Monday, 23 October 2017

Cold Hand in Mine by Robert Aickman


Cold Hand in Mine by Robert Aickman
First published in the UK by Gollancz in 1975. Audio edition narrated by Reece Shearsmith published by Audible Studios in 2013.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


How I got this book:
Downloaded the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cold Hand in Mine stands as one of Aickman's best collections and contains eight stories that show off his powers as a 'strange story' writer to the full. The listener is introduced to a variety of characters, from a man who spends the night in a Hospice to a German aristocrat and a woman who sees an image of her own soul. There is also a nod to the conventional vampire story ("Pages from a Young Girl's Journal") but all the stories remain unconventional and inconclusive, which perhaps makes them all the more startling and intriguing.

I took a chance on this Audible download as part of a two-for-the-price-of-one-deal having not read or listened to any of the author's work before. Sadly I struggled to get through to the end even though the collection of eight 'strange' short stories is marketed as Aickman's best. The author wrote subtle, creeping horror rather than out and out gore but unfortunately several stories are so subtle that I remained unmoved. Reece Shearsmith's odd narration doesn't particularly help either which surprised me. He sounds unrehearsed, continually halting mid-sentence and putting emphases where they don't seem to fit. The fifth story, The Hospice, is the best of a so-so bunch as its spooky atmosphere does build up nicely, but I wouldn't read any more Aickman after this experience.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Robert Aickman / Horror fiction / Books from England

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Bastard Princess by Gemma Lawrence + Giveaway


The Bastard Princess by Gemma Lawrence
Self published in May 2015.

Where to buy this book:

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Add The Bastard Princess to your Goodreads

February, 1603. 
In Richmond Palace, London, the last Queen of the Tudor dynasty, Elizabeth I, is dying. 

As Death hovers at her elbow, waiting for her to obey his call, the aged Queen looks back on her life, and on the trials, victories and sorrows which brought her eventually, to the throne of England. Not quite three years old when her mother, the notorious Anne Boleyn, was arrested and executed on charges of adultery and treason, Elizabeth became a true princess of the Tudor era, in a time when the balance of power, politics and passion were fragile… and the cost of failure was death. Her childhood and teenage years were fraught with danger as competing factions and ideologies sought to undermine and destroy her in the bid for power at the Tudor court. 

This is the story of Elizabeth Tudor, last daughter of Henry VIII, and her journey to the throne of England. Told from her own mouth… the tale of the Bastard Princess, who would, one day, become England’s greatest Queen.

Meet the author

I am an independently published author, and proud and pleased to be so! I moved into a career in writing in October 2016 after working for sixteen years as a trading company manager for an animal welfare charity. Whilst still working full time, I scribbled away on my novels, and started to publish on Amazon Kindle and Createspace three years ago. When sales of my books reached the point where I could pursue a full-time career, I took the plunge and went for it. I’ve been a full-time author for one year now and have never been happier.

I write historical fiction, and have long been fascinated by the Medieval -Tudor periods of British history. The women of the era fascinate me in particular. Especially in the Tudor period there were so many strong, courageous and often wily women, who made history despite the challenges they faced. Although I write historical fiction at the moment, I have explored other genres and would like to become a multi-genre author at some point. I live in Cornwall with my patient partner, our dog Toby, and cat Mona.

Author links: 
Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

And now for the giveaway!

Open worldwide until midnight (UK time) on November 5th, Gemma is offering a generous FOUR prizes. Thank you Gemma!

First prize going to one very lucky winner is a print copy of two Gemma Lawrence novels: The Bastard Princess and its sequel, The Heretic Heir.
Second, third and fourth prize winners will each win an ebook copy of a Gemma Lawrence novel of their choice.

Entry is via the usual Gleam widget below and don't forget you get an extra entry for each person that enters via your share link!

