every fold, crevice, and pubic hair. The experience inspired her to share her story and the painting's titillating, clandestine history. L'Origine is a tale of survival, replete with French revolutionaries, Turkish pashas and nefarious Nazi captains. Hold onto your berets for a riveting ride through history. 
 
 

 

Meet the Author:

Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an internationally acclaimed artist and award-winning author residing in Washington DC. In 2011, she became the first authorized copyist of Gustave Courbet’s controversial painting L’Origine du Monde, which hangs in the Orsay Museum in Paris. Milgrom spent a decade researching and writing L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece. Her debut novel has been awarded six literary honors including the Publisher’s Weekly 2021 US Selfies Book Award for Best Adult Fiction.

connect the author:  website ~ twitter ~ instagram  
 
Tour Schedule:

​Feb 1 – Working Mommy Journal – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 1 – fundinmental – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Feb 2 – Gold Dust Editing & Book Reviews – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Feb 2 - Elizabeth McKenna – Author – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 7 – Books for Books – book spotlight
Feb 8 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 9 – Kam's Place – book spotlight
Feb 10 – Book Corner News and Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 14 – Sefina Hawke's Books – book spotlight
Feb 15 – Celticlady's Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 16 – Sadie's Spotlight – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Feb 17 – Westveil Publishing – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Feb 21 - Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
 

Enter the Giveaway:

Win a signed copy of L'Origine. Open to the USA only until the 28th February.

L'Origine Book Tour Giveaway

 


 

 

Etsy Find!
by NKD Art Gallery

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Books by Lilianne Milgrom / Historical fiction / Books from France

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Twelve Cries From Home by Minoli Salgado


Twelve Cries From Home by Minoli Salgado
Published by Repeater Books on the 8th February 2022.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Since August 2020, the intimidation of witnesses and journalists has surged in Sri Lanka. Twelve Cries from Home navigates the memories and stories of twelve war survivors, mostly women and relatives of the disappeared, who wished to have their stories retold so that a permanent record might be made, and so that those outside the country might understand their experiences. 

The outcome of a journey across the island in late 2018 by writer and Professor of literature Minoli Salgado, who was revisiting her ancestral home, Twelve Cries from Home is deeply-layered and localised work of travelling witness. It returns to the concept of home as a place of belonging and security, which is a lost ideal for most, and uses a Sri Lankan measure of distance – the call, or hoowa – to ask how we might attend to stories that are difficult to tell and to hear.

Exploring the bitter complexity of war by presenting stories from four regions of Sri Lanka, it reveals the complex network of relationships between the agents of conflict and their victims, as well as the blurred boundary between victims and perpetrators, the role of informers and the process of ethical repair after traumatic experience. 

Twelve Cries from Home offers a rare glimpse into a country subject to enforced self-censorship, allowing us to take stock of social and political developments in Sri Lanka and what has and has not been achieved in light of the transitional justice mechanisms promised to the UN.

I am finding Twelve Cries From Home a difficult book to do justice to in a brief book review. It is a vitally important document in its role of bearing witness to the atrocities which took place duringSri Lanka's prolonged civil war and I was awed by the bravery and perseverance of the twelve relatives who volunteered to be interviewed by Minoli Salgado. Even after reading their translated accounts I still cannot really begin to imagine the inner strength that must be needed to keep searching and speaking out, in some cases for decades, in the face of bureaucratic inaction and against a state whose best interests are served by keeping the past shrouded in silent darkness. The statements themselves make for emotionally powerful reading and need to be both preserved and shared. My problem with Twelve Cries From Home however is that as a result of Salgado's active interventions, which are openly recounted and I could completely understand her reasons for conducting the interviews in the way that she did, I always felt as though I was being kept at a distance from the Sri Lankan speakers themselves. The anecdotes about compiling the information needed to actually write Twelve Cries From Home and Salgado's journeys around Sri Lanka were interesting in their own right, but also felt too light to me, somehow inappropriate against the intense suffering of the interviewees and, especially, their disappeared relatives.


Etsy Find!
by Nelly Shop Boutique

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Saturday, 19 February 2022

The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull


The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull
Published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton in January 2014.

How I got this book: Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Imagine if you couldn't see
couldn't hear
couldn't speak...
Then one day somebody took your hand and opened up the world to you.

