Thursday, 31 August 2017

Portrait Miniatures by George C Williamson


Portrait Miniatures by George C. Williamson
First published in the UK by The Studio in 1910. Republished by ForgottenBooks in 2014.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

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The Book Depository

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How I got this book:
Downloaded from ForgottenBooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Study the dynamic art of portrait miniatures in Portrait Miniatures From the Time of Holbein to That of Sir William Ross: a Handbook for Collectors by art historian George Williamson, which surveys the works of the artists who made portrait miniatures. Williamson explains that the practice of portrait miniature originated in manuscript illustration, and may also be an outgrowth of treaties and maps, which often attached portraits of ambassadors for verification.

"Miniature" in this context refers to the fact that the paintings were actually portable. The book begins with a 40-page essay and is followed by dozens of reproductions of the paintings discussed within the text. Williamson identifies Hans Holbein as the greatest painter of portrait miniatures and he presents several examples of Holbein's art, explaining what it is that makes the examples 'masterworks'. One of the portraits pictured in the book was on loan from J.P. Morgan's private collection and many of the portraits reproduced for the book were lent by their famous collectors.

Shadow of Night, a fantasy novel which I read shortly before this, made much of a pair of miniature portraits so when this book popped up as the ForgottenBooks choice of the day, I was interested enough to download it.

Williamson has written a brief essay overview of miniature portrait artists from the 1500s to the 1800s. Due to its short length, not many get a look in, but the essay is studded with biographical details and anecdotes about the works. The writing is quite dry, but informative.

The shame about the presentation of this book as a reprint download is that the great quantity of illustrations are all in black and white, and none are particularly clear. It is possible to zoom in, but not to make out the intricate details referred to by Williamson.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by George C Williamson / Art books / Books from England

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy


Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
First published in America by Spiegel And Grau in January 2015.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

366 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 3494.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


How I got this book:
Received from a Penguin ThinkSmarter giveaway

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Based on the best part of a decade embedded with the homicide units of the LAPD, this groundbreaking work of reportage takes us onto the streets, inside the homes and into the lives of a community wracked by a homicide epidemic.
Through the gripping story of one particular murder – of an eighteen-year-old boy named Bryant Tennelle, gunned down one evening in spring for no apparent reason – and of its investigation by a brilliant, ferociously driven detective – a blond, surfer-turned-cop named John Skaggs – it reveals the true origins of such violence, explodes the myths surrounding policing and race and shows that the only way to reverse the cycle of violence is with justice.

I was impressed with this thoughtful and thought-provoking reportage exploring the wider social issues surrounding the disproportionately high murder rates for black people, especially black men, in America. Compared to Europe, the country seems particularly violent across all its communities regardless of race, but Leovy concentrates her attentions on the Watts district of south Los Angeles in California - a ridiculously dangerous place even by American standards. Her investigation and conclusions are fascinating to read. Incorporating both the historical exclusion of black people from legal recourse in America and the present-day situation that frequently still echoes that negligence, she uses the murder of policeman's son Bryant Tennelle as a focal point around which to expound her theories.

There is frustrating repetition in Ghettoside, but also a strong narrative with heartbreaking lists of names and statistics of ignored murder victims that at times became emotionally difficult to continue with. Leovy effectively introduces real people - detectives, victims, families - without becoming overly sentimental. Reading Ghettoside in the immediate wake of the Charlottesville protests this month I could easily see for myself the attitude of mainstream America, described by Leovy, and understand at least how the disaster of Watts and other similar inner-city communities has been allowed to develop and continue, if not why. This is a shocking book for its content rather than its attitude and one that I think should be widely read for its insights into estranged communities wherever they might be.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jill Leovy / Reportage / Books from America

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Room Full Of Mirrors by Charles R Cross


Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross
First published by Hyperion Books in August 2005.

Where to buy this book:

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How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jimi Hendrix continues to fascinate, and sell huge quantities of albums, even 35 years after his death. Quite apart from his influence on musicians and fans, a large part of the appeal of his sensational life story lies in the thrill of the era whose values he came to stand for. The Sixties still exert a massive pull over pop culture and this is genuinely a book for anyone interested, not only in Hendrix but also in anything to do with the pop culture of the last 40 years.
Meticulously researched and sensitively and beautifully written, this is a labour of love that reveals the nuances, foibles and tragedies of the human being behind the iconic image. This is the sweeping, authoritative and colourful biography that Jimi Hendrix deserves and that his legions of fans, young and old have been waiting for.

I'm not a big Jimi Hendrix fan and so knew very little about him other than a few of his hit songs and his early death. Dave had this copy of Charles Cross' Hendrix biography and found it interesting so I thought I'd give it a try too.

The book is surprisingly dry for such an outrageous star. The coverage of Jimi's early life seems thorough and is sad to read as family life was pretty much nonexistent. Violence and poverty are recurring themes with whichever Hendrixes constituted the household at the time frequently moving from one dump to another.