Gemma Lawrence historical fiction books giveaway

Good luck!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Gemma Lawrence / Historical fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Hope and Glory by Stuart Maconie


Hope and Glory by Stuart Maconie
First published in the UK by Ebury Press in May 2011.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


How I got this book:
Swapped for on the book exchange shelves at Camping Sopalmo, Spain.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Hope and Glory Stuart Maconie goes in search of the days that shaped the Britain we live in today. Taking one event from each decade of the 20th century, he visits the places where history happened and still echoes down the years. Stuart goes to Orgreave and Windsor, Wembley and Wootton Bassett, assembling a unique cast of Britons from Sir Edmund Hillary to Sid Vicious along the way.

It’s quite a trip, full of sex and violence and the occasional scone and jigsaw. From pop stars to politicians, Suffragettes to punks, this is a journey around Britain in search of who we are.

A very different history book to Elizabeth by David Starkey which I read shortly before this. Hope And Glory reads more like an informative chat than a serious lesson although I'm yet to see if this approach is more successful in making information stick in my brain. Maconie has chosen 10 significant days in 20th century Britain as jumping off points to discuss a wide range of topics that influenced our popular culture. Politicians and Royals get a look in but he concentrates more on the input of ordinary citizens from Suffragettes to Live Aid viewers. I like the humour in this book, particularly Maconie's scathing remarks on contemporary chav and celebrity Britain, and I discovered common ground in our shared loves of walking and toasted teacakes. However, although I usually ignore them, for once an index would have been helpful. Several mentioned places inspired me to visit them, but I now have to read through again with notepad in hand to find out the wheres and whys.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stuart Maconie / History / Books from England

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Queen's Mary by Sarah Gristwood


The Queen's Mary by Sarah Gristwood
Published in the UK by Endeavour Press in July 2017.

Where to buy this book:

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Add The Queen's Mary to your Goodreads

In 1548 four little girls, all called Mary, set sail from Scotland for France. At five years old, they are already primed to serve another girl called Mary: Mary, Queen of Scots.

Amongst them is Mary Seton, who becomes the Queen’s lady-in- waiting. Upon their return to an unwelcoming Scotland, Queen Mary struggles to take control of her turbulent country, and she finds herself set on the path of violence and disaster which will lead eventually to her tragic end. But what of the other four Marys, bound inexorably to their mistress' fate?

Torn between her own desires and her duty to serve her mistress, Mary Seton is ultimately drawn into her Queen's web of passion and royal treachery. Must she choose between survival, or sharing the same fate as the woman she has served, loyally and lovingly, since a child?

The Queen’s Mary is an engaging and insightful novel, allowing readers to peek behind the curtain of history and see into the heart and mind of a forgotten woman who helped shape the Tudor era.


Critical acclaim for The Queen’s Mary:
“Sarah Gristwood breathes new life into the deeply tragic story of Mary Queen of Scots by telling it through the perspective of the invisible woman who sacrificed her life to serve her.”
Elizabeth Freemantle, bestselling author of The Girl in the Glass Tower

Critical acclaim for Sarah Gristwood:
“This is an enthralling account of an extraordinary life”– Spectator
“Gristwood is a mistress of the trivial detail that enthrals”– Sunday Times

Meet The Author

A regular media commentator on royal and historical affairs, Sarah Gristwood was one of the team providing Radio 4’s live coverage of the royal wedding; and has since spoken on royal and historical stories from the royal babies to the reburial of Richard III for national television and radio.

Shortlisted for both the Marsh Biography Award and the Ben Pimlott Prize for Political Writing, she is a Fellow of the RSA, and an Honorary Patron of Historic Royal Palaces. Sarah is the bestselling author of Blood Sisters, The Story of Beatrix Potter and Game of Queens.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sarah Gristwood / Historical fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli


The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli
Self published in America in March 2014.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

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Wordery


How I got this book:
Took advantage of a free Amazon download

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Venetian gondola-maker Luca Vianello considers his whole life arranged. His father charted a course for his eldest son from the day he was born, and Luca is positioned to inherit one of the city's most esteemed boatyards. But when Luca experiences an unexpected tragedy in the boatyard, he believes that his destiny lies elsewhere. Soon he finds himself drawn to restore an antique gondola with the dream of taking a girl for a ride.