Adeliza Golding is a deafblind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father's hop farm. Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion; her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, who she has christened the Visitors. One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it. Finally Liza can communicate.

Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie's beloved brother Caleb leads her from the hop gardens and oyster beds of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.

I've followed Rebecca Mascull's Facebook page - where she is wickedly funny - for ages, but have only just now gotten around to reading one of her novels, her first in fact, The Visitors. It is a genre-defying blend of historical fiction, ghost story and mystery tale which I found to be wonderfully evocative of its era and a strongly compelling read.

The first half of the book where Liza recalls her childhood from its earliest years through to meeting Lottie and her subsequent discovery of her full potential was my favourite part. Liza is a fascinating narrator and I was in awe of Mascull's talent in vividly portraying her world to me. I felt as though Liza was actually speaking directly to me, rather than me 'just' reading a book! This immediacy seemed somewhat muted once The Visitors location shifts to Boer War South Africa, however this was possibly because Liza herself is now a more self aware adult. It was a shame to lose the vibrant, energetic child, but also rewarding to see how her deep friendship with Lottie transformed Liza's life - both their lives.

While its supernatural element is a vital part of The Visitors, the storyline wasn't as ghostly as I had expected and I would have liked some explanation of why Liza had her gift. That aside, The Visitors was a rewarding and historically interesting read which benefited from great research. On the strength of this novel, I will certainly be reading more of Rebecca Mascull's work, hopefully sooner rather than later.


Etsy Find!
by Orange Penguin Design

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Books by Rebecca Mascull / Historical fiction / Books from England 

Friday, 18 February 2022

Discovery of the Five Senses #1 (The Urban Boys Series) by KN Smith + Giveaway + Excerpt


Join Us for This Tour:  February 7 to February 25, 2022
 
Book Details:

Book TitleDiscovery of the Five Senses Book One - The Urban Boys Series by K. N. Smith
CategoryYA Fiction (Ages 13-17), 340 pages
Genre:  Young Adult Action-Adventure, Young Adult Thriller, Urban Fantasy, Mystery/ Thriller
PublisherTwo Petals Publishing (self-published)
Release date:   September 29, 2015
Content Rating:  PG  
 

"Brilliantly crafted and written!" - Megan King, Indie Book Reviewers

"An energetic adventure debut with stellar action sequences. Smith's writing is intelligent and often lyrical. Her exuberant prose never fails to dazzle." - Kirkus Media

Book Description:

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate has arrived.

"A captivating and poetic tale of mystery, fantasy, and reality tied together by action!" 5-stars, Lars Jackson, Amazon Customer

A suspenseful incident in a forbidden preserve heightens the senses of five friends. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become super-gifts that forever change the world. But furious battles confront the boys as they try to understand their sensory super powers in a race to save mankind. With light beings and mysterious strangers complicating their plight, will the boys be able to defeat the evil Druth before it’s too late? Get prepared for the twisting and grinding of this award-winning, action-adventure story — an edge-of-your-seat narrative for young and mature readers alike.  ​

EXCERPT:

As one would imagine, a mysterious forest might offer deep, eerie chills, especially at night. Instead, the forest cast a rich glow, and the environment was beautiful and serene.

Walking slowly with their eyes absolutely feasting on the horticultural delights, the boys were approached by something they weren’t sure was real. It floated effortlessly, lighting up in a sporadic pattern, but had neither sound nor discernible shape, other than being somewhat clear and round.

Its fluttering wings suspended it in the center of their disbelieving huddle. All eyes were on it, but what it was provoked more mystery than the forest itself. It bounced in a cheery, beckoning fashion, flashing its stunning wings, drawing the boys into a never-ending waltz. They were transfixed, unable to glance at each other, prevented by the daze each silently battled.

The little glowing being carried about, moving closer to their faces. It moved in and out of trees, spewing sparkle and splendor, then floated away from the boys, yet stayed close enough to continue the enticement.

Contributing to the amazing glow ricocheting from sprawling fronds to soaring trees and fallen leaves, the being’s creativity advanced in a display of twirls and spins, astonishing the boys. And they followed their little friend further and further into the forest.

Deeper ahead, the visual spectacle beautifully intertwined with the clicking noise, which grew louder and more defined, moving up the scale into high notes. The repetition of the noise mesmerized the boys, equating to an invisible lasso.

