Friday, 20 April 2018

The Little Book Of Hygge by Meik Wiking

The Little Book Of Hygge: The Danish Way To Live Well by Meik Wiking
First published by the UK by Penguin in September 2016.

How I got this book:
Won in a giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £5.29 (HB)
Wordery : from £8.23 (HB)
Waterstones : from : £7.99 (HB)
Amazon : from £0.52 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That's down to one thing: hygge.

'Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight...'

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

I managed to overstretch myself with book reviews this month and rather than facing the problem head on by steadily working through everything that's rapidly becoming overdue, I briefly chose the Head In Sand approach by picking up The Little Book Of Hygge instead. It wasn't even on my reading list! Won while we were travelling, my sister forwarded it onto me today. Appropriately it turns out that maintaining connections with friends and family is part of Hygge and probably the aspect I am worst at. Reclining on my vintage chaise longue (complete with its hand crocheted blanket made by Moi!) in order to read a book is strongly Hyggeligt. So is drinking frequent cups of tea and eating cake (baking my own cake is extra Hyggeligt!). Stressing about unwritten book reviews is not at all encouraged. I think I have finally found the lifestyle label that actually suits how I love to live!

My difficulty in reviewing The Little Book Of Hygge is in separating my enthusiasm for the lifestyle from my thoughts on the book itself. Certain aspects such as the overall idea, the inspirational photographs, the inclusion of recipes and crafts, and Wiking's gentle humour were definite positives for me. I also liked the sort-of science which identified similar concepts across Europe and the thoughts on the history of hygge. What didn't work so well for me was the repetition of ideas. Self help books are meant to be motivational and I accept that repetition is a strong part of reinforcing new habits, but by about two-thirds of the way through I started to feel that there were rather more pages available than material to fill them!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Meik Wiking / Self help books / Books from Denmark

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Sons Of Gods by Arthur J Gonzalez + Excerpt + Giveaway

Sons Of Gods by Arthur J Gonzalez
Published in America by Fahrenheit Publishing in January 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : unavailable
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from £0.99 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add Sons Of Gods to your Goodreads

Long ago, the wrath of the three God brothers marked the onset of the Great War. The other Gods watched in horror, until they, too, were forced to take sides. Their beloved Mt Olympus collapsed, ruin was brought to all Divine, and the Age of Darkness gripped the world in its clutches. But a group of Gods was wise, and before their impending deaths, they had crafted a pact, committing to one day rebuilding the Territories – the Heavens, Seas, and the Underworld. It would usher in the world they protected and honored out from its darkness. And from it would rise the new Greats: the Sons of Gods.

Cienzo has always had an affliction for metal and fire; never did he anticipate it would one day translate to wielding dormant powers. It is during a journey to fulfill a promise to his dying sister, that he is plunged into a dark and magical world, and where great responsibility is bestowed upon him.

Is he worthy of assuming the throne of the Territories? Can shattering steel and splitting fire change his mind?