The Gondola Maker brings the centuries-old art of gondola-making to life in the tale of a young man's complicated relationship with his master-craftsman father. Lovers of historical fiction will appreciate the authentic details of gondola craftsmanship, along with an intimate first-person narrative set against the richly textured backdrop of 16th-century Venice.

I was invited to join an Italy Book Tours spotlight tour for Laura Morelli's new novel, The Painter's Apprentice, next month. That story takes place in the same historical Venice setting as The Gondola Maker and, on the strength of this first book, I am certainly looking forward to the next in the series!

The eponymous Gondola Maker, Luca, is the son of a boat-building family whose expertise, passed down through the generations, means his life expectations are limited to continuing the family business in which he has grown up. Unexpected - and very plausible - circumstances however see him cast out on his own and I loved how Morelli explores the concept of someone whose fate appeared predetermined now having an opportunity to choose their own path.

Luca is a sympathetic character, somewhat introverted which is unusual for a male lead. He has a keen eye so throughout the book we are treated to gloriously vivid descriptions of sixteenth-century Venice. I loved this aspect of the novel! I have visited Venice myself so particularly enjoyed imagining the colours, energy and aromas depicted! Morelli obviously has a great love for the city herself and this comes through, via Luca, in her writing. She must also have spent many hours researching this historical period and the craft of gondola building because this aspect of the novel always felt authentic and honest to tradition.

In reading The Gondola Maker, I was reminded of the historical richness of books by Tracy Chevalier and Jessie Burton. Perhaps this story does not quite have the intricacies and depth of of those authors' works, but it is a satisfying read with a strong sense of its place and time.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Laura Morelli / Historical fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Two Pound Tram by William Newton


Two Pound Tram by William Newton
First published in the UK by Bloomsbury in November 2003.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


How I got this book:
Swapped for on the book exchange shelves at Camping Sopalmo, Spain.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wilfred and Duncan live in a large old house in Sussex, only ever see their parents on Wednesdays, and spend their days catching butterflies and dreaming of adventure. Then their mother elopes and their already distant father becomes hostile. So the brothers pack their camping equipment and run away from home. They already have a plan. They're going to London to buy a tram they have seen in an advertisement, and it costs two pounds...

Judging by other reviews on Amazon, this is a Marmite book that people either adore or don't get at all. Personally, I'm in the 'underwhelmed' camp! The story is an fanciful tale of two boys running away from home and buying an ancient horse-drawn tram with which they make their living. So far, so good, but I found the book so lacking in emotional detail and depth that the events described were unbelievable. The boys seem to easily float from one town to another and when crises do occur, there's always a helpful adult on hand to make everything OK again. I lost count of how many chickens the boys stole with no comeback at all! I did enjoy the local interest aspect as much of the story takes place in Worthing which I know quite well, but this wasn't enough to redeem the book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by William Newton / Historical fiction / Books from England

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Summer Of Secrets by Martina Reilly


The Summer Of Secrets by Martina Reilly
First published in the UK by Little, Brown Book Group in May 2008.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


How I got this book:
Swapped for on the book exchange shelf at Camping Navarrete, La Rioja, Spain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hope Gleeson wants to go travelling, to escape her boring London life and plan a happier future. But the unthinkable happens - the plane taking her to sunnier climes experiences technical problems and crash lands. Hope is one of only seventeen people to survive, saved from death by the man sitting next to her.Hope wakes up in hospital with her best friends Adam and Julie at her side. They are taking her home to Ireland, they tell her, to recuperate. But home is the last place Hope wants to go - she has too many secrets to hide...

I was pleasantly surprised by The Summer Of Secrets having expected a lightweight chick-lit novel and ended up with something much deeper and, in places, darker. Whoever chose the cover art really isn't doing the book justice! The three friends, Hope, Julie and Adam, are well-written and nicely flawed (from a reader's point of view!). Hope's bickering with new neighbour Logan did become a little tiresome after a while making him seem flat by comparison. I liked the story's pace which kept me interested throughout and, although the ending is predictable, it is also satisfying.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Martina Reilly / Women's fiction / Books from Ireland