The friends grouped together, looking ahead and behind. Their stomachs tightened as the tension grew.

What they saw next would pale in comparison to their little, wondrous friend, who steadily bounced around several curvy pathways.

The small creature led them into an area deep within the preserve housing two large, floating, clicking balls of light. The boys instinctively covered their eyes, yet still tried to peep through their fingers.

The light balls began spinning wildly and grew louder, with their tops spitting out free-falling shavings of light like fireworks.

The sputtering light bounced off the dirt only to end up against a tree or one of the boys, then back down and up again.

Slowing down, the beings moved in between the boys. Too scared to move and struggling with reality, the boys’ eyes locked onto the radiant balls.

And with a striking force, the five friends were encased by a bright, piercing light as the balls exploded, emitting their energy onto the boys.

Mixing and mashing north, south, east, and west, bright waves covered the soil, spreading across trees, rock, and all plant life. The forest fell silent, frozen like an inhale without an exhale. It was dark and quiet, except for the liquid energy dripping from the huge, wavy leaves.

Being subjected to drifts both in and out of reality, the boys succumbed to the lure of a vacant black space within the deepest parts of their minds. They fell to the ground unconscious, laying in this forbidden domain in the center of a place they had been warned not to approach.

And from some distance toward the other side of the preserve, a draped shadow had been looking inward and saw this mysterious incident.

The curve of his black hood was loose enough for him to witness the unthinkable. But it also shrouded his expression, which was impassive.

This figure, a dark stranger, had been watching the boys for a period of time and saw the explosion of light. He knew it had exposed them to a grave risk in this place of both awe and fear. He realized time would now take the reins as a master guide for these stricken young men, all of whom would need hope as a rod and stamina as a spear on the long journey ahead.

Knowing the veil of normalcy would need to be maintained in order for this inconceivable episode to be minimized, the Dark Stranger drew upon his strength to physically move each of the boys to Rhee’s house.

He knew familiar surroundings would ease them as they roused, barely able to comprehend their predicament.

For he knew much, and every step, every footprint left an indelible impression on the path leading to the studio in Rhee’s backyard. Indeed, footprints providing a window to the past meshed with hope for the future.

And like a laser, the Dark Stranger steadied his gait, hurling each one up and over his powerful shoulders.

As he absorbed the totality of the scene, he breathed deeply. His head hung in a manner to which only trauma could relate. But in a sign of resilience, it swiftly sprung back.

Under the circumstances, he knew time would not be patient nor friendly.

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate had arrived. 
 
Buy the Book:
Amazon.com ~ Amazon UK

Discovery of the Five Senses is the first novel in K N Smith's new young adult Urban Boys series. It's a compelling fantasy-adventure in which five school friends find themselves developing interlinked superpowers after a night visit to a local woodland that they had been warned against entering. Initially I wasn't sure how well Smith's writing style suited the story, but her prose grew on me as the tale progressed. I liked how the importance of being a reliable friend was such a strong theme throughout the book, although I did feel poor Josie deserved better, and the depictions of the various parent-child relationships were plausible and authentic.

Discovery of the Five Senses did take a while to get going, mostly, I think, because of how many characters we needed to meet. Short chapters made the early stages feel a little choppy, but once we got going that same brevity really added to the feelings of pace and excitement. I appreciated how Smith intertwined ordinary teenage concerns and problems with the added pressures of the five boys' new superhero lives. The contrasts between the two central towns, pristine Danville Heights and dystopian Sandry Lake, provided clear illustrations of the potential future should the boys fail. I would recommend the novel to fans of young adult fantasy adventure stories, particularly those who, like me, enjoyed John Darryl Winston's IA series.

 

 Meet the Author:

K.N. Smith, winner of the “Best of” in the category of “Outstanding Young Adult Novel” at the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Awards, is an author, screenwriter, and passionate advocate of literacy and arts programs throughout the world. She inspires people of all ages to reach their highest potential in their creative, educational, and life pursuits. She lives in California with her family. 

connect with the author:  website ~ facebook ~ goodreads
 
Tour Schedule:

Feb 7 – Cover Lover Book Review – book spotlight / giveaway
Feb 7 - Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / giveaway
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