Once Jimi finds music and begs a guitar, he works for, and later with, a bewildering number of musicians. Pretty much any star in sixties London is name-dropped at some point!
Cross has obviously done a fantastic amount of research, but I thought some of his inferences seemed contrived. The writing style is hit and miss and I felt tighter editing was needed, especially for incidents that are cited on multiple occasions, but without recognition that they have been mentioned before.

Jimi Hendrix did certainly lead a fascinating life and this is a good rendition of it, but I think a stronger writer could have made this a greater book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Charles R Cross / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Monday, 28 August 2017

Murder In Montego Bay by Paula Lennon


Murder In Montego Bay by Paula Lennon
First published in the UK by Jacaranda Books Art Music Ltd in June 2017.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

375 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 3128.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

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Wordery


How I got this book:
Received a review copy via The Contemporary Small Press

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Montego Bay, Jamaica, privileged Chinese-Jamaican brothers Lester and Carter Chin Ellis have enjoyed a sheltered life as the heirs to the iced desserts empire Chinchillerz. One fateful night, following a fiery encounter with local law enforcement the brothers are taken to Pelican Walk Police Station, where Lester is detained for drunk driving, while Carter is released without charge. When Carter is shot dead within minutes of leaving the station his murder throws the police force into crisis mode.
Discredited Detective Raythan Preddy is put in charge of the murder case and is forced to accept the assistance of Detective Sean Harris, a Scottish lawman seconded to Jamaica. With his superiors watching his every move and the Chin Ellis family interfering with the investigation, Preddy is determined to catch the killer and save his career.


I was pleased to receive a copy of Murder In Montego Bay via The Contemporary Small Press because of its Jamaican authorship and setting. I have only previously read one Jamaican novel, A Brief History Of Seven Killings, and although this book also revolves around murder, it provides a very different perspective on island life. Lennon sets her tale within the grossly underfunded Jamaican police service I appreciated that her team of detectives really are portrayed as a team. Their leader, Preddy, does have shades of the dysfunctional-older-detective-against-the-world crime fiction cliche, but at least he isn't an alcoholic who never eats! There's no random love interest forced into the plot either which made a refreshing change! Instead Lennon's detectives realistically banter, support and rile each other in a patois dialogue which is easy to understand and adds a real sense of authenticity. Their camaraderie reminded me of Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck series and I think fans of those books might also enjoy this tropical mystery.

Lennon's great strength I thought was in her evocation of Jamaican culture and people. She presents the poverty of the island alongside the vast wealth of some of its inhabitants, and shows how tourists are generally fenced into their own secure beach enclaves away from sights that might discourage them from visiting again. Details of police station disrepair are shocking. I liked that the lack of available high tech gadgets gave a classic crime fiction feel in keeping with the investigation's style. This novel is certainly more of a character-driven mystery than an all-action thriller. The plot narrative isn't particularly convoluted, but Lennon kept my interest throughout and I actually found myself being drawn deeper into her created world as the book progressed. I wasn't immediately gripped by the early chapters, but struggled to lay the book aside by the end as I wanted to know how everything would turn out! Murder In Montego Bay is a nicely satisfying read and has the potential to continue into a strong series.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Paula Lennon / Crime fiction / Books from Jamaica

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Sin Of Choice (Part 1) by Paul Rudiak


The Sin Of Choice (Part 1) by Paul Rudiak
First published in the UK by Long Tale Books in October 2015.

304 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 2753.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Peter Thornton is a man in his early fifties with two problems: one professional and the other medical. He is a lawyer, and some of his clients are prominent members of the Manchester underworld. The diagnosis of a brain tumour turns his world upside down and forces him to confront matters from his past that he would rather have kept hidden.
His daughter has never liked what he does for a living, and she has always wanted to find out how much dirt is on his hands. She is surprised to find there is blood in the dirt, and that her father is only half to blame. His confession tempts her to search for the other party involved, which will lead her into the path of people who like to keep their business away from prying eyes.
Peter has kept his professional and private lives separate for over twenty years, but now his daughter's overconfidence will undo all that effort and force him to face his past, and thus acknowledge what fractured his family while he was too busy to notice.


I was introduced to Paul Rudiak by author Vikki Patis who suggested I might like to read his crime trilogy The Sin Of Choice. I love this grapevine way of discovering new books so accepted the offer of Part 1.

Set mostly in affluent middle-class Cheshire, The Sin Of Choice is a crime novel, but (for Part 1 at least) far from the usual genre offerings. Rudiak's central character, lawyer Peter Thornton, doesn't rush around one step ahead of the police, gunwaving and unearthing serial killers. Instead he is grappling with the implications of a terminal medical diagnosis and most of the book depicts his and his family's attempts to come to terms with the news. I liked Rudiak's in depth character portrayals - although frequently not the characters themselves! Thornton is a successful lawyer, albeit not a moral one, and we see his family's different methods for squaring their distaste at who pays him. This ostensibly perfect family is as cracked and flawed as any, yet is obliged by their social status to present a certain image to the world outside. Unravelling the sacrifices each has made in order to do this, especially those invisible even to other members of the family is a fascinating process.

