Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Midwife by Katja Kettu


The Midwife by Katja Kettu
First published as Katilo in Finnish in Finland by Werner Soderstrom in 2011. English translation by David Hackston published by AmazonCrossing in October 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book via Abebooks
Buy the book via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Orphaned into an unforgiving foster home and raised as an outsider, Weird-Eye shoulders her unflattering nickname. She relies on her vivid imagination to sustain her work as a midwife bringing newborns into the world while World War II overruns her native Finland, desecrating life. She finds herself drawn to the handsome, otherworldly Johannes Angelhurst, a war photographer working for the SS. To be near him, Weird-Eye—whom Johannes lovingly calls Wild-Eye—volunteers to serve as a nurse at the prison camp where he has been assigned. From the brutality of the camps to the splendor of the aurora borealis above the Arctic Sea, The Midwife tells of a stormy romance, the desolate beauty of a protective fjord, and the deeply personal battles waged as World War II came to an end.

The Midwife is an incredibly passionate novel. A young Finnish woman who has been excluded by practically everyone in her community because of her parents' lack of marriage and her own odd-looking eye suddenly finds that WW2 not only brings her midwifery and natural healing skills into demand, but also allows her a chance to catch herself a stunningly handsome German SS officer, Johannes. This is no light-read romantic war story though. The book is written as a series of letters and radio communications and truths are hidden as much behind the Arctic fog as in the secrecy of everyone in Finland at the time. I loved how Kettu slowly reveals horrific details of what exactly Wild-Eye has gotten herself into a the isolated prison camp and also just how psychologically damaged her Johannes is.

I didn't previously know anything about 1940s Finland so have learned quite a lot by reading The Midwife. It seems that from having allied with Germany initially, Finland then turned against The Reich as Soviet troops got closer to their borders in 1944. In this time of extreme violence and confusion, Kettu has woven an almost magical tale of treachery and desperation. I don't think anyone could condone what Wild-Eye does to attract and keep her man, but thanks to Kettu's insightful writing, I could always understand her actions. I am completely taken by the beauty of Finland too. Kettu vividly describes the nature of her country, its wildness and harsh environment. I found this combination of horror, love story, magical language and wild nature utterly compelling to read. I have since read other reviews from readers who could not get on with the book at all, some of whom even gave up, but I loved every minute!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Katja Kettu / Historical fiction / Books from Finland

Friday, 2 December 2016

Odd Adventures With Your Other Father by Norman Prentiss


Odd Adventures with your Other Father by Norman Prentiss
Published by Amazon through the KindleScout program on the 31st May 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book via Abebooks
Buy the book via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a copy as a reward for my successful KindleScout nomination.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Because one of her fathers died when she was very young, much of Celia's family knowledge comes from stories her surviving father narrates—road-trip adventures from the mid-80s that explore homophobia in a supernatural context. As she considers these adventures (a rescue mission aided by ghostly hallucinations; a secluded town of strangely shaped inhabitants; a movie star with a monstrous secret), Celia uncovers startling new truths about her family's past.

Celia used to have two fathers, Jack and Shawn, but Jack died when she was only four. Now she is deemed old enough to understand, Shawn has been reliving memories of a fantastic road trip he and Jack took together straight from college so Celia can understand more about her other father. A closeted gay couple in the 1980s, Jack and Shawn felt obliged to keep their relationship secret and this resulted in not only a strong loving bond between the two, but also a deeper, darker psychic connection. Odd Adventures With Your Other Father has two main story threads: Celia's present day summer at camp and Shawn's telling of tales from the road trip.

I was hooked by the unusual premise of this story from the start and, although it is horror with descriptions of bizarre images and occurrences, I didn't find it too gory. Having said that, I could have done without being reminded of That Scene in Un Chien Andalou! The relationship between the younger Jack and Shawn is completely believable and this book is as much a romance as a horror novel. I enjoyed reading about their escapades and was also moved by their partnership and emotional bond. Celia and her friend Nora bring a lighter aspect to the story and their interactions, especially their dialogue, is sharply observed and fells genuine - often difficult to achieve with teenage characters.