“Cal,” he said softly. “Trust me.”
Caleseus glared into Cienzo’s eyes. There was a small glimmer of something he had never seen before in them. The trip had surprised everyone, even Caleseus, a creature that had survived a world of extinct enchantment. But even this reality was incredibly untouchable for anyone’s imagination to conjure. Something grand was happening, Caleseus could feel it too.
“I did not see what your eyes did,” Caleseus continued. “But I promised Kayana to look after you. For me to do so, I must trust you. You have my word.”
Cienzo gave a nod. Caleseus nodded back, a slight bend in his step. And in that small moment, a world of understanding had been exchanged between the two. Cienzo sensed it at his core. Cal no longer accompanied him for the sake of Kayana. He might say so, but his earlier hesitation had been replaced, swapped by the belief that something great waited to expose itself. The world was changing, and together, they would encounter it.
“Now that that’s settled,” Zendaya said, gesturing for Cienzo to climb aboard Phobos. “Can we get on?”
Cienzo climbed Phobos’s back, grappling the jutting skin of the beast to pull himself upward. He flopped onto the velvet-cushioned seats. His heart raced as he strapped himself in. I’m about to take flight. His fingers trembled. What would it feel like? Never had he thought it a possibility to travel by air and not by land.
What else had he missed out on? The possibilities seemed inestimable.
Zendaya took her place beside him. She did not waste time strapping herself in. A sign of adeptness. Cienzo moved the same way around metal and fire. “Ready?” she asked.
He blew out a breath. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Our adventure begins.” She leaned forward and petted Phobos’s neck. The creature let out a moaning growl. “Let us fly,” she said. “Our time is now.”
Phobos’s wings launched outward like giant sails on a ship; so vast and dominating they veiled the view of the mammoth, frosted willow. She flapped lightly until they hovered just slightly in the air; the braided chain of the metal hung from her neck as it tugged on the cabin that held the centaur and the nymph. Then Phobos clenched her razor talons around the outcropped handle of the cabin’s domed roof and whisked them into the air as one would a pail of water.
Phobos plunged skyward toward the glittering moon. The beating, cold wind of flight tickled at Cienzo’s skin. A new sensation for his senses to query, for wind was an absent thing in Thilos. The pillow clouds broke away against the angles of his face; the collisions turning them to dust in the night.
He looked down as they soared over the crown of Thilos. The sinkhole swirled less furiously, the giant net sparkling against the moonlight like its own constellation.
The flames of firelight from the rescued houseboats flickered below them. The higher they ascended, the more a sense of freedom swelled in his chest. It was a feeling of invincibility, of infiniteness. He felt an air of the God that Zendaya claimed him to be.
Everything at this altitude was peaceful. Pain, he thought, was a disease of the land. He thought of Isla then and how much she would have enjoyed this adventure. In the sky, the moon offered tranquility, a melody to soothe away worry. Out in the deep distance, the Forcaian Mountains skewed the steamrolled horizon. Stars continued their tango around its peaks.
The Sea of Air blanketed the borders of Thilos and foaming waves fed the coastlines. From here, even the dangerous ocean seemed harmless and docile, as it was once made to be.
Zendaya eyed Cienzo as he inhaled the skies. His hair wildly slapped at the clouds. He felt her stare and turned his face. I probably look like a child. Eyes opening to a world that is only just unraveling around me. A deep longing shifted within him and his mind scrambled for peace.
“You think too much,” she said, the wind pummeling at her words. Her eyes remained unwavering. “The Skies will forever be yours to marvel over. For now, you should rest. Soon we will arrive.”

Meet the Author

Arthur J. Gonzalez is a Young Adult author of the Photo Traveler series. Originally born in Miami, FL, you can now find him living on the West side in Los Angeles. If he’s not drinking coffee or playing with his adorable Schnoodle, Sookie, then he’s probably enjoying a nap. Also, he forgets the lyrics to nearly every song.

Author links:
Website ~ Twitter ~ FacebookGoodreads

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 26th April, the prize is a $25 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Arthur J Gonzalez / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop

The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop
Self published in America in February 2011.

Literary Flits Spotlight Giveaway Winner

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £8.95 (PB)
Wordery : from £8.94 (PB)
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from £2.94 (ebook)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Add The Last Letter to your Goodreads

Katherine wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t found the letter...

Katherine Arthur's mother arrives on her doorstep, dying, forcing her to relive a past she wanted to forget. When Katherine was young, the Arthur family had been affluent city dwellers until shame sent them running for the prairie, into the unknown. Taking her family, including young Katherine, to live off the land was the last thing Jeanie Arthur had wanted, but she would do her best to make a go of it. For Jeanie's husband Frank it had been a world of opportunity. Dreaming, lazy Frank. But, it was a society of uncertainty—a domain of natural disasters, temptation, hatred, even death. 

Ten-year-old Katherine had loved her mother fiercely, put her trust in her completely, but when there was no other choice, and Jeanie resorted to extreme measures on the prairie to save her family, she tore Katherine’s world apart. Now, seventeen years later, and far from the homestead, Katherine has found the truth – she has discovered the last letter. After years of anger, can Katherine find it in her heart to understand why her mother made the decisions that changed them all? Can she forgive and finally begin to heal before it’s too late?

Meet The Author
Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. She lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Author links:
Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kathleen Shoop / Historical fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Heirloom by Camillea + Free Book

Heirloom by Camillea
Self published in 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Available for free download from Payhip

How I got this book:

Downloaded the ebook from Payhip

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HEIRLOOM is a collection of 10 poems about lambs, mothers, and sleeping gods. Poems on finding the ancient in our skin.

I was woefully underprepared for April being Poetry Month but fortunately Daniela at Nocturnal Devices is on the ball! (To be fair, it's National Poetry Month in the US and here in the UK we just get one National Poetry Day in the autumn, so I'm joining in with the Americans!) In this post here, Daniela highlighted fellow blogger Camillea's chapbook, Heirloom. Happy to accept her recommendation, I downloaded the book straight away.

Heirloom is short yet powerful collection and it took me several slow reads to fully immerse myself into these poems. Camillea uses unexpected imagery to create her works so I couldn't take any easy route through the interpretation. I had to really think about almost every line (which, I admit, I often don't when reading poetry), however, by the end I appreciated having made the effort. Camillea focuses on the experience of women and the poem Biography Of The Mother is superb. I felt this poem was about the idea of an ancient Woman, but also generations of women living similar experiences and the power of this gender line being often unrealised.