Where this novel fell down for me is that it is the first third of a very long book and it feels like it. There is a lot of meandering introduction and circular conversation. I also felt that characters such as mobster's son Danny, who get significant attention, didn't justify such a strong presence at this point in the story. No doubt his role will feature strongly in the further instalments, but for me Part 1 centred on the Thornton family and I didn't want to be distracted from establishing and understanding their complicated emotional relationships.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Paul Rudiak / Crime fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Beowulf: The New Translation by Gerald J Davis


Beowulf: The New Translation by Gerald J Davis
This translation published in the UK by Insignia Publishing in August 2013.

Where to buy this book:


Abebooks

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Amazon US

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The Book Depository

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Wordery


How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The origins, history and authorship of BEOWULF are shrouded in uncertainty. This heroic epic probably began, as most do, with a wandering troubadour strumming a stringed instrument, sitting before a hearth-fire, and singing the verses to a spellbound audience arrayed before him. At some point, the words of the troubadour were inscribed in manuscript form, in order to preserve the story for posterity. The events depicted in this story take place during the late fifth to early sixth century. However, there is great dispute among scholars as to when the manuscript itself was actually transcribed. Tolkien believed it was written about the eighth century, while other serious experts assert it was written as late as the early eleventh century.

BEOWULF is a rousing adventure story, filled with intrepid heroes, monsters and fire-breathing dragons, which can be read for the sheer enjoyment of the tale.

I downloaded Gerald Davis' translation of Beowulf after having read his other translation of Gilgamesh which I enjoyed reading, and the historical Northumberland novel Edwin by Edoardo Albert, who mentioned Beowulf and the Anglo Saxon Chronicles amongst his inspirations. I have vague memories of Beowulf-themed Primary School music and movement classes on the radio: 'and then Beowulf and his men went into the dark forest. Can everyone make themselves into a wild tree for the duration of this interminably long piece of music?' I loathed music and movement classes!

Other than the fab Baba Brinkman rap, I didn't think I really knew the Beowulf story, but reading it here, the events did all seem familiar so I must have absorbed it through cultural references over the years. Or maybe the story arc, like that of the Odyssey and Iliad, has been reused so many times since that the original no longer seems, erm, original. I greatly appreciate being able to read these ancient stories and love that they survive and are still studied and republished so widely. This translation does end with a very scholarly essay attempting to prove links to other contemporary works and real people. I tried to read it, but had to give up!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Gerald J Davis / Fantasy fiction / Books from England

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Art Of Hiding by Amanda Prowse


The Art Of Hiding by Amanda Prowse
Published in America by Lake Union Publishing on the 18th July 2017.

290 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 2449 pages.

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:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?
Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels. Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married.
Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate — and the sister — she thought she had left far behind. But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed — her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

I'm really struggling to review The Art Of Hiding, so much so that I postponed putting my words out there for three days running while I attempted to coherently marshall my thoughts. On the one hand, Prowse's writing is - as always - immensely readable and I enjoyed the few hours I spent in the company of bereaved trophy wife Nina and her family. For a simple read and set aside novel, I am sure this book will have wide appeal. It ticks many of its genre's essential boxes and and left me feeling good about Nina's world and future.

It was only on reflecting in order to write this review that I started to feel uncomfortable about the novel's mixed messages. Nina is that women's fiction staple - a poor girl who made a good life for herself by marriage - and the first third of the book laboriously extolls the luxuries of her affluent life in a way that is meant to encourage envy. Prowse's later attempts to present her reduced circumstances as a happier lifestyle choice therefore didn't ring true at all for me. Nina might be more comfortable back with her working class roots, but Prowse obviously wouldn't want to be in that position and the writing wasn't convincing. I was reminded of those 1950s set novels where no one has two pennies to rub together, but they all get by with family, community and a jolly good cup of tea! It all felt rather patronising and false. The repeated and blatant rich-people-heartless, poor-people-kind message was disappointing in its shallow simplicity as well. People are always far more nuanced than their bank accounts, but the characters in The Art Of Hiding are rarely portrayed that deeply.

I know this all sounds harsh! Prowse is known for putting her characters into difficult emotional situations and exploring their responses and I hoped for a deeper novel here. The way Britain is going at the moment, many people are likely to find themselves in similar financial straits over the next few years so The Art Of Hiding could have been very timely and incisive. Instead it is a good cosy read, but ultimately, for me, too superficial to be truly satisfying.