I wouldn't be surprised if Odd Adventures With Your Other Father goes on to become a cult read as its blend of genres and subject matter is innovative and thought-provoking and should definitely appeal to a much wider audience than purely horror fans. The supernatural situations mirror and highlight real life homophobia and the psychological damage it causes, but in such a way that Odd Adventures never feels like it's hammering home a message. It's simply a wonderfully entertaining read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Norman Prentiss / Horror / Books from America

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Food Of Love by Amanda Prowse


The Food Of Love by Amanda Prowse
Published by Lake Union Publishing today, the 1st December 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.
Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter. But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love. 
In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

It took a little while for The Food Of Love to find its pace and I thought there was too much information offloaded during the early chapters, however once it gets up to speed this is a very readable book which I was glued to throughout an afternoon and evening. Prowse writes strong characters who really speak to her readers and I found myself caught up in the Braithwaite family's maelstrom of emotions. The only one I wasn't sure about was Freya herself because I found her need to always be centre stage absolutely infuriating. I couldn't decide from Prowse's presentation whether I was supposed to actually sympathise with Freya or want to slap her! I got quite angry at her repeated insistence on a 'mother's job' being to provide all care for her daughter even when it was obvious to me as an outsider that the claustrophobic home environment Freya created was causing Lexi more harm than good.

The Food Of Love is about anorexia and does contain scenes of distressing detail. There are heartrending moments and this novel certainly has the potential to be a tearjerker. I felt so sorry for Lexi's sidelined older sister Charlotte as the illness put all the family's lives on hold while they attempted to cope as best they could. I didn't like the emphasis on lists of delicious foods early on in the book as this seemed insensitive given where we would shortly be heading. I understand the potential for contrast, but thought the device was overused. Otherwise I enjoyed the read and would recommend The Food Of Love to fans of books such as Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. Prowse packs the same emotional punch, but without being quite so heavily sentimental.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Amanda Prowse / Women's fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh + Giveaway


My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh
First published in America by Story Rhyme in October 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Xpresso Book Tours

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Right now I'm living at Brookside, a place for people like me. I've met a kitty girl, a brooding beautiful boy, one who can't be touched, and others. My new friends. Strange people. People like me. I've always been different, but lately, more so. My hands sometimes don't seem to be attached to the rest of me. I cut up all of my clothes. I'm hot, so hot, all of the time. If I sleep, a wizard haunts every dream. I don't sleep. Sometimes I want to run, but where do you run to when you're trying to escape your own mind? I don't know if I'll ever be the same. I'm smart. I'm nice, sometimes. I just want to be normal(ish). But, right now, my friends are all strange... Like me.

I was very impressed with My Friends Are All Strange and think that this novel is far more than just Young Adult fiction. Narrated by seventeen year old Becca, it relates her mental breakdown in a school cafeteria and resultant stay in a Californian mental health facility. Reading this novel from Becca's point of view allowed me understand exactly what she was experiencing, her confusion and fear, and her anger. We get to know Becca well and I liked Lesh's rounded depiction of the other characters too. Kat's situation is particularly poignant. This book doesn't get anywhere near as dark as The Bell Jar, mostly due to the facility having a far more enlightened approach to mental health care! However there are disturbing moments and strongly portrayed characters that I became emotionally attached to as I read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by M C Lesh / Young adult fiction / Books from America


And now for the Giveaway!

This week's Giveaway prize is an ebook copy of My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh. The ebook is available in the winner's choice of epub or mobi format. Each blog on the Xpresso Books Tour has been awarded a copy to give away so check out all the tour stops to increase your chances of winning!

The Giveaway is open worldwide and previous Literary Flits giveaway winners are welcome to enter. Entries must be submitted through the Gleam widget below by midnight (UK time) on the 7th December and I will randomly pick a winner on the 8th. If the winner does not respond to my email within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize and, yes, I will be checking that entrants did complete whatever task they said they did.