Some of my favourite lines, clipped from different poems, include
"For when I speak loneliness fluently
my own name sounds unfamiliar"
"i will never teach
you to hold a gun, but i will teach you to hold your tongue steadier than
your grandfather’s pistol, and sharper than the lashings on your daddy’s back"
"was your love ever just breadcrumbs,
and your body only a dandelion path home?"
Camillea has a great turn of phrase! I accept that I didn't completely understand every poem, but loved the feeling of these words washing over me as I read and catching different glimpses of meaning with each reading. If you're looking for a strong poetry collection to read this Poetry Month, give Heirloom a try.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Camillea / Poetry / Books from the Philippines

Monday, 16 April 2018

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga + Giveaway

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
First published in the UK by The Women's Press in 1988.

How I got this book:
Bought the paperback from World Of Books via Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £6.11 (PB)
Wordery : from £6.10 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £0.91 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatizes the 'nervousness' of the 'postcolonial' conditions that bedevil us still. In Tambu and the women of her family, we African women see ourselves, whether at home or displaced, doing daily battle with our changing world with a mixture of tenacity, bewilderment and grace.

"I was not sorry when my brother died. Nor am I apologising for my callousness, as you may define it, my lack of feeling. For it is not that at all. I feel many things these days, much more than I was able to feel in the days when I was young and my brother died, and there are reasons for this more than the mere consequence of age. Therefore I shall not apologise but begin by recalling the facts as I remember them that led up to my brother's death, the events that put me in a position to write this account. For though the event of my brother's passing and the events of my story cannot be separated, my story is not after all about death, but about my escape and Lucia's; about my mother's and Maiguru's entrapment; and about Nyasha's rebellion - Nyuha, far-minded and isolated, my uncle's daughter, whose rebellion may not in the end have been successful"

After such a striking first paragraph, I had high hopes for Nervous Conditions and I wasn't disappointed. First published in the 1980s, I was interested - and somewhat disappointed - to realise that a lot of the issues Dangarembga's characters face are still being written about as present day problems in novels thirty years later. Young Tambudzai is a child at the beginning of our story. She doesn't understand her mother's warning advice about her fate as a woman and instead strives to equal her spiteful brother, Nhamo. Nhamo is selected to follow in his uncle's footsteps and be educated at the Mission School. Uncle Babamukuru is the shining light of the extended family. Educated away from his family by white missionaries, he later was even able to study for five years in 1960s England, as did his wife Maiguru, and their children were partially brought up there. Babamukuru has a beautiful house, a good car and the job of Headmaster at the school. Everyone wants their children to emulate his success, but Dangarembga slowly pulls back a curtain to reveal what such Westernised success has destroyed.

Dangarembga illustrates how the culture clash of colonialism was to the extreme financial detriment of many black people unless they were the 'lucky' few chosen to live within while educational programmes and the like. In order to benefit however, those people had to forgo their traditional culture and replicate the restrictive white examples set them. What I found difficult to reconcile in my mind though was that the portrayal of black life is one of grinding poverty and constant labour, especially for the women. I often felt like yelling at the female characters to walk away and stand up for themselves, but of course - and as a couple of them discover - there is rarely anywhere to walk away to. Maiguru cannot use her academic brilliance in employment and having university degrees casts her as a loose woman. Obviously! Tambudzai might strive to equal and even surpass her brother, but what will she actually gain by that in a country where both black and white see excessive education as wasted on women.

I liked that Dangarembga doesn't attempt to offer easy solutions to her characters' predicaments. As a reader, I sometimes thought I saw an obvious solution, but I would soon realise I hadn't taken everything about a particular situation into account. I strongly felt for the women trapped in a certain traditionally proscribed existence and especially for those who had a glimpse of genuine alternatives (the niece partly raised in the UK for example) I couldn't begin to truly understand what they went (and are still going) through.

And now for the Giveaway!

Open internationally until midnight (UK time) on the 23rd April, the prize is my copy of Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Second-hand, yes, but still in good condition!
Entry is by was of the Gleam widget below:

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tsitsi Dangarembga / Contemporary fiction / Books from Zimbabwe

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
First published by Canongate in October 2005.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £5.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £7.34 (PB)
Waterstones : from £8.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £0.32 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay...

I saw AJ Sterkel's review of The Penelopiad on her blog Read All The Things back in January and thought I might enjoy the book, so was then delighted to spot this reissue on NetGalley a few weeks later. I've had a copy of Homer's The Odyssey sitting on my bookshelf for at least a year now awaiting reading. I don't think I've ever actually read the whole book, although I know the gist of several of Odysseus' adventures, and I admit being put off by its 300-odd epic-poem-in-small-print pages. The Penelopiad's relative brevity was far more enticing!