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Books by Amanda Prowse / Women's fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Manukau Bluebirds by Tin Larrick + Free book


Manukau Bluebirds by Tin Larrick
Published by Obscure Cranny Press in February 2014.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo (FREE)

Smashwords (FREE)

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

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Wordery


How I got this book:

Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In furtherance of some nebulous dream of a better life on the other side of the world, Hugh Button, former Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is starting again as a patrol constable in Auckland, New Zealand. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But now he is here alone, with no family, no stuff, a wooden shack in the middle of nowhere and what amounts to constructive demotion – or possibly career suicide.
Two months in, Hugh still has no stuff and no family, but he's learning to live with it. The 2011 Rugby World Cup – and the ensuing chaos on New Zealand’s streets – is going full steam ahead, his beloved family are due to arrive in just one more month, and with the fractious bonds he has made with his colleagues on Section Three, life is maybe a little less surreal than when he touched down. But only a little. Relearning the art of patrol work, Hugh and the rest of Section Three respond to a spectrum of calls that range from the violent to the exhilarating, from the tragic to the tender, from the hilarious to the just plain weird.
In the meantime, there is a shadow over Auckland. The shadow of a night stalker. The shadow of fear and violation. An obsessive creeper, on the prowl, whose hunger for breaking into houses and forcing himself upon the occupants is growing by the day …

For me, Manukau Bluebirds is definitely Tin Larrick's best book to date. Although I missed the recognition of familiar Eastbourne scenes that characterised his previous work, a local flavour is still much to the fore. It's just local to the other side of the world in this New Zealand based story. We are introduced to the police officers and city of Auckland in a series of vignettes, some of which are the beginnings of the overall story arc. Larrick's characters are realistic and nicely portrayed. The arc begins slowly, albeit with some horrific crime scenes, but once it takes off, the ride is breathless and I was gripped throughout!


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Books by Tin Larrick / Crime fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Second Deadly Sin by Asa Larsson


The Second Deadly Sin by Asa Larsson
First published in Swedish in Sweden as Till offer at Molok by Albert Bonniers Forlag in 2012. English language translation by Laurie Thompson published by MacLehose Press in 2014.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

392 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 2159 pages.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

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Speedyhen

The Book Depository

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Wordery


How I got this book:
Borrowed the paperback from my OH

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dawn breaks in a forest in northern Sweden. Villagers gather to dispatch a rampaging bear. When the beast is brought to ground they are horrified to find the remains of a human hand inside its stomach.
In nearby Kiruna a woman is found murdered in her bed, her body a patchwork of vicious wounds, the word WHORE scrawled across the wall. Her grandson Marcus, already an orphan, is nowhere to be seen.
Grasping for clues, Rebecka Martinsson begins to delve into the victim's tragic family history. But with doubts over her mental health still lingering, she is ousted from the case by an arrogant and ambitious young prosecutor.
Before long a chance lead draws Martinsson back into the thick of the action and her legendary courage is put to the test once more.

This is my second Rebecka Martinsson novel although it is the fifth in the series. Reading out of order wasn't a problem though because, other than a few minor nods to previous cases, The Second Deadly Sin is an entirely self-contained story and a thrilling one at that. Larsson grabbed my attention from the first pages and hardly let up until the end. I love that she manages to firmly ground her writing in her northern Sweden locations, bringing the people and landscapes chillingly to life without sacrificing tension or the exciting pace. Everywhere felt so beautiful that I now want to visit this part of the world - except for the high murder rate of course, but I suspect it's not quite as dangerous there in reality!

Larsson's breathless ride meant I could easily suspend as much disbelief as was necessary - these aren't novels to be over-analysed - and I appreciated the intertwined storylines. The historical Elina allows us to look back to 1910s Sweden and compare lifestyles then with their equivalents a century later. The strong character portrayals are always interesting and, of course, Larsson's women are always far more than decorative ornamentation or semi-clad murder victims which is refreshing for the crime fiction genre. I think my OH has already bought at least two more books in the Rebecka Martinsson series and I look forward to devouring them!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Asa Larsson / Crime fiction / Books from Sweden

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The Invitation by Tyfany Janee + Giveaway



The Invitation: To Journey Through a Conscious Mind by Tyfany Janee
​Category: Adult Fiction; 40 pages
​Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Tyfany Williams
Release date: March 31, 2017
Tour dates: Aug 21 to Sept 1, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (​for mature content of love and relationships etc. 1-2 word usage of bad language. No sex scenes or erotica language.)

Where to buy this book:

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Book Description:

The Invitation: To Journey Through a Conscious Mind, is a showcase in talent from author and poet Tyfany Janee. She's eloquently produced the anthology through plaintive artistic angst. Injecting the essence of her soul into her prose. The diverse collection of poetry which lies between the covers is the result of an entire life's work experimenting within her vocation.

Her work is comprised of truth, meaning, hope, possibility and a succinct hint of humor as she tears away the facade from humanity. The works shed light on relative issues that we're all faced with in our easily waywardly led astray lives, and the monotony that makes up our existence.

The Invitation: To Journey Through a Conscious Mind is an ode to the beat generation of poets that carved their names in literary history. Any creative mind will revel in the inspiration that lies between these pages; it's full of daring attitude, and celebration for the authentic. A unique look on love, that you have to dare to delve within. It harnesses true devotion, with a stark, hair raising element of modern reality.