If you'd like the chance to win My Friends Are All Strange by M C Lesh, here's the giveaway widget:

My Friends Are All Strange ebook giveaway

Good luck!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A Change Of Heart by Mark Benjamin


A Change Of Heart by Mark Benjamin
Self published on the 29th May 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Smashwords

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bullied his entire life, orphaned university graduate, Gabriel Harper, is bitten by a Royal vampire moments before sunrise, transforming him over the course of six terrible and exhilarating nights into a hybrid - human by day, vampire by night. Just as he learns to come to grips with what he has become, the Silver Legion, a covert vampire-hunting organisation, kidnap him and his three friends, forcing them to join their clandestine crusade. However, the Silver Legion remain unaware of Gabriel's nature until it is too late.

A Change Of Heart starts out well. The descriptions of Gabriel's attack by vampire is exciting and I enjoyed the anticipation of learning how he slowly changed, day by day, from entirely human to part-vampire. We meet Gabriel's friends and his dysfunctional adoptive parents which provides interesting background. The political machinations of both vampires and Legion are intricate with lots of betrayals and power struggles.

The novel is written with an unusual structure of short chapters being written in the third person, but with each from the viewpoint of a different character. Sometimes we jump person within half a page, other times we might stick with someone for three or four pages, and with a large cast I did sometimes find it difficult to remember who was who. I stuck with it though! There is a good overall storyline here and ideas about personal identity. The ending is too much geared towards a sequel for my taste, but for fans of horror fantasy, I think A Change Of Heart would be a welcome addition to the genre.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Mark Benjamin / Fantasy / Books from England

Monday, 28 November 2016

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini


And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini 
First published in May 2013.

I registered my copy of this book on BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ten-year-old Abdullah would do anything for his younger sister. In a life of poverty and struggle, with no mother to care for them, Pari is the only person who brings Abdullah happiness. For her, he will trade his only pair of shoes to give her a feather for her treasured collection. When their father sets off with Pari across the desert to Kabul in search of work, Abdullah is determined not to be separated from her. Neither brother nor sister know what this fateful journey will bring them.
And the Mountains Echoed is a deeply moving epic of heartache, hope and, above all, the unbreakable bonds of love.

And The Mountains Echoed starts off with an interesting fable which is then reflected in the lives of young brother and sister Abdullah and Pari. Their story is beautifully told, poignant and ultimately heartbreaking. However this is only half of the book and I was disappointed by the melange of other tenuously connected tales that followed. Each is, of course, well-written and could have made good novels in their own right, but I felt that the disparate ideas within one book made for a confusing sprawling structure. It was often difficult to identify which character we had jumped to. And The Mountains Echoed is still certainly a good book, but I had thought both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns were brilliant so this one does pale significantly in comparison.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Khaled Hosseini / Contemporary fiction / Books from Afghanistan

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin


Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin
First published as Turietsky Gambit by I Zakharov in Russian in Russia in 1998. English translation by Andrew Bromfield published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 2004.

I registered my copy of this book on BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Russo-Turkish war is at a critical juncture, and Erast Fandorin, broken-hearted and disillusioned, has gone to the front in an attempt to forget his sorrows. But Fandorin's efforts to steer clear of trouble are thwarted when he comes to the aid of Varvara Suvorova - a 'progressive' Russian woman trying to make her way to the Russian headquarters to join her fiancé. Within days, Varvara's fiancé has been accused of treason, a Turkish victory looms on the horizon, and there are rumours of a Turkish spy hiding within their own camp. Our reluctant gentleman sleuth will need to resurrect all of his dormant powers of detection if he is to unmask the traitor, help the Russians to victory and smooth the path of young love.

I had quite high hopes for Turkish Gambit and had looked forward to a swashbuckling historical tale. Unfortunately I found the book rather dull. There are lots of lengthy conversations, but little in the way of descriptive writing about the country and period. I found it difficult to keep track of who everyone was too. Our heroine Varvara is well defined, but sleuth Erast Fandorin mostly kept himself to himself and it wasn't until the latter stages of the book that I thought the many other men in the cast began to differentiate themselves. The spy plot at the centre of the tale is nicely done, but the advertised romantic element is practically nonexistent. Varvara never seems particularly concerned for her fiance! Turkish Gambit does have interesting moments, however I think I must have missed the point with this book because it is one in a popular series of a dozen Fandorin novels and at times I wasn't sure I would finish even this one!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Boris Akunin / Historical fiction / Books from Russia