Atwood focusses on what Penelope might have done and felt during the years Odysseus was away firstly at war and then 'lost' on his famous odyssey home, and has Penelope tell us her side of the story from the afterlife where she is still surrounded by many of the people she knew in life. Of one of her Suitors who still hangs around she says:
"The man was a pest when he was alive and a pest he remains."
Penelope's sense of humour frequently chimed exactly with mine so I appreciated her sarcasm and wry observations. For many years she is effectively a woman abandoned and emotionally alone so, while appearing strong to the outside world, privately she does indulge in an awful lot of weeping - one of the perils of a Naiad mother apparently. Too much water. Penelope is doomed to live in a state of limbo repeatedly hearing rumours of Odysseus' wanderings and minstrel songs of his adventures while never learning when or even if he will return home. I loved the dry interpretations:
"Odysseus was the guest of a goddess on an enchanted isle, said some; she had turned his men into pigs - not a hard job in my view - ... no, said others, it was just an expensive whorehouse and he was sponging off the madam."
I wasn't so enamoured of the Greek chorus of maids who burst into poetry or song every so often. I understood this inclusion as it is reflective of the original Greek sagas and a good way to advance the plot by several years in a few verses, but it didn't have the humour of the prose chapters. The maids themselves are perhaps the most hard done by, realistically so, in this Odyssey retelling. Abused and ill treated by the horde of Suitors, they are then the ones to face ultimate punishment at the hands of Odysseus and his now-adult son. Atwood researched a variety of sources for The Penelopiad and her interpretations of the maids' gruesome end was very interesting to me. Instead of taking the patriarchal tale at face value, she looks at scant clues remaining to offer a different understanding of their, and Penelope's, true roles. It's an idea I would like to see explored more fully.

Overall, I enjoyed much about The Penelopiad. It did feel a bit too much of an Odyssey summary in places and I think a longer historical novel from Penelope's viewpoint might have been more satisfying, but I liked how Atwood envisaged her and her world. I will now (eventually) go into reading The Odyssey itself from an angle other than the one Homer probably intended.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Margaret Atwood / Mythology / Books from Canada

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Territory Of Light by Yuko Tsushima

Territory Of Light by Yuko Tsushima
First published in Japanese as Hikari no Ry­obun in Japan by Gunzo in 1978 and 1979. English language translation by Geraldine Harcourt published by Penguin Classics on the 5th April 2018.

My 1970s read for my 2017-2018 Decade Challenge

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £9.99 (PB)
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : from £9.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £4.45 (PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

It is Spring. A young woman, left by her husband, starts a new life in a Tokyo apartment. Territory of Light follows her over the course of a year, as she struggles to bring up her two-year-old daughter alone. Her new home is filled with light, streaming through the windows, so bright you have to squint, but she finds herself plummeting deeper into darkness; becoming unstable, untethered. As the months come and go, and the seasons turn, she must confront what she has lost and what she will become.

At once tender and lacerating, luminous and unsettling, Territory of Light is a novel of abandonment, desire and transformation. It was originally published in twelve parts in the Japanese literary monthly Gunzo, between 1978 and 1979, each chapter marking the months in real time.

I loved this novella! It's one of those deceptively simple stories in which nothing really happens, but during its course we see how everything changes. Our story begins as our unnamed young mother and her toddler daughter move into a fourth floor apartment and ends a year later when they leave. Recently separated from her husband, the mother has to learn how to live alone, how to make her own decisions, and how to cope with the demands of her job and caring for her daughter.

I didn't realise until I came to write this review that Territory Of Light was written in the 1970s. Several aspects of the woman's relationship and deference to her estranged husband annoyed me to the extent I was muttering 'Stand up for yourself!' at my Kindle. However, for a woman to be contemplating divorce and initiating the proceedings herself forty years ago, especially in socially conservative Japan, is a strong statement of her increasing confidence and independence.

I was swept along by Tsushima's prose which is beautifully artistic in its descriptions. She focuses on light and colour to bring settings such as the apartment, the street and the park to life. Simple scenes such as cherry blossom petals falling onto a little girl are stunning and I was envious of the apartment - until the nets went up at least! The woman obviously struggles to cope and I could empathise with her determination to do her best even as she flounders.

Territory Of Light is a short book which I devoured in an afternoon, mainly because I just didn't want to set it aside and return to the real world! How people coped waiting for the original monthly magazine instalments is beyond me! I am now suffering quite a book hangover and plan to search out more of Tsushima's writing as soon as I finish this review. Hopefully this is not the only one of her books to have been translated.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yuko Tsushima / Novellas / Books from Japan