​Book Trailer:






About the Author:

Tyfany Janee is a mother and an upcoming graduate with a BS in Business Administration in a concentration of Entrepreneurship, and a minor in Marketing. She is a prolific writer, author and poet and she has an upcoming plan of releasing a short story collection in 2018 that she titles; The Road Sometimes Traveled; and a poetry collection book titled "RSVP: To Be You Unapologetically.” Additionally, a release of a debut novel, the first of a series in 2019 she titles; To Love Him..I.

Her recent book is comprised of truth, meaning, hope, possibility and a much-needed element of humor when it comes to exposing the true nature of humankind. Tyfany devours inspiration wherever she can get it, from cult classics, to just about anything she can see.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ facebook ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest


Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Sept 9
a Rafflecopter giveaway



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tyfany Janee / Poetry / Books from America

Monday, 21 August 2017

Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba


Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba
First published as The Stone Hills Of Maragoli by Kwani in Kenya in 2002. Republished in America as Forbidden Fruit by Mantle in June 2017.

Winner of the 2003 Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature.

296 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 1767 pages.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a "harmless" crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima's family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba's FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups — sometimes sad, sometimes farcical — are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli.

I hoped to have enjoyed reading Forbidden Fruit more than I actually did and it took a while for me to actually put my finger on what I think lets the novel down. On a positive note, Gazemba provides us with a striking portrait of Kenyan village life. Following his supporting cast of landowners and villagers through their days allowed me to understand and empathise with them - as well as reinforcing my desire to only ever buy FairTrade tea. Witnessing, albeit fictiously, so many people living in absolute poverty despite their hard work on tea plantations really gave me a good insight into relative Western affluence. Despite their eye-opening aspect, these scenes of gossip and bickering aren't depressingly serious. Instead they are alive with energy and great fun to read.

Unfortunately I was less enamoured of the central storyline which follows plantation worker Ombima as he gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble as the result of one desperate act. I struggled to empathise with Ombima or to understand his actions because I felt his motivations weren't adequately explained. The narrative seemed disjointed to me, Ombima stumbling from one event to another without strong enough reasons for doing so. This was a shame as I happily got caught up in the surrounding circumstances and appreciated Gazemba's detailed evocation of the village and landscape around Maragoli. I would still recommend Forbidden Fruit for this portrayal of rural Kenya.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stanley Gazemba / Contemporary fiction / Books from Kenya

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Book Of Abisan by C H Clepitt


The Book of Abisan by C.H. Clepitt

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

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Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Do you believe in destiny?
When two worlds collide a new hope is born.

Yfrey is lost, alone in a world where her kind is persecuted. She has one hope, to find The Roghnaithe, one who is destined to help save her world from destruction by a tyrannical ruler. The Book of Abisan crosses multiple realities to follow the lives of two very different women, as they come together to battle armies, as well as their own personal demons.

Step into an exciting world of adventure, magic and alternate realities in this fast paced, action packed fantasy.

I discovered The Book Of Abisan back in 2015 after having been pointed towards it on Twitter. A feminist fantasy novel of witches, magic and multiple realities, it wasn't my preferred genre, but I enjoyed the read. C H Clepitt has a new novel, Everything Is Better With A Cape, launching at the beginning of September and I am looking forward to reading and reviewing it soon.

The Book Of Abisan is a volume of prophecy, carried and studied by a witch, Yfrey, who is trying to rid her world of an oppressive dictator, Calim. Calim is a charismatic man, but one without any magic of his own and he is determined to rid that same world of all its magical beings, leaving himself all powerful. Clepitt's book is a fast action-packed ride - a complete contrast to my previous read! There is some attempt at rounding out the two main characters, Yfrey and a human woman named Jacques, but otherwise everyone is pretty two-dimensional with the novel's emphasis put on doing rather than being. I thought several scenes were too rushed and would have liked a lot more in the way of description to help me understand what was going on and why, especially once the reality hopping starts. I wanted to know more about the different realities! If that was done I would say that there could be enough plot here for two exciting novels. However, overall this is an easy escapist read and I liked the drawings at the start of each Part.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by C H Clepitt / Fantasy fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller


The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller
First published in America by Doubleday in 1903.

59 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 1470 pages.

My 1900s read for this year's Goodreads / BookCrossing Decade Challenge - now completed!
1903 - The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
1914 - Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse
1929 - The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
1938 - The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham
1940 - The Rights of Man by H G Wells
1959 - Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
1963 - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
1974 - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick
1987 - The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
1996 - Berta La Larga by Cuca Canals
2001 - There Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato
2015 - Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When she was 19 months old, Helen Keller (1880–1968) suffered a severe illness that left her blind and deaf. Not long after, she also became mute. Her tenacious struggle to overcome these handicaps - with the help of her inspired teacher, Anne Sullivan - is one of the great stories of human courage and dedication.
In this classic autobiography, first published in 1903, Miss Keller recounts the first 22 years of her life, including the magical moment at the water pump when, recognizing the connection between the word "water" and the cold liquid flowing over her hand, she realized that objects had names. Subsequent experiences were equally noteworthy: her joy at eventually learning to speak, her friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edward Everett Hale and other notables, her education at Radcliffe (from which she graduated cum laude), and-underlying all-her extraordinary relationship with Miss Sullivan, who showed a remarkable genius for communicating with her eager and quick-to-learn pupil.
These and many other aspects of Helen Keller's life are presented here in clear, straightforward prose full of wonderful descriptions and imagery that would do credit to a sighted writer. Completely devoid of self-pity, yet full of love and compassion for others, this deeply moving memoir offers an unforgettable portrait of one of the outstanding women of the twentieth century.

For a woman to go to college at all in the early 1900s was achievement enough that a memoir of her struggle to get there would be of interest to me. When I think that Helen Keller was also deaf and blind, her determination becomes all the more incredible. I cannot remember a time when I didn't know of Keller's existence and I am sure my mother gave me a child's edition of her story (a Ladybird book?) as soon as I was old enough to read it! However I hadn't given this example of perseverance much thought since until I needed a 1900s-published book to complete the above Decade Challenge and decided to revisit Keller's story.

I like that this memoir is written in a straightforward style without the reliance on overly emotional scenes or appeals to readers for pity. Even in her early twenties, as she was writing this memoir, Keller is already well-read and erudite beyond her years. At one point she notes blind poet Homer's immortality through his writing and I thought that the same is now true of her. Helen Keller is a name I think many people would recognise. She frequently makes sure to give credit where it is due so I understood that her success was equally as a much a result of her family's support and Anne Sullivan's tireless dedication as it was to Helen own efforts. It was also interesting to see the facilities available to deaf and/or blind American children at this period - at least to those whose parents could afford it - and to see how those resources dwindled as Helen strode past the needs of a child's education, pioneering the right of disabled people to expect college educations and independent lives. An inspirational woman.


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Books by Helen Keller / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Friday, 18 August 2017

Amnesty by Cambria Hebert + Giveaway


Amnesty (Amnesia #2) by Cambria Hebert
Self published on August 15th 2017

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Add Amnesty to your Goodreads

*Please note Amnesty contains subjects and situations that some readers may find disturbing.

There’s freedom in remembering.

My past is a double-edged sword. Damned if I remember; damned if I don’t. Recollection beyond the horrors I already have will change me. Change us. But what if I’m living a lie? What if everything I believe is wrong? What if who I thought I was isn’t real? If not her, then…

Who am I? Eddie says it doesn’t matter, but deep down, I’m terrified it does. I’m trapped. Held prisoner by a past I can’t remember and a future that may not belong to me. There’s a light, though not at the end of the tunnel…

It’s wavering in the distance, calling to me from Rumor Island. That light, it scares me far more than darkness. Am I brave enough to confront it? So many questions, so few answers. I don’t have a choice; the truth always finds a way to the surface. Finally learning who I truly am will be a permanent life sentence. Total punishment or absolute amnesty.



Meet the author:
Cambria Hebert is an award winning, bestselling novelist of more than twenty books. She went to college for a bachelor’s degree, couldn’t pick a major, and ended up with a degree in cosmetology. So rest assured her characters will always have good hair.

Besides writing, Cambria loves a caramel latte, staying up late, sleeping in, and watching movies. She considers math human torture and has an irrational fear of chickens (yes, chickens). You can often find her running on the treadmill (she’d rather be eating a donut), painting her toenails (because she bites her fingernails), or walking her chorkie (the real boss of the house).
Cambria has written within the young adult and new adult genres, penning many paranormal and contemporary titles. Her favorite genre to read and write is romantic suspense. A few of her most recognized titles are: The Hashtag Series, Text, Torch, and Tattoo. Cambria Hebert owns and operates Cambria Hebert Books, LLC.

Author links:







And now for the giveaway!
Open to the US only (sorry) until August 24th, the winner will receive signed paperback copies of Amnesia and Amnesty + swag.

a Rafflecopter giveaway






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Books by Cambria Hebert / Romance fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Benediction by Kent Haruf


Benediction by Kent Haruf
First published by Alfred A Knopf in America in February 2013.

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How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One long last summer for Dad Lewis in his beloved town, Holt, Colorado. As old friends pass in and out to voice their farewells and good wishes, Dad's wife and daughter work to make his final days as comfortable as possible, knowing all is tainted by the heart-break of an absent son. Next door, a little girl with a troubled past moves in with her grandmother, and down town another new arrival, the Reverend Rob Lyle, attempts to mend strained relationships of his own.
Utterly beautiful, and devastating yet affirming, Kent Haruf's Benediction explores the pain, the compassion and the humanity of ordinary people.

Benediction is the third volume in Kent Haruf's trilogy set in the rural American community of Holt. I loved reading the first two books, Plainsong and Eventide, so had high hopes for Benediction - hopes which were not disappointed.

Benediction is set some years later so characters that had previously taken centre stage have moved on or passed on. Instead we spend our time with an older man, hardware store owner Dad Lewis, who is dying from cancer, his family, neighbours and staff. I think that this was definitely the most melancholy of the trilogy and not just because of its cancer storyline, but also due to a very real sense of Holt changing as a town. References to America being at war again and the Reverend's disastrous 'turn the other cheek' sermon were particularly poignant and timely given the ISIS Paris attacks last week and many hate-filled reactions I have seen to it.

Haruf was one of the best observational writers I have read. His creation of ordinary people is superb and I love the way he makes the minutiae of their daily lives interesting and important. At one point, Reverend Lyle says that he just wanted to see 'the precious ordinary' and that quote completely sums up Benediction for me.


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Books by Axelle Chandler / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Guest review: Jade by Rose Montague


Jade by Rose Montague
First published in America by Caliburn Press in November 2013.

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Guest review by C H Clepitt
C H Clepitt has a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of the West of England. As her Bachelor’s Degree was in Drama, and her Master’s Dissertation focused on little known 18th Century playwright Susannah Centlivre, Clepitt’s novels are extremely dialogue driven, and it has often been observed that they would translate well to the screen.
Since graduating in 2007, she gained experience in community and music journalism, before establishing satirical news website, Newsnibbles in 2010. In 2011 she published her book, A Reason to Stay, which follows the adventures of disillusioned retail manager, Stephen, as he is thrust into village life and the world of AmDram. Clepitt’s feminist fantasy, The Book of Abisan not only crosses worlds, but confuses genres, and has been described as a crime drama with magic. She has often said that she doesn’t like the way that choosing a genre forces you to put your book into a specific little box, and instead she prefers to distort the readers’ expectations and keep them guessing. Her 2016 work, I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse does just that, as just like the characters, the readers won’t know what’s going on in this laugh out loud satirical scifi.

C H's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meet Jade Smith, a magical mutt with a mission. A detective partnered with a shifter named Rolfe, she’s on the case to solve a slew of murders: Vamps are killing humans, and nobody knows why. When London Jane, the most powerful vamp in town, is implicated in the murders, Jade knows something isn’t right. Together with Jill, the Winter Queen of Faerie, Jade and Jane take their investigation underground.
On the run, with nowhere to hide, they uncover a secret that could destroy Faerie, as well as the human realm. Will Jade stop the killer in time? Or will she be the next victim?
Magic, mayhem, and mystery abound, and the odds are stacked against them; it’s three against three hundred.

C H says: I bought this book because I saw it advertised on Twitter and thought it looked quite good, and it did not disappoint. If you like Lost Girl then you’ll like this. Jade mixes run of the mill US cop fiction with urban fantasy.

It is set in a world where “supes” are integrated with humans, but obviously face discrimination, as humans discriminate against anything that’s different, don’t they? Jade is living proof that you don’t need to conform to anyone’s expectations of what you should be, and with a kickass team by her side she battles to thwart a conspiracy and save her friends.

I could not put this book down, and read it in a day and a half. It is non-stop action, with just the right amount of comedy and romance to balance it out. The characters are deftly drawn and you feel by the end that you kinda want to be their friend, only the whole constantly running from danger would put me off, I’d probably need a nap or something.

So, to the scores. Out of 10, I’d give it 9. This is because there were a few typos, and whilst this did not affect my enjoyment, and we all have typos (I am certainly not immune), in my way of thinking, 10 means perfection, so I doubt any book will ever get a full 10 from me. That said, the Amazon score is 5/5, because it’s really good. Really!

This review was first published on Newsnibbles


Thank you C H!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!


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Books by Rose Montague / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya


City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya
First published in Russian in Russia in the 1860s. English language translation by Nora Seligman Favorov published today, the 15th August 2017, by Columbia University Press (5th September in the UK).

272 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 1411 pages.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unsung gem of nineteenth-century Russian literature, City Folk and Country Folk is a seemingly gentle yet devastating satire of Russia's aristocratic and pseudo-intellectual elites in the 1860s. Translated into English for the first time, the novel weaves an engaging tale of manipulation, infatuation, and female assertiveness that takes place one year after the liberation of the empire's serfs.
Upending Russian literary cliches of female passivity and rural gentry benightedness, Sofia Khvoshchinskaya centers her story on a commonsense, hardworking noblewoman and her self-assured daughter living on their small rural estate. The antithesis of the thoughtful, intellectual, and self-denying young heroines created by Khvoshchinskaya's male peers, especially Ivan Turgenev, seventeen-year-old Olenka ultimately helps her mother overcome a sense of duty to her "betters" and leads the two to triumph over the urbanites' financial, amorous, and matrimonial machinations.
Sofia Khvoshchinskaya and her writer sisters closely mirror Britain's Brontes, yet Khvoshchinskaya's work contains more of Jane Austen's wit and social repartee, as well an intellectual engagement reminiscent of Elizabeth Gaskell's condition-of- England novels. Written by a woman under a male pseudonym, this brilliant and entertaining exploration of gender dynamics on a post-emancipation Russian estate offers a fresh and necessary point of comparison with the better-known classics of nineteenth-century world literature

A lovely comedy of class, manners and snobbery, I think City Folk And Country Folk should appeal to Jane Austen fans the world over. Khvoshchinskaya's writing, especially her dialogue, is wonderfully modern in style, sharp and vivacious, and her wickedly well observed characters are tremendous fun to spend time with. I liked that while the novel doesn't shy away from depicting social problems and the upheaval in Russia at the time, Khvoshchinskaya avoids getting bogged down in depressing detail. As Russian literature of the era goes, I think City Folk and Country Folk is refreshing breeze!

The characters particularly appealed to me because they are vivid and wonderfully alive, sometimes overstated but never grotesquely so, and women lead the narrative rather than simply being decorative adornments to men. The somewhat overwhelmed mother, Nastasya, and her irritatingly giggly but deceptively smart daughter, Olenka, stand up for themselves against repressive etiquette and a fabulously pompous reclusive aunt who frequently had me giggling almost as much as Olenka. The pair are precariously placed in the middle of several competing situations, each of which would see them at least lose face and I loved how Khvoshchinskaya had them navigate these tricky waters. Working-class serf peasants have just gained the right to land of their own which Nastasya must provide while at the same time an educated gentleman wishes to take up residence in her bath house and a neighbour wishes to marry Olenka off to her dolt of a protegee. The expectations of behaviour and mindless obedience based solely on perceived class and ancestry provide much of the humour, especially when these expectations are bluntly confounded.

I was surprised to discover that the new Columbia University Press edition of City Folk and Country Folk is its first publication in English. I am sure it should already have been a literary hit outside its native country! Strong heroines and the historical setting (albeit contemporary at its time of writing) are well suited to modern tastes and I believe Khvoshchinskaya's modern style should appeal to a wide readership.


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Books by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya / Humorous fiction / Books from Russia

Monday, 14 August 2017

Child Of Tibet by Soname Yangchen


Child Of Tibet by Soname Yangchen with Vicki MacKenzie
Published in the UK by Piatkus Books in 2006.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing.

184 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 1139.

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How I got this book:
Bought from a Rowcroft charity shop in Torquay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book tells the remarkable story of Soname's triumph over adversity, told against the backdrop of a turbulent and dangerous Tibet. Soname was born in the harsh Tibetan countryside during the Chinese occupation. When she was just sixteen Soname risked death in a freedom trek across the Himalayas, finally arriving in Dharamsala, home in exile of the Dalai Lama. Even after managing to escape from Tibet, she faced further dangers and heartache in India, being forced by destitution to give her daughter away. Soname later managed to reach England, where she met and married an Englishman and came to live in Brighton. Her hidden talent was discovered when she sang a traditional Tibetan song at a wedding reception, unaware that a member of a famous band was a guest. Concerts followed. Tracing her long-lost daughter has long been Soname's preoccupation, and it is hoped that her daughter will finally join her in England later this year. Hers is a story of immense will, unbelievable courage and, above all, an indomitable soaring free spirit.


Child Of Tibet is an inspiring autobiography, an uplifting tale of one woman's unceasing attempts to make a better life for herself in the face of extreme circumstances. Prior to reading this book I was aware of the Tibetan struggle to shake off Chinese rule, but I had no idea of the realities of living under their ideology or how completely opposed many of their rules are to traditional Tibetan Buddhist beliefs. For Soname, escaping the repressive regime regime was vital because she probably would never have been anything other than a house slave in her native land.

Despite her isolation and poor treatment in Tibet, Soname's love for her country shines through every page. Her descriptions of her childhood farming community, the beauty and majesty of the mountainous landscape, and the everyday difficulties of living in such terrain and at such altitude - water can take two hours to boil! - opened my eyes to a previously hidden culture. I was saddened to learn how much has been destroyed during. the Chinese occupation.

Once Soname's escape begins I was in awe of her mental strength and the dedication of those people travelling with her. I am sure in the same situation I would have given up (and died), but Soname's faith and ability to be open to opportunity gives her the strength to persevere. I was amazed at the variety of people she encounters, a woman with basically nothing hob-nobbing with the super-rich, and I would have liked to learn more about aspects such as the exiled Tibetan community in India. Child Of Tibet is not a long enough book to encompass Soname's incredible life so it did at times feel superficial. Soname is an amazing woman and I am glad to have discovered her story and her music through reading Child Of Tibet.




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Books by Soname Yangchen / Biography and memoir / Books from Tibet